What Is Waste

A waste scene
Copyright Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government

Waste is defined in law as something which a holder discards, intends to discard or is required to discard. There are places to put rubbish so that it doesn't harm the environment.  If we don't put our waste in the right place - if we just carelessly throw it away - it becomes litter. In Ireland, the Waste Management Act sets down the legal definition of ‘waste’ resulting in a broad meaning that includes many scrap materials (such as old metal or broken cars), waste paper and plastic.

Waste can take many forms including man-made materials like glass, plastic, drinks and food cans and paper. Waste can be categorised into:

  • Household waste
  • Commerical waste
  • Agricultural waste
  • Manufacturing waste
  • Construction and demolition waste
  • Hazardous waste

A 1998 document by The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government called 'Changing our ways' outlined the state of waste in Ireland. Addressed to local authorities, it urged a modernisation of waste management infrastructure. It emphasised the need for co-operation with neighbouring local authorities. Since 1998 the licensing of waste facilities has been fully rolled out, as has the collection permit system for those involved in waste collection activities.

Other documents which have further progressed waste policy were published in the years following the 'Changing our ways' policy statem. These include:

Delivering Change – Preventing and Recycling Waste ( 2002)

Waste Management – Taking Stock and Moving Forward (2004)

National Overview of Waste Management (2004)

As noted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the time of publishing the National Waste Database Report for 2001 in July 2003, “recycling rates have increased, the waste industry is more comprehensively regulated, waste statistics are more reliable and a more balanced waste management infrastructure is beginning to take shape.”

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