Sustainable Waste Streams

The Human Development Index and Ecological Footprint are used to measure the sustainability performance of human populations. The type and amount of waste produced by populations is a significant contributor to ecological footprints and it is therefore important to understand how this can be influenced in order to improve sustainability performance. Built environments affect waste related ecological footprints of populations in a number of ways. For instance, providing access to recycling facilities can be used reduce waste directed to land fill and increase the amount of waste that is reused and recycled.

It is therefore important that relationship between ecological footprints, waste and built environments is understood and identify the key factors within a built environment that affect the ecological footprint of waste produced by occupant populations. A household ecological footprint calculator can be used to understand this relationship and define waste characteristics and production patterns that can be regarded as ‘sustainable’ (Redefining Progress, 2003). Analysis indicates that the achievement of a sustainable waste stream requires a number of stringent measures, which include:

  • Aluminium and glass is only be used in durable products, where their high energy intensity could be discounted over their lifespan. Aluminium and glass would not be used in disposable products, such as food packaging.
  • Transportation and storage of household products, such as food and cleaning products, would be carried out using durable, reusable containers rather than disposable ones.
  • Disposable packaging would be avoided as far as possible. However, where this was used this only paper, paperboard and plastic packaging would be used.
  • All waste would be recycled.

These measures represent a significant departure from current practice and would require radical changes in product design and in manufacturing and packaging processes as well as different retail models. Attitudes and the behaviours of consumers, manufacturers and retailers would also need to change (Sidique et al, 2010, Henry et al., 2006). In addition, there would need to be corresponding changes in the design and management of built environments.

The implications of a ‘sustainable waste stream’ can then be examined in order to extrapolate implications for the built environment and to develop a simple set of assessment criteria. These assessment criteria can be tested by applying them to a neighbourhood in Pretoria, South Africa. The result of this assessment and a review of the methodology and criteria are discussed in order to evaluate the value of the approach.

A full paper on Sustainable Waste Streams is Gibberd, J., 2016. Sustainable Waste Streams, ISOCARP Built Environment Conference, Durban South Africa, 6 – 8th August 2017 Durban, South Africa