All We Need to Know About Residual Waste That Is Difficult to Recycle

What is Residual Waste?

There are various definitions and categories of residual waste.

The Department of Environmental Protection of Pennsylvania (DEP Pennsylvania), states residual waste as industrial, mining, or agricultural waste that is not harmful to nature.

Residual waste that is processed and managed under the supervision of Pennsylvania DEP is generally the ashes of industrial residue that can no longer be processed.

Waste4Change defines residual waste as a material that is difficult to be recycled either due to technological limitations, costs, natural resources, and human resources.

Waste4Change defines residual waste as a material that is difficult to be recycled either due to technological limitations, costs, natural resources, and human resources.

Due to these technological differences, the residual waste category in one area may be different from other areas. Also, the waste that is considered residue at this time may be different in the following year, due to technological developments or the discovery of waste management that can be a solution.

Residual waste is not always inorganic waste such as glass, plastic, paper, metal, or rubber. Some organic materials are difficult to be recycled in Waste4Change because of its quite complicated waste management: for example coconut shells and coconut tree trunks, then durian skin and jackfruit.

Examples of various kinds of environmentally-friendly shopping bags that if not used can end up as residual waste because they are generally made from textile materials that are difficult to recycle Source: JJ Reddington / BuzzFeed

5 Reasons Materials Can Be Categorized As Residual Waste

There are 5 reasons why some materials can be categorized as residual waste:

  1. May cause machine damage, for example, plastic wrap or cling wrap which is very flexible and thin so it is very prone to be entangled inside the recycling machine
  2. Could be a source of disease and contaminate other materials during recycling, for example, used diapers, used sanitary napkins, and used tissue that may bring saliva, dirt, and blood. Even after washing, the contaminants may still be left behind, so it is still a risk for waste management and the environment.
  3. Difficult to be processed for recycling, for example, pads, laminated plastic, and sachet (multi-layered plastic) consisting of several types of material. To be able to recycle these objects, the material needs to be separated according to one type and the other. If there is no special technology, the separation is still done manually and requires a lot of time and human resources. Currently, Waste4Change has been working with recycling partners to be able to recycle multi-layered plastic material, hopefully, we can quickly recycle and manage other residual waste. Check Waste4Change’s Send Your Waste program to learn more about how to send your multi-layered plastic waste.
  4. The quality of recycled products is very low, for example used tissue or brown paper. Brown paper is usually the lowest recycled paper material. Recycling the paper material again will produce brown paper with a much lower quality — so low that the selling value also decreases, almost none. This is why some recycling partners and waste banks do not accept recycled brown paper, so it is better if the brown paper is processed into compost.
  5. The costs required for the recycling process are quite expensive, for example, textile materials. Textile recycling required complicated technology, the cost is also not cheap, and consumed quite a lot of energy. For this reason, many recycling partners still categorize textiles as materials that are difficult to recycle.
One example of used medical mask and tissue residue waste that is difficult to recycle and accumulates when the corona pandemic peaks in Indonesia

Why is Residual Waste a Problem?

Basically, almost all materials are made from natural materials in nature. For example, plastic materials are made from a combination of plant cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt, and petroleum through the process of polymerization or polycondensation that produces the flexible, waterproof, and lightweight material that we know today.

What you need to know:

  • If left in a landfill, glass and glass will take millions of years to decompose.
  • Metal materials need 50-500 years to break down by themselves.
  • Paper takes 2 to 6 weeks to decompose.
  • Plastic can also decompose but requires a long time, which is 10-1000 years in an ideal situation that is exposed to sunlight, this process can release compounds that can pollute the air if not done wisely and under expert supervision

If the production of the above materials is far higher than the recycling or decomposition process, causing them to accumulate in and pollute nature, all materials on earth, whether organic waste, paper waste, metal waste, or plastic can be categorized as residual waste that pollutes the environment.

This residual waste buildup is quite dangerous, several cases have occurred in Indonesia, for example, the Leuwigajah Landfill tragedy on February 21, 2005, and the landslide of the Cipeucang Landfill on May 22, 2020.

Longsornya TPA Cipeucang, Tangerang, Indonesia pada 22 Mei 2020
Landslide at Cipeucang Landfill, Tangerang, Indonesia on May 22, 2020

Residual Waste Solutions

The ideal concept is to reach a point where all systems have been designed and run to be able to continue utilizing existing materials and manage those materials so that none of them will end up polluting nature.

So that later on, nothing else is categorized as residual waste (Circular economy system).

At present, there are 3 solutions for handling residual waste that is difficult to recycle so that it does not become a problem:

  • Reduce waste production
  • Replace it with other materials that are easier to decompose in nature, materials that can be used longer, or ones that are easily recycled with better recycling byproducts.
  • Improving the recycling process so that it does not accumulate and become pollution in nature

At present, various countries and brands are intensively applying the concept of circular economy in their industries, the aim is to continue to benefit from various materials in the world but in such a way as to suppress the amount of garbage that has accumulated in and polluted nature (read Also: Supporting a Circular Economy through Responsible Waste Management).

Many world-famous brands have also begun to participate in the Extended Producer Responsibility program to encourage consumers to recycle their used packaging. For example the BBOB (Bring Back Our Bottle) program from The Body Shop. (Also Read: 5 Things You Need to Know About Extended Producer Responsibility).

Educating ourselves and others about the types and materials of waste that are still difficult to be recycled in our countries and areas are also very helpful, so we can be more concerned and aware of how much of our waste affects the environment. (Also read: 7 Types of Plastics You Need to Know, Complete Waste Guide That Can Be Recycled by Waste4Change).

In the end, all solutions go back to each individual, namely how we reduce our waste production every day, choose better products, and also ensure that all our waste is managed optimally and responsibly in order to preserve the environment.

My Waste, My Responsiblity



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