waste hierarchy

What Is The Waste Hierarchy In The UK?

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What Are The 5 Steps Of The Waste Hierarchy?

The UK waste hierarchy is a guide to prioritising waste management practices for the most sustainable outcomes. 

This was developed as a waste framework to ensure the most environmentally friendly outcomes. It’s a set of 5 actions that can help reduce the negative environmental impact and enhance the conservation of resources.

The Waste Hierarchy, in its modern form, finds its roots in European policy. The European Union (EU) played a significant role in formalising and promoting the concept.

What Are The 5 Stages Of The Waste Hierarchy?


The first stage is all about thinking ahead and stopping waste before it even starts. Opt for items with minimal or sustainable packaging, and resist the allure of unnecessary goods. 

By cutting down on consumption and making eco-friendly buying decisions, we can directly prevent waste.


Re-using means seeing the potential in items and giving them another life. From plastic packaging to cardboard boxes, re-using waste promotes sustainable living. 
In business, reusing isn’t merely a cost-saving tactic; it’s an environmentally-friendly strategy that reduces waste and bolsters your green credentials.


For businesses, recycling is an opportunity to showcase corporate responsibility, save costs, and innovate. Recycling involves reprocessing materials that would otherwise end up at waste-to-energy (incineration) facilities. Recycling should be at the top of your list for waste management options.



During the recovery process, materials that cannot be recycled directly are diverted from landfill sites and incineration facilities. 

While incineration may seem like a quick solution for waste disposal, it has its disadvantages. 

Firstly, it releases harmful pollutants and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, contributing to air pollution and climate change. Secondly, it consumes valuable resources, such as energy, and thus does not align with sustainable business practices. Disposing of waste through this process has become popular in recent years, however the negative impact is becoming prominent.



Disposal is the final stage in the waste hierarchy and underscores the importance of responsibly managing waste that has exhausted all other avenues of utility. 
While the ideal scenario is to minimise waste generation, maximise recycling, and explore recovery options, there will always be some waste that cannot be further utilised. 

The Benefits Of The Waste Hierarchy

The waste hierarchy offers several significant benefits for both the environment and society as a whole. Applying the waste hierarchy prioritises reducing, reusing, and recycling materials before considering disposal or recovery. This approach conserves valuable natural resources by extending the life of products and reducing the need for virgin materials.

Recycling and reusing materials generally requires less energy compared to producing new items from raw materials. This results in reduced greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption, contributing to a lower carbon footprint.
Adopting the waste hierarchy can lead to cost savings for businesses and governments. Recycling and reusing materials often costs less than disposing of them by incineration or landfills. It can also create economic opportunities through recycling and waste management industries.

The Plastic Waste Hierarchy

Using this systematic framework to guide your business is essential where bulk loads of plastic waste are produced. It embodies the essence of responsible consumption, emphasising the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling before considering recovery or disposal. 
At Plastic Expert, we play a pivotal role in this framework, not only in diverting waste from incineration but also by promoting innovation in recycling and recovery methods. 
By adhering to the principles of the hierarchy, we can collectively steer our society towards a more sustainable future. One where plastic waste is managed thoughtfully and efficiently, leaving a cleaner and healthier planet for generations to come.
Get in touch with our team today and start recycling your plastic waste. We help businesses increase recycling rates whilst cutting carbon emissions, pushing for sustainable solutions in businesses across the UK.
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