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Waste management and Effectiveness

Student Name: Chu Yu
Student Number: 2991874
Tutor: Mrs Gemma Contos
Date: 4th September 2012
Unit: EL 4

Table of Contents
1.Waste management and Scarce Resources
Recycling Paper
2. Why Recycle Paper
Case Study: Recycling in Japan- Towards a zero waste society? 14
Reference List

List of Figures, Graphs, Images and Tables
Figure 1: Relationship between income level and waste generation 12
Graph 1: Total municipal solid waste generate in the United States of America 2010

Image 1: Collection and categorising of paper

Image 2: Storing of paper bales

Image 3: Screening of pulp for impurities

Image 4: Removal of ink from pulp through introduction of Air

Image 5: Removal of ink foam formed

Image 6: Refining the pulp to form paper

Image 7: Forming paper sheets

Image 8: Drying of paper rolls

Image 9: Formation of paper rolls

Table 1: Advantages and Disadvantages of paper recycling
Table 2: Advantages and Disadvantages of Japan’s recycling system 17

The purpose of this research report is to examine recycling as a method of waste management and evaluate its effectiveness as a resource recovery process. Global consumption has caused natural resources to be scarce and wastage to be abundant. Though most countries and nations have some form of recycling programmes in place, the effectiveness of these programmes is questionable. This research report identifies problems within the recycling system, evaluates the reasons why recycling is not as effective in theory and provides recommendations to help improve current recycling systems to ensure that the world can reach a zero waste system as a whole. Introduction

Waste Management and Scarce Resources

The world’s population has reached the milestone of 7 billion on the 12 March 2012, estimated by the United States Census Bureau. This, however, also means that we are consuming more resources and producing even more wastes than we were probably 20-30 years ago. (The European environment | State and outlook 2010)

With an increasing global population, our wants (in economic terms) increases, but does the world have enough resources, which are limited, to fulfil the global demands despite the continuous consumption since the 1800s or even before that?

In response to the pressing issue of scarce resources, nations have come up with waste management strategies, namely the Waste Hierarchy. The 3 (commonly known) main waste strategies underneath this hierarchy are: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, which forms the widely known Green triangle logo.


Recycling, is the process of treating and processing used or waste material so as to produce new or similar products suitable for reuse or manufacturing. (US EPA 2012)

This is an important step in modern waste reduction as it helps tackle a couple of environmental, social and economic issues. For example: it prevents wastage of reusable materials; reduce consumption of remaining raw materials; reduce energy consumption to harvest more raw materials; reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emission due to incineration of waste or production of raw materials; as well as reduce water pollution resulting from landfills or factory chemical wastes. (Recycling Guide 2012)

Recycling can occur with many different materials like paper, plastic glass, metal, textiles, electronics and even water. Often recycling materials are collected from the curb-side or a fixed collection point where it would be sorted out, cleaned and the reprocessed into new materials ready to be used at recycling center. (US EPA 2012)

The process of recycling water however defers slightly. In Singapore, waste waters are collected and undergo through 2 filter process and then treated with UV disinfection technology before being pumped into a water reserve where it would be adjusted to normal levels before it is ready to be used again. (PUB 2012)

Within recycling there are 2 distinct types:
Upcycle: The product formed from recycling is just as valuable as or even more valued than what it was before. And
Downcycle: The product formed loses its original value than what it was recovered or recycled and is manufactured into something of lesser value and capacity. (Planet Pals 2012)

Although industrial recycling have been actively in place since the 1970’s (History of recycling, 2011), the amount of available landfill sites is still decreasing in many nations and valuable raw resources are becoming even scarcer. Recycling is mostly adopted and put in place in most countries and nations, however the effectiveness of the systems are not efficient as expected in theory.(EEA 2012)

This report will focus on: firstly, the recycling process of one type of material: Paper; and evaluate its advantages and disadvantages of the process. Secondly, it will include a case-study of the recycling methods Japan; evaluating the pros and cons of its recycling system. Lastly, the report will conclude and recommend ways to help improve current recycling systems of nations worldwide.

Recycling: Paper

The process for recycling paper starts mostly on the end of consumers. Firstly, paper wastes are separated from other waste. It is then placed at specific points for collection or dropped off at the nearest recycling bin or recycling point.

Image 1: Collection and categorising of paper
The paper collected from various points are gathered, sorted into different category and grades before being packed into bales where they are sent off to recycling mills, local or overseas, to be processed.

