Waste Management Concepts

There are a number of concepts concerning waste management, which vary in their usage between countries or regions. Some of the most general, widely-used concepts include:

  • Waste Hierarchy: this places waste management strategies in preference of their prevention potential. The "3 Rs" (reduce, reuse and recycle) are crucial, and remain the most important practice of most waste strategies. 
  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): this involves including all costs associated with products - including end-of-life disposal – into the market price. It aims to impose accountability over the entire lifecycle of a product. An example of this is 'Producer-funded Recycling of Waste Batteries.'
  • Polluter Pays Principle: this makes responsible parties pay for damage to the environment. In waste management terms, this generally refers to the requirement that a waste generator pays for the appropriate disposal of any waste.

Circular Economy

Ireland has recently recognised the potential benefits of moving away from a make-use-dispose’ economic model and is now fully embracing the adoption of a circular economy which works on an approach that maximises resource efficiency and results in increased environmental protection. Specifically, current national waste policy is set out in Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy: Ireland’s National Waste Policy 2020-2025. It sets out the measures through which Ireland will make the further progress necessary to become a circular economy, with a clear focus on resource use and efficiency to support these commitments.

A circular economy is one where resources are kept in use for as long as possible. Products are also recovered and regenerated at the end of their life service. It is an economy that aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times (NESC, 2017). Efforts to reduce waste and improve resource efficiency are at the core of this concept. It is linked closely to the bioeconomy where materials are renewable, biodegradable and sustainably sourced. The bioeconomy is therefore seen as an important engine of the circular economy as it helps towards long-term sustainable economic, social and environmental development. Regardless of these efforts, progress must be made on the reduction of resource consumption as well as efficiency, with a focus on the reduction and elimination of materials and practices that have negative impacts on the environment (i.e. fossil fuel based commodities), if we are to truly have a sustainable and efficient waste management system in Ireland.


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