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Along with the growth of population, the problem of waste management becomes more and more topical all over world. For decades now representatives of the leading countries have tried to solve this problem and constantly offer us new technologies in the field of waste management. A few years ago, namely in 2005, information regarding the introduction of 3R-initiative was officially disseminated in Japan. In March of the following year (2006), members of more than 20 countries gathered in Tokyo to discuss the 3R-initiative. The meeting approved a resolution obliging the governments and interested parties participating in the meeting to assist in the introduction of 3R-inititive at local, regional, and national levels, as well as to popularize it worldwide.

At present, 3R-initiative is based on the most advanced technologies of waste management in the world.

The term 3R represents the aggregate of the first letters of three words (or of those three actions, which are most important in the process of waste management). These are: Reduce; Reuse; Recycle.

Reduce implies buying less and relevantly using less. Waste reduction is the process or policy, during which the amount of wastes produced by individuals or whole society is reduced. In other words, each of us should buy optimum amount of both products and other goods to avoid the generation of wastes. Along with the reduction of wastes, this process also envisages reduction of used energy and resources.

The Reuse implies using some items more than once. This can be the use of items with the same or other purpose. Exchange or reuse of items in adequate and good condition without their technological recycling saves time, money, energy, and resources. Classic examples of reuse are: delivery of glass bottles in the enterprise, where they are reused as containers of new milk; reuse of automobiles and their parts; use of secondary clothes, etc.

Waste recycling (Recycle) is considered as the main component of modern technologies of waste management, and implies processing a used item or waste into another product. This component had been paid enormous attention at international level even before the introduction of 3R-initiative. As a result of recycling, the use of raw material or resource is reduced, which in its turn saves energy, reduces air and water pollution (from the landfill), etc. At present, most of widely used items are subject to recycling. In 2003, EU approved a special law obliging the citizens of EU countries to sort out 7 particular types of waste and send them to relevant places for recycling. These materials are: aluminum, cardboard, glass, paper, plastic, steel, timber product.

It is notable that in modern literature the term 4R occurs rather frequently. This means the fourth principle – Replace, which calls us for replacing cellophane packages with paper, plastic bottles and dishes with glass dishes, not using disposable items, etc.

Unfortunately, even during the successful accomplishment of 3R-initiative there remain wastes which cannot be either recycled or reused. Therefore, apart from 3R, there are additional components in waste management. All these components taken together constitute so-called “waste hierarchy”, which is still based on 3R-initiative.

The main task of the “waste hierarchy” is to make people get maximum practical benefit and cause minimum damage to the environment as a result of waste management. At present, the European model of waste hierarchy consists of 5 main components: 1. Reduce; 2. Reuse; 3. Recycle; 4. Energy Recovery; and 5. Waste Disposal.

The fourth component of the waste hierarchy is Energy Recovery, which implies thermal processing/incinerating of the waste by special technologies, during which useful energy is generated. At present, it is considered that Energy Recovery is one of the important constituent parts of the integrated waste management method, although from environmental standpoint, it is nevertheless considered as less desirable component.

The best example of Energy Recovery is the energy generated from landfills, which can be used for central heating of populated areas and generation of electricity. Actions like that are regulated by the corresponding law.
It should be noted that in many countries thermal processing or incineration is prohibited by law, unless it results in generation of useful energy. The fifth component of the waste hierarchy – Disposal – implies legal and controlled disposal of wastes on land surface.

Often wastes are buried which in case of wrong technologies creates significant danger to environment and public health. From environmental standpoint, arrangement of safe landfill is related with high expenses.
Generally, it is considered that only those wastes should be disposed at a landfill, the recycling of which is impossible by any means. Long-term and reliable protection of wastes should be ensured at a landfill. Its operation should be strictly monitored within the frames of corresponding legislation.

The model of waste hierarchy is represented in the form of a turned-down pyramid. The most important and desirable action – Reduce is at the top of the pyramid, it is followed by the second priority – Reuse, then Recycle, and etc. Schematically, the model of sustainable waste management is represented as follows:

The right management of wastes is quite a complex process requiring maximum involvement of the government and population. In the modern world there are different successful schemes of waste management, although there are issues, which are envisaged in almost all schemes. As a first step it is necessary to develop an effective Waste Management Plan, which, in its turn, consists of an Action Plan and includes a number of stages. Further, sustainable waste management depends on the correct development of Waste Management Plan.

According to EU guideline paper, there are national, regional, and local management plans. National Waste Management Plan is of more strategic nature, whereas regional and local management plans are completely action-oriented and reflect waste collection, transportation, disposal, recycling, as well as the technologies and terms of other actions in details. During the development of a Waste Management Plan, great importance is attributed to the co-participation of interested parties. Wide-scale public discussions and consultations are necessary to be held.

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