Next, at the paper mill, the bales of paper are then further stored into their respective categories. Different categories of paper produce different kind of products and are therefore not processed together as a whole.

Image 2: Storing of paper bales
When ready to produce a certain product at the mill, for example toilet paper, the category or grade required is retrieved from the store and sent to the Pulper. The Pulper is a giant tank with an agitator, similar to a top-loader washing machine, which mixes the paper with lukewarm water for about 10 minutes and is then passed through different screens of various shape and sizes. This helps soften the paper into what is called the Pulp, and separates the bits and pieces of plastic, metal or any other substance attached to the recycled paper.

Image 3: Screening of pulp for impurities

To remove these substances, the pulp is sometimes moved to huge cone shaped cylinders to be spun. Heavy contaminants fall through the pulp while the lighter ones get collected and removed. This is called Cleaning. After which all the pulp moves into a container to be deinked (removal of ink).

Image 4: Removal of ink from pulp through introduction of Air The pulp is injected with air or other chemicals to remove the ink, which will foam and float to the top. These foams are then removed from the top, leaving behind an ink-free pulp.

Image 5: Removal of ink foam formed
In some cases, the pulp may need to be refined (break down large fibres) and bleached with oxygen or hydrogen peroxide (remove dyes from colour paper) to make it more ideal for paper making.

Image 6: Refining the pulp to form paper

The pulp is now ready to be made into paper. It is either used alone or mixed with new wood to give it a better quality. More water is now added to the pulp to make it 99.5% water before it is sprayed onto a flat wired sheet. Water drips from the sheet and the fibres quickly bond together to form a water sheet of paper. This sheet is then moved through a series of felt-covered press rollers which remove even more water from the sheet.

Image 7: Forming paper sheets
The sheet, looking more like paper, is dried further when it is processed through hot metal rollers. Coating can be done now or later on to give the paper a smoother, more glossy texture for printing.

Image 8: Drying of paper rolls
Finally, the finished pulp, paper, is wound into a giant roll s and removed from the paper machine. Sometimes the paper is cut into smaller rolls or sheets of paper before being transported to another building or other factories to be made into finished products like paper bags, folders, boxes or toilet papers. (TAPPI, n.d.)

Image 9: Formation of paper rolls

Why Recycle Paper?

Paper is one of the most commonly used products and is either the highest or second highest urban wastes in most middle to high income nations and countries. Graph 1 shows the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) generated by the United States before recycling.

Graph 1: Total municipal solid waste generate in the United States of America 2010 (US EPA 2012)

As seen below in Fig 1, the higher the income the greater amount of waste generated.

Income Level
Waste Generation Per Capita
(Kg / capita/day)

Lower Boundary
Upper Boundary
Lower- Middle

Figure 1: Relationship between income level and waste generation (World Bank n.d.)

From both figures, it is evident that waste is abundant despite implementations of Recycling or other waste management strategies. And the higher the income level, the greater the amount of waste generated. In fact on average, 50% of the paper waste gets recovered and recycled. (US EPA 2012)

One reason why most people or countries do not recycle efficiently is probably due to legislature and culture issues. Recycling process may not be actively promoted or dictated upon by the government and it is not a habit and norm for the citizens to recycle actively and thus they are less motivated or inclined to recycle their waste, let alone separate it into paper waste and more. (Olmsted, 2007)

The other is probably due to logistic issues. Recycling requires a lot of funding and equipment for the whole process to occur. It requires the man-power to transport and separate the wastes and transport it to the recycling mills, while each Recycling mill takes up a lot of space on its own. That is totalled underneath municipal waste management costs and these costs, though varied between cities, may amount to a debit of $ 4.76 billion USD as in the case of New York. (Sealey 2012)

Table 1 below shows a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of paper recycling.
Resource conservation.
High costs for collecting and recycling process. The cost may be transferred to taxpayers instead of being subsidies by the government. This cost may be much higher than to dispose it into landfills. That is economically or fiscally detrimental. Saves considerable landfill space and protects ecosystem

Recycling does not stop the harvesting of trees or the destruction of forests. As the rate of recycling does not match up to the rate of consumption. Reduces energy and water consumption
Downcycling : most recycled material products end up with a lower value or quality than what it was before. Decrease the need for disposal and incineration, thus decreases amount of carbon dioxide produced Recycling mills/factories require a lot of space to function.

