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The misnomer of the century

Everyone knows the term waste. Socially, and for generations, the term waste has been associated with things of no value or inferiorityAccording to the definition, waste is unwanted or unusable material. Any substance that is discarded after primary use or is worthless, defective, and without use is referred to as waste. 


But is everything we see as waste really useless? Definitely not.

It is time to question the definition and interpretation of waste. Does the term match what is understood and classified as waste worldwide?


Much of what is classified as waste are resources that remain unused. The term waste and the linguistic interpretation must be questioned. What is referred to in society and worldwide as waste are in most cases unused resources and only in rare cases unusable material. On the basis of this, the term waste must be questioned and what is considered worldwide as a waste.

The content to be read here contains contents of the Official Websites of the Umweltbundesamt, Nabu and Wildplastic.

More about the recycling of wild plastic can be read on >>

Waste Generation

The waste generation has increased massively around the world in the last several decades - with no signs of it slowing down. By 2050, worldwide municipal solid waste generation is expected to have increased by roughly 70 percent to 3,4 billion metric tons - due to factors like population growth, urbanization, economic growth, as well as consumer shopping habits.

Humans produce millions of tons of waste year by year. This is increasingly becoming a major issue worldwide. The need for appropriate waste treatment and disposal services has become ever more important with such immense volumes of waste arising. 

So far, less than 20 percent of waste is recycled each year. Huge quantities of waste are still sent to landfill sites. Waste is also often disposed of at dangerous open dumpsites, especially in developing countries.

Types of Waste

All wastes are not created equal. Waste management requires subtle distinctions between the various types of waste. Extensive waste lists and catalogs are used for this purpose - developed with the goal of allowing for traceable and differentiated documentation of waste generation, collection, transport recovery, and disposal.


Waste can actually be classified into different types and there are many waste types defined by modern systems of waste managementFurthermore, some types of waste are classified as recyclable and others not.

Materials and substances that are suitable for recycling or re-use are often regarded as waste.


Waste has been defined in most countries and is generally tied to the concept of disposal. Until now, there is still more disposal than recycling. Until now, people have been more concerned with disposing of waste than possible recycling of the unused resources that are mostly right in front of them.

A notable variety of waste definitions and classification approaches are used globally. However, materials and substances that are suitable for recycling or re-use are often regarded as waste since producers or holders discard them.


A significant proportion of solid waste could theoretically be reused or recycled.

Usually, there are two main waste categories in place: non-hazardous/solid waste and hazardous waste. Hazardous waste is usually regulated at the national level, while non-hazardous is regulated at the regional or local/municipal level.


All waste that has not been classified as hazardous is Non-hazardous/solid waste - paper, plastics, glass, metal and beverage cans, organic waste, and more. This type of waste can have serious environmental and health impacts if left uncollected and untreated. However, a significant proportion of solid waste could theoretically be reused or recycled.

Plastic Waste

Between 1950 and 2015, around 8,3 billion tons of plastic were produced worldwide - this equates to around 1 ton per capita of the world population. Half of the production comes from the last 13 years. Of this amount, around 6,3 billion tons were turned into waste, 9% of which was recycled, 12% incinerated, and 79% deposited in landfills or accumulated in the environment. Plastics are criticized for their waste issues and potential health hazards.

Over 8,3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide since 1950. Over 6,3 billion tons of it became waste.


Packaging remains the largest area of application for plastics. 30.7% of the plastics processed in Germany were used for packaging in 2019. The construction sector took second place with 25.2%. This is followed by the automotive industry segments with 10.6% and electrical and electronic equipment with 6.2%.


Types of Plastics

From the containers our food and medicines are packaged in to auto parts, toys, and household materials, plastic is used to make many of the products we use every day. Most products are typically made from seven different types of plastic. Each type of plastic has different properties and toxicity.

With almost all types of plastic, it takes years, generations, centuries until they are completely decomposed under ideal conditions. Due to the different types of plastics, the type of disposal and recycling variesThe percentage of plastics recycled annually varies from type to type. However, the amount of recycled plastics is manageable and relatively low overall.

Electronic Waste

Around a third of German household appliances are being replaced in a fully functional manner. If something breaks, it is bought new. New purchase prices fell by a third in the last 25 years, but repair costs rose by 40% in the same period. This makes electronic waste the fastest-growing mountain of waste in the world. After use, numerous valuable raw materials such as rare soils are lost because small appliances, in particular, are often not properly collected and separated and there is still a lack of good industrial-scale recycling processes.

Electronic Waste in Germany

Systemic Losses

The European Commission is planning an initiative for a better circular economy for electronic devices in order to get rid of the fastest growing waste heap in the EU electronic wasteFor example, devices such as cell phones, tablets and laptops should be more durable, retrofittable and reusable. The collection of old devices and their recycling are to be improved through a possible EU-wide take-back system, and a more repair-friendly design, easily accessible and affordable spare parts.

Is all this really waste?
Or do we just waste valuable resources?

Move away from a throwaway society!

In the interest of our planet and a life worth living, our society should strive to move away from a throwaway society and focus on a development towards more reuse, repair and recycling.

Less waste, more repairs, reprocessing and recycling are the keys to more environmental protection through a circular economy. Products have to become more resource-efficient and have a longer service life. The more often waste is recycled as raw material, the better.

Recycling & Reprocessing

Waste processing and treatment include a lot of different processes. Processing falls under the heading of physical treatment for changing the composition and character of the waste. Every recycling process represents a conversion of material.


The process of recycling is also the production of new materials. It describes the process of producing secondary raw material and compares a series of activities that involves collecting, sorting, processing or converting used materials into useful goods.


The goal of every recycling process is to use or reuse materials from waste in order to minimize the amount of waste. Of significance in this recycling process is that waste processing starts with separation. Separation of waste at the beginning of the process supports the treatment of the waste and helps to raise the efficiency to deal with waste




The German start-up Wildplastic was founded in 2019 with the goal to clean the environment from plastic waste. In cooperation with communities of collectors, the start-up works globally to collect wild plastic from beaches, landfills, and illegal dumpsites.

In 2019, Wildplastic started producing and selling trash bags made from 100% recycled and wild plastic. Working with certified organizations, NGOs, and communities of collectors, wild plastic is collected in countries lacking a recycling infrastructure. Collectors in countries such as Haiti, Malaysia, and India receive fair wages, combining environmental conservation with economic development.

Conventional production processes were reliant on the addition of virgin plastic to create new plastic products. Wildplastic has developed a process that creates new plastic products from 100% recycled and wild plastic. Bright colors and unusual prints make Wildplastic trash bags a real eye-catcher and add to successful marketing.

Term & Attitude

When comparing the term waste, its meaning and related interpretations, one finds that the name is not really appropriate. For generations, we have associated the term waste with things such as inferiority or worthlessness, unwanted or unusable material, worthless and defective parts without use. But if you take a closer look at waste, in most cases it is unused raw materials that are simply not usedSo you cannot generally describe waste as worthless and unusable. It depends individually on what type of waste - what leftovers and substances - it is. It is less a question of whether it is possible to recycle these leftovers, but rather whether they are recycled at all.

Accordingly, the term and attitude to waste are no longer up-to-date and it must be allowed to question whether this term was ever really appropriate.


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