The Waste Hierarchy

Over the coming few weeks Feedback Local will be releasing a series of blog posts advise how to manage waste at a business level. This will be everything from the waste hierarchy, through to how to dispose of those tricky items.  Keep an eye out for the “managing waste at a business level” tag, for more information.

First this week it’s the Waste hierarchy. All the industries we have come across love a good framework and diagram, and the waste industry is no exception. The waste hierarchy is a five step framework that outlines the most appropriate way to process waste through your business according to the EU.  Applying the principles of the waste hierarchy to aims to both reduce the environmental impact of your operations and intends to save you money.

The basic principles of the hierarchy is to reduce the amount of waste created from business processes, however it is incredibly unlikely that any company will have zero waste output, so the hierarchy also highlights the value of re-purposing and recycling the waste produced.

The Waste Hierarchy Commercial Waste Disposal


The waste hierarchy is an EU initiative with the aim of reducing the waste produced across Europe.  All UK companies should try to adhere to the waste hierarchy as often as possible. By reducing, and re-using waste, we aim to stop wastefulness in the community.

The first stage is Prevention. This is the most favoured stage of the framework. This stage highlights the need to prevent waste in the first instance. By introducing policies such as restricted printing and by reducing packaging etc. companies steam line their production and reduce waste and cost.

The second stage is Reuse. Reuse is all about giving items a second life before they become waste. For example using the back of old print outs as note paper.

In third position is Recycle. This stage aims to recover materials from waste and to repurpose them into new products. This can include anything from recycling office waste to redundant machinery.

Recovery usually comes in the form of energy from waste incineration for materials with an energy value, or anaerobic digestion for biodegradable substances. Both these and similar processes aim to recover energy from the waste materials. This is usually in the form of burnable gasses.

Disposal is the final stage of the Waste Hierarchy. This is the least favoured stage of the framework. This includes any process that disposes of waste with no direct beneficial result. Examples of this are landfill, standard incineration and gasification.

Adhering to the waste hierarchy by trying to minimise waste, re-purpose, reuse and recycle the waste that is produced, means that not only does an organisation reduce its negative impact on the environment, it can save money too.