Waste – Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle, By-product Utilization


Waste Heirarchy1a.

Waste can seem like a loose term and be considered the lack of utilizing an object’s full potential, such as discarding or upgrading objects that still can perform their intended function and purchasing excess objects. This can be partly attributed to the drop in quality of certain objects resulting in higher turnover. The graph above shows the best ways to prevent wasting in this sense of the definition, and it isn’t a surprise that avoiding waste primarily is the root of waste prevention. However, for the sake of this article, waste will refer to the discarding of an object to be sent to a landfill when it can be recycled. Waste processing has become a growing issue in many countries. As we begin realizing the adverse affects of waste such as the release of greenhouse gases, expansion of landfills, and clutter of debris in marine environments, people are beginning realize the importance of reusing and recycling.

The amounts of waste vary greatly among different regions. Particularly in the United States, figures show that Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)—household garbage—has increased from 1960 to 2005, where it peaked at 4.69 average pounds per person every day then consistently dropped to 4.38 in the latest study in 2012. (1) To compare, Germany’s similar MSW readings were 3.82 in 2001 to an average of 3.41 from 2006-2010 and Sweden’s were 3.12 in the peak of 2007 and dropped to 2.81 in 2010. (2) As the figures show, recycling is growing in demand and manufacturers around the glove are capitalizing on the energy potential of waste.

A great example of recycling and by-product utilization was the Smurfit Kappa plant.

Smurfit-Kappa Storage Including Woodchips

Smurfit Kappa Storage Including Woodchips

They primarily produced paper, but after they removed the fibers from the pulp-lignens and cellulose (black liquor)-they burned it using a CHPP and used the electricity on site. More information can be found at:


As for anaerobic digestion, MSW, cow manure, and leftover food are converted into electrical and thermal energy. In this process, the greenhouse gases produced by natural decomposition would be prevented from entering the atmosphere. Anaerobic digestion also produces a fertilizer as a by-product that is rich and diverse in nutrients.

Munich Zoo Digesters 2a.

The city zoo in Munich uses animal manure to power their anaerobic digesters on site.

Anaerobic Digester at UTS

Anaerobic Digester at UTS


For more information on anaerobic digestion and it’s waste reusing processes, follow the link to Mario G.’s in-depth description.


By-product utilization and recycling are important in renewable energy. Recycling doesn’t only save money on waste transportation costs, but also provides energy for mass that would otherwise require space at a landfill. To compete with fossil fuels prices, renewable energy will need be optimized and reusing is an important step.



1a. http://blogs.worldwatch.org/revolt/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Waste+hierarchy+color3.bmp

1. Municipal Solid Waste | Wastes | US EPA. (n.d.). Retrieved May 12, 2014, from http://www.epa.gov/waste/nonhaz/municipal/

2. Fischer, C. (n.d.). Managing municipal solid waste – a review of achievements in 32 European countries. — European Environment Agency (EEA). Retrieved June 4, 2014, from http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/managing-municipal-solid-waste

2a. http://deandse2012.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/p5240138.jpg


3 responses to “Waste – Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle, By-product Utilization

  1. I find the difference between attitudes toward waste from Sweden to Germany very interesting. While in Sweden it was evident that the people cared very much about recycling and reusing their waste. Everywhere you went there were multiple different waste containers, from combustible material bins to compost bins to recyclable metal bins. Both in the U.S and Germany there is usually one general trash container, with an option to recycle some things. Do you think this is due to general attitude and educational differences? Or is it possibly due to Sweden’s advancement in combined heat and power plants, and the fact that they often combust plastic and paper to create power?

    • I also noticed this when we arrived in Germany. I think it is a combination of Sweden’s advancement in combined heat and power plants, education and attitude. For example, I think that most people think they are just one person and it will not make a difference if they recycle a plastic bottle or not. But in reality it adds up. Germany seems to be more reliant on anaerobic digestion, wind energy, and solar power than on combined heat and power plants. But I still think it would be beneficial for the United States and Germany to be more conscious of how they are disposing of materials.

  2. Thanks Luke and Taylor,

    Both of you have valid points here. I can’t attest that Sweden’s younger generation is exposed to a significant degree of renewable/sustainable curriculum during their elementary or primary education, but the youth in Stockholm and Luleå are surrounded by the systems the previous generation has set for them–i.e. the separated recyclable bins–and have become quite familiar and accustomed to them. Based on the immense renewable energy sector and job demand in Sweden, universities are more than likely to have many majors focusing on this as well. With the combination of these factors and the innumerable others, this creates an awareness for the importance of recycling waste to reduce landfills and GHG emissions and increase energy outputs. The technological advancements of CHPP also have a role to play in the attitude towards waste by promoting recycling and possibly making it more convenient for the general population to do so.

    Like Taylor listed above, Germany’s renewable energy is sourced differently–predominantly onshore wind energy, biomass, and photovoltaics listed in order from greatest to least, so they naturally recycle less. Despite their energy sources, awareness of wasteful living and recycling should be an objective for all three countries.

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