Post-Consumer Waste: Challenges, Trends and Solutions

Post-Consumer Waste: Challenges, Trends and Solutions

Corina Ene (Petroleum-Gas University of Ploiesti, Ploiesti, Romania)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/ijsem.2013070102
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The complexity of purchase decision process goes beyond economic and human rationality boundaries, leading to increased amounts spent inappropriately, including, implicitly, significant quantities of post-consumer waste. Excessive waste of resources, reflected in massive quantities of abandoned goods on the one hand, and on the other - insufficient access to resources for a significant part of the world population - are topical issues that are based on overall irrational behavior of consumers and society, requiring global and local optimization by strategies involving all interested parties. The paper aims to formulate and emphasize actual problems and prospects regarding the rationality of consumer behavior towards waste creating and disposal, trying to answer the following question: given that the actual society is facing a series of irreversible ecological problems, what needs to be done in order to reduce post consumer-waste and to promote environmentally and resources friendly behaviors?
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The crisis manifested in the last years at global, regional and national level, in almost all sectors of economic, social and political activity, has led to the search for realistic and viable solutions; thus, at present, it is widely accepted the idea that a series of restructuring changes should be done in the way in which the economic activities are carried out, in the attitude towards environment, in the very way in which we exist as a society, as globalized humanity.

Many general and sectoral solutions compose nowadays the framework of a new model, recognized and promoted internationally, regionally and nationally, called sustainable development - as stipulated within regulations, agreements, strategies and programs.

Sustainable development is not confined strictly to economic growth, because this is classically understood by increasing the amount of goods and services produced and available in the marketplace; this limited approach has become inappropriate since the depletion of a large part non-renewable natural resources.

In the equation of sustainable development, future generations are taken into consideration, as they should be given the same opportunities to exist and prosper, as well as past generations did, at least to the level of opportunities available today. As a consequence, future well-being - intimately related to the requirements and possibilities of the environment - should be based on a minimum exploitation of non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels, mineral deposits etc. Inter-generational equity is a key-element of sustainable development concept, involving a social dimension. Expressed as such, sustainable development appears as a philosophical concept to be put into practice using a large variety of economic, legal and administrative tools.

The most known definition of sustainable development was given in 1987 and was included in the UN Commission Report on Environment and Development bearing the title “Our Common Future” (also known as the Brundtland Report), stating that “sustainable development seeks to meet the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability to meet those of the future.”(United Nations, 1987, p.34)

Society development, accompanied by increased consumption dimensions reached nowadays determined alarming rates of emphasizing the scarcity of many non-renewable resources. Obvious phenomena of damaging the ecological balance emerged - the severe air, water and soil pollution, the diminishing of plant and animal genetic background on the planet - negative processes, mostly irreversible, having unforeseeable consequences for the years to come, which indicates that it is absolutely necessary to adopt and implement international programs to support natural resources.

On the other hand, underdevelopment, growing disparities between the developed world and the least developed world, discrepancies are not diminishing, but increasing as a result of modern technological progress. Given the current political and economic international relations, emerging tensions and sources of conflict in the world made of these issues constant concerns on the agenda of the United Nations and other international forums.

Against this background, the concept of reducing waste - “waste minimization” - becomes increasingly relevant – referring to the process and the policy of reducing the amount of waste produced by a person or a society.

The same concept was also defined as involving “any technique, processor activity which either avoids, eliminates or reduces a waste at its source, usually within the confines of the production unit, or allows reuse or recycling of the waste for benign purposes” (Crittenden, Kolaczkowski, & Kolaczkowski, 1995). The same authors suggest a few synonyms for this concept, such as: waste reduction; clean or cleaner technologies, engineering, processing; pollution prevention/reduction; environmental technologies; low and non-waste technologies.

Waste reduction involves efforts to minimize the use of resources and energy during production and consumption, for the same commercial output, by using increasingly fewer raw materials, thus achieving less refuse and therefore less waste.

Reducing waste in the pre-consumer phase requires thorough knowledge of the production process, analyzing the flow from extraction to decomposition, optimal understanding of the corporations needs, of consumer buying behavior and knowledge of the complexity of the composition, the treatment and recovery methods for waste.

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