What is the waste hierarchy?

The Waste Hierarchy is a set of priorities for the efficient use of resources and underpins the objectives of the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Act 2001.

 Avoidance (Pollution Prevention) 

Avoiding and reducing the generation of waste is the highest priority of the waste hierarchy and seeks to eliminate the need to extract and use virgin materials. 

Maximising efficiency of resources used in products we purchase and avoiding unnecessary consumption can be achieved by:

  • selecting items with the least packaging or that require the fewest resources to produce 
  • avoiding disposable goods or single-use materials 
  • buying products that are recycled, recyclable, repairable, refillable, re-usable or biodegradable 
  • using leftover food rather than throwing it away

 Resource Recovery (Circular Economy) 

Resource recovery is the second priority of the waste hierarchy and details that where avoiding and reducing waste is not possible, the next most preferred option is to re-use the materials without further processing. For example:

  • Repairing
  • re-using
  • selling
  • donating/gifting. 

Re-using and recycling materials keep them in the circular economy. This not only decreases waste disposal volumes, but reduces the need to extract and use virgin materials. 

 Disposal (Waste Management)

The Waste Hierarchy recognises that some waste types cannot be safely recycled and that disposal is then the most appropriate management option.

 What can I do? 

  • Consider the priorities of the Waste Hierarchy when purchasing a product or when a product you own is no longer of any use
  • Where possible, say no to single use products, unnecessary packaging and printing
  • Invest in the tools required to make sustainable purchases;
    • reusable shopping bags
    • reusable homewares (reusable cutlery sets, lunchboxes, keep cups and drink bottles)
    • beeswax wraps (alternative for plastic wrap)
    • home toolkit for repair work
    • home bin systems enabling waste separation
  • Be motivated to separate waste products and valuable recycling resources (familiarise yourself with what constitutes contamination)
  • Become knowledgeable about what resources and opportunities are available to you