The following are a set of proposed objectives and guiding principles of a proper recycling policy. Reduced amounts of waste and increased recycling rates do not represent an ultimate objective on their own.
The realistic objectives of waste prevention and recycling programs include:
- Compliance with the commonly accepted waste hirearchy
- Emission reduction
- Reduction of production and use of hazardous substances
- Reduction of the dissipation of these substances
- Conservation of resources and resource efficiency.
In order to achieve these objectives in an efficient way, the following guiding principles should be applied:
Sustainability: In order to achieve sustainable production and consumption it is necessary to maximize efficiency and effectiveness of products, services and investments, and to maximize efficiency of their utilization, in order to meet the needs of the society, and to achieve an improved quality of life.
This needs to be done while minimizing the consumption of natural resources, the mobilization of toxic materials and the emissions of waste and hazardous substances over the whole life cycle, so as not to jeopardize the needs of future generations.
This should embody:
- Eco-efficiency: Meeting a given demand at minimal resource consumption and minimal environmental impact.
- Eco-sufficiency: Optimizing the demand by influencing life-style and consumption patterns in order to create a sustainable demand.
- Life-cycle and holistic thinking: All steps from raw material mining through material processing and production to distribution of goods and consumption are to be analyzed including
- Negative impacts in foreign countries minimized or eliminated
This should also be done while considering possible shifts of impacts as markets change and develop and it is part of knowing how to properly recycle.
- Ecological, economic and social aspects.
- Internalization of macro economic benefits & costs: Taking into account Environmental impacts Utilization of natural resources
- Micro economic costs (investment, operation & maintenance, post-processing)
- Social benefits and costs
Accurate monetarization of all macro-economic costs to make rules for all locations is rarely if ever possible; when taking the latter into account on an overall basis, however, it constitutes an important guide when designing waste prevention and recycling programs. It’s all part of how to properly recycle.
Cost-efficiency: Only those waste prevention and recycling measures implying higher macro-economic benefits (i.e. showing a net benefit) should be implemented, unless of course, as throughout Europe there is an overriding legal requirement to minimize landfill at all costs.
Producer responsibility: The responsibility of a producer is extended to different (all) phases of the life cycles of his/her products.
Finally, the the last stage of how to properly recycle is understanding how the precautionary principle should be applied when, on the basis of scientific assessments, there is considerable reason for concern that possible hazards for environment and/or health may not be within acceptable limits (see European Commission 2000).