Integrated Waste Management (IWM): The Case of the Corrugated Box
Energy is used to transform raw materials into a corrugated cardboard box. The first consideration for the box in a waste management planning process is to look at strategies for source reduction, or not using the box at all, if it represents excessive packaging (or using alternative packaging which requires fewer raw materials and less energy to manufacture; or packaging which is more readily re-usable or recyclable, etc.)
After unpacking the TV set that was delivered in the box, the Smiths discard it into the waste stream. The box’s utility/value derives from the properties of its current ordered state (rectangular, dry, strong, closeable, etc.).
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The highest and best use for the box is to re-use it again as a box. The management strategy would then be to keep the box from becoming crushed, wet or otherwise damaged, in order to reuse it as packaging several more times.
If it is already crushed, the next best thing is to recycle it – to expend new energy to transport it to a paper mill and process it into a new product, then re-sell it, etc
If it can’t be recycled for some reason, several options are available which limit the use of the box‘s energy to a one-time recapture.
The box might be composted for use as a soil amendment; made into refuse- derived fuel to be burned in a boiler for its energy value; or it might be mass-burned (incineration with energy recovery) together with mixed solid waste to produce steam or electricity.
Practical Applications of IBWM for Rural Communities
IBWM and Local Economies
There are several ways to describe integrated waste management and its benefits. Perhaps the best way for our purposes is to look at the effect of solid waste on the economy and environment of a community. The job creation and economic potential of IBWM stem from the following:
The economic value of recovered materials as re-usable products (either as is,or through refurbishment) or as raw materials.
The opportunity for simpler, more decentralized sometimes more labor- intensive solid waste management solutions which can create jobs in rural communities.
Such decentralized solutions often work better in more sparsely-populated, rural communities because they do not depend upon high population densities to achieve economies of scale (e.g., centralized solutions may be expensive in rural areas because of the long transport distances required to serve relatively few people.
Community or backyard composting of yard, food, and other organic waste is often better suited to rural areas because it saves transportation of these heavy waste stream components over relatively longer distances than in urban areas).
Opportunities to intentionally create and recruit businesses and industries which use the waste streams of existing business as feed stocks. Such arrangements can help to plug economic “leaks” from our rural communities.
Such methods can be integrated into the strategies of local business development specialists, industrial recruiters, and existing industry managers.
The short-term and long-term economic value to rural communities of avoided land filling.
Benefits of this include:
- Deferring expensive landfill sitting processes
- Reducing annual operation and maintenance costs for existing landfills
- Reducing transportation costs to the community and
- Reducing the rate at which successive cells of expensive new subtitle D landfills must be developed and lined.
- Community resources saved at the landfill can be diverted into economic development efforts.
The traditional economic model views economic activity and its benefits as the extraction of raw materials, their manufacture or processing, the sale of the product or commodity, and then its use by consumers.
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The rest of the life cycle of the raw materials and energy consists of disposal at some cost, and control of the associated pollutants. In other words, once a product, by-product or material becomes classified as a “waste,” it has not only zero value but a negative value, i.e., the cost to local government of “disposal, pollution control, and the health cost to society of any pollutants not successfully controlled.
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