The Waste Management Hierarchy
The Waste Management Hierarchy is a helpful way for Rotarians and Clubs to think about how they can have the most impact in developing Global Grants or even Club projects.
At the top of the inverted pyramid is “Prevention”, and considered to be the gold standard of plastic reduction schemes. At the bottom is “Uncontrolled Deposit” that is below the pyramid altogether. For regions without any infrastructure, tons of plastic waste is not managed at all, leaving populations with no options but burning or dumping on land or water.
The pyramid ranks the waste management approaches by preference. By working at the top of the hierarchy, Rotary Clubs can become local role models, using their meetings, events and fundraisers to show practical ways to dramatically reduce the use of plastics and disposables. Rotary is well suited to help create a “new normal”, a cultural shift away from single-use to reusable.
But while working at the top of the hierarchy is preferred, movement from a low to higher levels may produce huge and immediate environmental wins. For instance, helping to create recycling programs that intercept ocean-bound plastic can save tons of plastic from entering waterways, or being burned in open pits or dirty incinerators. It may not be the preferred method, but yields immediate protections for the local environment.
Using its international networks or tools like Global Grants, clubs can work with partners in developing regions, supporting programs that reduce uncontrolled dumping and burning that is often the only resort for communities awash in waste. (See upcoming program May 9 “Reducing Plastic Waste in India: A Global Grant Example”)
So where should Rotary efforts be directed? Fortunately, Clubs do not need to choose.
By reducing the use and over-consumption of plastic in club meetings and events, while working with international partners via Global Grant Projects, Rotarians will have the greatest impact in saving the planet from excessive plastic.