What is the “Waste Hierarchy?” Taking a Deep Dive into Examining the Waste Hierarchy and its Importance

August 10th, 2023
Reading time: 3 minutes

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At some point in the 1970s, when the environmental movement began to crest, the original waste hierarchy was created to show an order of preference for waste management.


Waste hierarchy pyramid


It can be easy to forget, but waste never truly goes away. So, this diagram depicts how waste should be treated, ranging from the most ideal option—reduction—to the least ideal option, which happens to be disposal (like landfilling). The waste hierarchy has guided those who work in the environmental space and those who care about living a low-impact life.

So, as long as the waste hierarchy is the shining star by which society examines waste production, it will remain an essential part of the waste management equation.

At Brightmark, we believe there is value in understanding the waste hierarchy and using it as a tool to reduce environmental impact.

When you examine the waste hierarchy, you’ll notice recycling falls directly in the middle. It’s halfway between reduction—which should be everyone’s top waste management goal—and disposal. Brightmark prioritizes the intermediate step between reduction and disposal—recycling. Why? Because there is value in converting waste materials into new products.

Brightmark’s advanced recycling technology, Plastics Renewal™, lands in the “recycling” portion of the hierarchy after reducing, reusing, and mechanical recycling are exhausted. For waste that cannot be addressed via the methods mentioned above, Brightmark’s technology is quite effective. The plastic renewal process transforms waste into new, valuable products that can become the original building blocks for new materials.

“We believe mechanical recycling is an important tool in the waste hierarchy,” said Bob Powell, Founder and CEO of Brightmark. “Advanced recycling is extremely powerful as a compliment to mechanical recycling—addressing both easily recycled plastics and difficult-to-recycle plastics.”

On the renewable energy side, Brightmark has renewable natural gas circularity centers that convert organic waste into renewable natural gas—taking the methane cows generate on dairy farms and turning it into renewable natural gas. This gas can be used for various applications, like transportation fuel or power for local homes. 

Re-capturing the value in waste is at the essence of what Brightmark does, giving it another useful life in a circular fashion.

In addition to their work, Brightmark strives to educate people on ways to positively impact the environment—providing informational resources on reef-safe sunscreens to composting guides

Rest assured, as technologies to address waste evolve and shift over time, so will Brightmark’s approach to finding value in waste.

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Brad Marley

Brad is a lifelong storyteller who helps companies find their single source of truth. He works with brands in tech and sustainability to identify their most impactful narratives and ensure that messaging is weaved throughout their storytelling efforts. Brad brings more than 20 years of storytelling experience to bear as he helps Brightmark make its mark.

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