September 25, 2013

What is Waste, Anyway?

How do I define waste?
Probably the most obvious question that I have never answered. But do do so, I first wanted to see how others define waste to better understand what I consider it to be:
  • Waste(s) is a pejorative term for unwanted materials. The term can be described as subjective and inaccurate because waste to one person is not waste to another.
  • United Nations  Statistics Division: Wastes are materials that are not prime products (that is products produced for the market) for which the initial user has no further use in terms of his/her own purposes of production, transformation or consumption, and of which he/she wants to dispose. Wastes may be generated during the extraction of raw materials, the processing of raw materials into intermediate and final products, the consumption of final products, and other human activities. Residuals recycled or reused at the place of generation are excluded.
  • United Nations Environment Programme: Wastes' are substances or objects, which are disposed of or are intended to be disposed of or are required to be disposed of by the provisions of national law
  • To use, consume, spend, or expend thoughtlessly or carelessly
The first thing that I realized is that waste means different things to different people which makes it so incredibly difficult to define. My sentiment is that I am trying to invest in items that will never need to be discarded (besides food waste, but part of that is biological and far beyond my control). Because of this, I see waste as anything that a person discards with no intention of having it be re-purposed, even if it unknowingly will be at some point in the future. So using this idea, this is my definition of waste: 

Waste, for the purpose of this definition, will be point source, meaning if it is discarded by the current owner/holder with the intent of going to landfill. To that, it is anything a person plans to throw away or anything a person deems obsolete that is then discarded in a manner where it will not be intended for re-purposing or reuse even if it unknowingly will be at some point in the future. 

So for now, this is how I view waste. Thus, when I say I am not trying to produce any, it means that I will not directly or purposefully send anything to landfill or dispose of anything that is not intentionally intended for reuse such as compost or recyclables.