Table 1: Advantages and Disadvantages of paper recycling (Duvauchelle 2011, Turner 2010)

Case Study: Recycling In Japan - Towards a zero waste Society?

In Japan, there is a saying called ‘Mottainai!’ which translates roughly to ‘What a waste!’ (Masuda 1974) It encompasses the practice of treasuring things as much as possible. It is relevant and influential with regards to the recycling culture and system in Japan. In Japan, the wastes are efficiently and effectively sorted out as the responsibilities lie on the consumer itself. First, the waste must be separated into 3 main types: Burnable trash, Non-burnable trash, and Recyclables. Then it is further separated according to the type and grade of materials they are due to Recycling Identification Marks, labelled on products and packaging materials, which helps consumers quickly and easily identify the kind of recyclable waste. These are very important with regards to those under ‘Non-burnable’ and ‘Recyclable’ trash. The waste is then left in clear plastic bags on the day of collection to ensure the right kind of trash is collected. They do not store in trashcans at their homes but at pick up points near their home. (Onorato, 2001) This is a result of the Containers and Packaging Recycling Law which was passed in June 1995 and put into effect in April 2007, which aims to reduce the amount of urban waste disposed or incinerated as well as effectively utilize the resources by reusing or recycling it. (Law for promotion of sorted collection and recycling of containers and packaging, 2011) The law states:

1. The citizens are required to sort the waste based on the sorting guidelines set by the individual cities or communities. 2. Sorted wastes are then collected by the municipals which would be collected by specialised recycling companies. 3. A fee is taxed by the Japanese Container and Package Recycling Association (JCPRA), upon manufacturers and businesses whom use containers and packages in the sales and production relative to the volume they use. 4. Recycling businesses or corporations within the municipal, take turns yearly to collect and transport the sorted waste to recycling facilities where they would be paid after showing a delivery report from the recycling facility.

Aside from this law, there are many similar laws as well which tackle different kinds of waste for example white goods or construction goods which require different standards and procedures. Each law enables recycling to be carried out more efficiently and allow lesser consumption of new resources and energy for each product produced. In some cases, recycling of certain has provided revenue and returns for some businesses. For example the recycling of plastic is at 77% in 2010, an increase from 73% in 2006. This is two times that of the rate in the UK and 20% more than that of the US. This is due to new technology researched and developed to help improve the recycling rate. (McCurry 2011) Aside from recycling, waste management in Japan includes incineration or dumping in landfills after dehydration. About 16% of waste ends up in the landfills as compared to America which has 40 to 50% of waste disposal in landfills, and this figure is decreasing. (Olmsted 2007) The reason lies in the fact that Japan has very small land mass with a large population, and that they have limited landfill sites, which makes every decision crucial with regards to their waste management strategies. However this does not mean that the Japanese are the most environmentally efficient with their methods. Despite high recycling rates, the amount of waste recycled is at an average of 60% and since 16% of waste is deposited in landfills, about 24 % of waste is incinerated. This would mean high amounts of carbon gasses and greenhouse gas are still being emitted into the atmosphere, raising global temperature. This may be a result of the Japanese tendency to use too much wrapping resulting in 27% of plastic waste being incinerated or buried in landfills instead of recycled. (McCurry 2011) In addition, harmful substances may be released from recycling mills, if not operated correctly, and have an even more detrimental effect on the environment than greenhouse gasses. Aside from that, recycling in Japan requires a lot of financial support. In terms of its collection and drop off, to processing and manufacturing by the individual privatised recycling firms itself. Immaturity of this recycling industry, as there are no major companies whose main firms is waste management or recycling, means that recycling is not being carried out at its optimum efficiency. Table 2 is a summary and an evaluation of the pros and cons of Japan’s recycling system. Advantages

Active participation from both citizens and government, thus increasing environmental awareness and improve efficiency of collecting waste. High Costs : Legislature, Operation, Transport, Process
Lesser landfills required for disposal of trash, therefore preserving the landscape and reduce dumping costs. Inefficient recycling system due to no large company taking up waste management, as well as lack of land fill, forces a large portion of waste to be incinerated. Reduction of greenhouse gasses or harmful substances to the environment as a result of incineration Number of categories required to sort the waste may range between 10 to 44 types. Technological advancements made to increase recycling efficiency Insufficient disclosure of data from the privatised firms hampers the workings of the government to effective improve the recycling system Revenue generated as a result of recycling and producing recycled goods Illegal dumping occurring as not all citizens and firms are committed to recycling. Table 2: Advantages and Disadvantages of Japan’s recycling system. (Olmsted, 2007; Nakamura 2007; Onisihi 2005)

