1. Industrialized Countries
Perhaps in no field of municipal solid waste management are the differences between the industrialized countries and the developing countries so apparent as in waste reduction and materials recovery.
Rising overall living standards and the advent of mass production have reduced markets for many used materials and goods in the affluent countries whereas, in most of the economically developing countries, traditional labor-intensive practices of repair, reuse, waste trading, and recycling have endured.
Thus, there is a large potential for waste reduction in economically developing countries, and the recovery of synthetic or processed materials is now being emphasized.
Public or consumer financing of the full range of initiatives for waste reduction (from changes in manufacturing and packaging, to waste reduction audits to identify waste reduction opportunities) are practiced by several affluent industrialized countries.
One of the main motivations, from the point of view of municipal authorities, is to reduce materials that must be collected and deposited in landfills. At the national level, under the concept of producer responsibility, governments have created agreements and legal frameworks designed to reduce the generation of waste.
For instance, industry is given responsibility for achieving certain levels of packaging reduction goals of a certain percentage within a given time period.
2. Developing Countries
In many developing countries, waste reduction occurs naturally as matter of normal practice because of the high value placed on material resources by the people, as well as other factors.
Consequently, reuse of a variety of materials is prevalent. The motivations for materials reuse in developing countries include: scarcity or expense of virgin materials; the level of absolute poverty; the availability of workers who will accept minimal wages; the frugal values of even relatively well-to-do households; and the large markets for used goods and products made from recycled plastics and metals.
Wastes that are of no use in affluent societies and cannot be recycled have value in developing countries e.g. coconut shells and dung used as fuel. If one takes into account the use of compost from dumps sites as well as materials recovery, in countries like India, Vietnam, and China, the majority of municipal wastes of all kinds are ultimately utilized.
Waste reduction that could be achieved by legislation and protocols (such as agreements to change packaging) is not, at present, a high priority in these countries, although some are now moving in this direction.
Because unskilled labor costs are low and there is a high demand for manufactured materials, manufacturers can readily use leftovers as feedstock or engage in waste exchange. Residuals and old machines are sold to less advanced, smaller industries.
Public health is benefiting from plastic and boxboard packaging that reduces contamination of foods, and much of the superior packaging is recovered and recycled.
In offices and institutions, cleaners and caretakers organize the sale of paper, plastics, etc. At the household level, gifts of clothes and goods to relatives, charities, and servants are still significant in waste reduction.
All cities and towns have markets for used goods. However, the greatest amount of materials recovery is achieved through networks of itinerant buyers, small- and medium-sized dealers, and wholesaling brokers.
The extent to which the waste trading enterprises are registered (“formalized”) varies in developing regions: in Latin America and Asia, there is more formal registration than in Africa. The system is adaptive to market fluctuations, as the lowest level workers form a dispensable labor cushion: they must find other work, if they can, when there is reduced demand for the materials that they sell.
From the point of view of waste reduction, the traditional practices of repair and reuse, and the sale, barter, or gift-giving of used goods and surplus materials are an advantage to the poorer countries. Quantities of inorganic post-consumer wastes entering the MSW stream would be higher if these forms of waste reduction did not exist.
In conclusion, waste minimization involves all processes and techniques applied to preclude as much as possible or reduce to the barest minimum the occurrence of waste and wasteful situations in the production, distribution and use of any product and services. Waste minimization strategies are applied at different levels especially in the industries during product design and production and continue up to the consumer level.
At the consumer/household level, discrimination as to what to buy and in what quantity, product quality, re-use or recycling etc. are some of the major considerations to be taken to minimize waste. Household waste minimization or reduction is influenced by level of knowledge, socio- economic status and lifestyle.