Waste stream

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Waste stream
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The waste stream focuses on proper waste management. It deals with reducing waste generation and, if this is not possible, indicates how to manage it appropriately[1]. Waste stream means the flows of scraps, which arise from various reasons from the source of waste through to recycling or other action like recovery or disposal. It is estimated that only in the European Union in 2012 one person has produced 4,6 tonnes[2] . We can distinguish between two types of waste[3]:

  • general waste - waste which is in no way life-threatening or environmentally harmful,
  • hazardous waste - any waste containing compounds or elements which, because of its properties, are hazardous to life and the environment.

Hazardous waste

"Hazardous waste poses a greater risk to human health and the environment than nonhazardous waste. Therefore, greater attention needs to be given to hazardous waste and its proper management"[4]. There are 4 types of hazardous or life-threatening materials in the literature. These are[5]:

  • materials at risk of corrosion,
  • flammable materials,
  • materials showing reactivity,
  • toxic materials.

Waste hierarchy

Waste hierarchy illustrates what actions should be taken first. At the beginning we should try to stop producing waste, if we are not able to do this next step which is preparing to re-use. If it is not possible to use something again the waste should be recycled. Next level of waste hierarchy contains anaerobic digestion to produce energy. If none of the operations listed above is possible, the waste is stored and subsequently incinerated without obtaining energy from it [6].

Material waste stream

Material streams include metals, glass, paper and cardboard, plastic, wood waste and bio-waste. The first group of materials, which are metals, is divided into two types, i.e. ferrous and non-ferrous metals. This type of waste comes mainly from factories, households or car parts not suitable for further use. Another group is glass, which usually comes from packaging. Approximately 70 percent of this raw material is recycled. Paper and cardboard are other materials that are highly recyclable. Half of this type of waste comes from industry, one in ten from offices and the rest from households[7].

Product waste stream

The second group, i.e. product-related flows, includes

  • packaging (four out of ten packages are made of paper, one out of five is made of glass, the rest are made of plastic, wood or metal)
  • electrical and electronic waste, which is to a large extent household and IT equipment
  • batteries and accumulators (1.6 million tonnes of this type of waste was created in the European Union in 2012)


  1. Healthcare Waste Management (2016), Healthcare Waste Management Toolkit for Global Fund Practitioners and Policy Makers Waste
  2. Bourguignon D.(2015), Service, Understanding Waste Streams European Parliamentary Research
  3. South Africa State (2019), South Africa State of Waste Reports. First Draft Report.
  4. Global Waste Management Outlook(2015), Global Waste Management Outlook
  5. LaGrega D.M., Buckingham L.P, Evans C.J.(2001), Hazardous waste management, pg. 13, Waste ManagementHazardous waste management
  6. Deprtment of Environment (2011), Guidance on applying the Waste Hierarchy
  7. Bourguignon D.(2015), European Parliamentary Research Service,Understanding Waste Streams


Author: Julia Kręcioch