Waste:  Definitions and Facts


Defined by William McDonough, FAIA and Michael Braungart, authors of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, as the recycling of a material into a material of a lesser quality.  The book also defines upcycling as recycling a material into a material of similar or greater value. 

Solid Waste

Non-liquid, non-soluble materials ranging from municipal garbage to industrial wastes that contain complex and sometimes hazardous substances. Solid wastes also include sewage sludge, agricultural refuse, demolition wastes, and mining residues. Technically, solid waste also refers to liquids and gases in containers.

Waste Minimization

Measures or techniques that reduce the amount of wastes generated during industrial production processes; term is also applied to recycling and other efforts to reduce the amount of waste going into the waste stream.

Waste Reduction

Using source reduction, recycling, or composting to prevent or reduce waste generation.

Waste Stream

The total flow of solid waste from homes, businesses, institutions, and manufacturing plants that is recycled, burned, or disposed of in landfills, or segments thereof such as the "residential waste stream" or the "recyclable waste stream." More facts and statistics on waste from the Environmental Protection Agency:


Graphic by: Charles Kibert, University of Florida, Powell Center for Construction & Environment

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