Oceans of plastic

THE INEFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT OF PLASTIC WASTE

You may first want to read How we filled the oceans with plastic in just over 60 years for some context about plastic waste.


The standard for the rational management of plastics and other materials through their life cycle is the concept of waste hierarchy. Loosely implemented by Western countries over the past forty years, it has led to more or less sustainable outcomes in Europe and the United States.

Lansink Ladder (1979)

B, C and D are waste recovery operations. According to the European Court of Justice, the “principal objective [of waste recovery] is that the waste serve a useful purpose in replacing other materials which would have had to be used for that purpose, thereby conserving natural resources” (Abfall Service AG, C-6/00, 2002, known as the “ASA” case). This is also the definition of the 2008 Waste Framework directive (see below). Source: www.recycling.com

The waste hierarchy concept was first formulated in Europe by the 1975 Waste Framework Directive (75/442/EEC), which encouraged the “reduction of quantities of certain wastes, the treatment of waste for its recycling and re-use, the recovery of raw materials and/or the production of energy from certain waste”. Refined by The Netherlands in 1979, the waste hierarchy became known as the Lansink Ladder, which ranked waste management options from the most to the least desirable for the environment.

Today, the sustainable logic that inspired the waste hierarchy and Lansink Ladder makes sense from an environmental and resource-efficiency perspective. Continue reading