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Categorisation of MSW

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There are several ways to categorise waste. The following three methods are described in detail:

1. Consumer product analyses make predictions regarding the waste produced in the near future.

2. Direct analysis of waste as it occurs (manual sorting).

3. A “post mortem” analysis of final products and residue generated during waste treatment can yield information about the original composition of the waste prior to treatment. A particularly accurate analysis is possible after waste incineration.The most difficult problem to be solved by waste categorisation is the fact that the quantity and composition of MSW changes continuously due to changes in the standard of living. As described in section 3.3, the quantity of waste in Switzerland increased continuously year by year until the mid 1980s. Then things changed – after the introduction of the bag fee, significantly increased efforts in the recycling sector and most probably as the influence of the recession led to stagnation or even a decline of MSW. The contents have shifted, due to altered consumer behaviour (an increase in volume of plastics and packaging) and the influence of a more conscious attitude towards the disposal of recyclable goods (separate collection of paper, glass, discontinued soot collection, composting of organic waste). As regards waste, there are enormous differences between municipalities. Holiday resorts produce a different type of waste than industrial centres or agricultural communities. In contrast to wood or fossil fuels, it is impossible to make universal statements about the quantity and composition of “waste as fuel”.

We will discuss the quantity of waste first. In Switzerland, the years between 1985 and 2000 showed an insignificant population growth rate of 10%. In 1985, the number of people living in Switzerland was 6.5 million. In 2000, the population was at 7.2 million. During the same period the gross national product GNP had grown from 199 billion to 448 billion Swiss francs (164 to 368 billion US-$); in fact it had more than doubled! The rise in disposable income was accompanied by a continuously increasing consumption of goods, for instance:

– pre-processed pre-packed foods

– textiles and shoes

– sportswear, entertainment electronics and other leisure equipment

– professional electronics (computers) and communication (mobile phones)

– expansion of area authorised for development

– sudden increase in mobility supported by an increase in transport and infrastructure

Inevitably, larger quantities of material have been introduced into waste management and have to be dealt with adequately.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2008

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