Recycling is crucial in modern day waste management. It helps us efficiently utilize the limited resources on hand and save energy, while satisfying as much global demands as possible. Even though most developed countries have some form of recycling programme in place, not one of them is able to recycle the nation or country’s urban waste efficiently or effectively. This may be a result due to the high costs require to operate a recycling business; the land mass require to set up a recycling mill; the lack of recycling within the country’s culture; and the government’s efficiency in passing out laws and acts which urges the citizens and firms within the country to be more aware and active towards preserving the environment. Therefore, it is imperative for the world to start looking around and find solutions to deal with their own country’s wastage.

The following are recommendations to help solve or improve current recycling methods or systems. 1. Recycling methods should be continuously and more aggressively be researched and improve so that: 1.1. Recycling can be more efficient in current operations

1.2. Developed and developing countries can share in this knowledge and information to effectively reduce their wastage and reuse their resources to its maximum capacity, without sacrificing economic improvements.

2. Citizens should be more aware and active with recycling in their communities. Like the Japanese, they should be more stringent and adopt a ‘mottainai’ attitude towards their environment and resources. Though preferred, the world need not immediately jump into 44 different kinds of categories to separate their trash, but start off with the basic few common ones like paper, plastic ,metal, glass and white goods in addition of that to burnable and non-burnable trash. Having a culture and habit set towards recycling is an important step to minimizing the amount of urban waste in countries.

3. The government should play an active role in promoting and helping the country efficiently reduce its waste and recycle its resources. Whether it means passing a long tedious bill like that in Japan or setting up a recycling setting up a national recycling company to deal with recycling as a nation; the government needs to be more aggressive in its methods should it wish to see a great change in its waste management based on current available technology. Reference List

PUB. 2012. NeWater Technology, NeWater is Reverse Osmosis Water. Available from: [03 September 2012]. Duvauchelle. J 2012.Disadvantages Of Recycling Paper | LIVESTRONG.COM. Available from: [03 September 2012]. EEA. 2012. Decreasing stocks of natural resources — Environmental Terminology Discovery Service — EEA. Available from: [03 September 2012]. Law for Promotion of Sorted Collection and Recycling of Containers and Packaging (Containers and Packaging Recycling Law), Global Environment Centre Foundation, Waste Recycling Technologies and Recycling Promotion Initiatives in Eco-towns in Japan 2011 Available from: [03 September 2012]. Masuda, K 1974, Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary, page 1139. Kenkyusha Ltd. McCurry.J, 2011. Japan streets ahead in global plastic recycling race | Environment | The Guardian .29 December. Available from: [03 September 2012]. Olmsted.J 2007, Japan’s Recycling: More Efficient than U.S.A. Available from: [03 September 2012]. Onishi Norimitsu, 2005 How Do Japanese Dump Trash? Let Us Count the Myriad Ways - New York Times. May 12 Available from: [03 September 2012]. Onorato, D. 2012. Japanese Recycling Law Takes Effect, Waste360. Available from: [03 September 2012]. Planetpals 2012. Upcycle, Downcycle, Precycle, Recycle Easy to Understand Earth friendly Info for Kids Teachers Families. [ONLINE] Available from: [03 September 2012]. Recycling Guide. 2012. Recycling is Important « Recycling Guide. [ONLINE] Available from: [03 September 2012]. Sealey. G 2012. ‘Is Recycling Worth the Trouble, Cost?’-, ABC News 8 March. Available from: [03 September 2012]. TAPPI 2012. Paper University - All About Paper. Available from: [03 September 2012]. The World Bank, n.d, Urban Development - What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management. 2012.  Available from:,,contentMDK:23172887~pagePK:210058~piPK:210062~theSitePK:337178,00.html. [03 September 2012]. Turner, L 2010.  What Are The Advantages Of Paper Recycling? , LIVESTRONG.COM. Available from: [03 September 2012].

US EPA. 2012. Recycling Basics | Reduce, Reuse, Recycle | US EPA. Available from: [03 September 2012] US EPA. 2012. Municipal Solid Waste | Wastes | US EPA. Available from: [03 September 2012].

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