Types of waste: classification

Waste, according the Spanish Law on Waste is all materials considered to be garbage and needs to be eliminated. The elimination is to avoid health or environmental problems but also due to the shortage and depletion of raw materials, the recovery or recycling of waste is to be prioritised wherever feasible.

We live in a context in which waste production is continually increasing and the economic activity linked to them is becoming increasingly important.

There is a general awareness of waste recycling under the principle of hierarchy to focus on prevention, minimization, feasible reuse of the waste, before proceeding to the elimination of it. This implies adopting a set of measures:

  • Measures at origin (prevention): before a product becomes waste, the principle aim is to reduce the quantity and type of hazardous substances used and to avoid adverse impacts on human health and the environment.
  • Transformation into a usable secondary product: through the efforts and preparation so the waste can be reused, recycled or other forms of recovery (energy, material, etc.).

Types of waste

Types of waste: legal classification

The waste generated by industry and society needs to be classified in order to apply the correct form of management. There are different classifications, depending on their origin, composition, danger, etc. In Spain, the legal classification for waste is defined in Spanish Law 22/2011, of the 28th of July, on Waste and Contaminated Soil and describes waste as the following:

  1. Domestic Waste”: Household-generated waste as a result of domestic activities. Similar waste generated in the service sector and in some industries, are also considered to be domestic.
  2. Industrial Waste”: Waste resulting from the processes of manufacture, processing, utilisation, consumption, cleaning or maintenance generated by industrial activity, excluding emissions into the atmosphere which are regulated in the Spanish Law 34/2007, of 15th of November.

The above classification is supplemented by the provisions of the Spanish Royal Decree nº 1481/01 regulating the types of waste and their disposal into landfills:

  1. Inert Waste”: Solid or as paste that once deposited in a landfill do not undergo significant physical-chemical or biological transformations.
  2. Non-hazardous Waste”: Non-hazardous wastes are those that are not classified as hazardous as they do not possess dangerous characteristics.
  3. Biodegradable Waste”: Waste generated from gardens and parks, food and kitchen waste from homes, restaurants, collective catering services, retail establishments and from food processing plants.

Types of waste: special types

Lastly, special types of waste are regulated by the following:

  1. Radioactive Waste”: (According to the General Plan for Radioactive Waste PGRR) is any material or waste product that presents traces of radioactivity and for which no further use is foreseen. Includes the liquids and gases contaminated waste.
  2. “Sanitary Waste”: (According to Spanish Decree 83/1999 of the 3rd of June by which the activities resulting in the production and management of bio-sanitary and cytotoxic waste is regulated for the Community of Madrid) are those by whatever state are generated in health centres health clinics and hospitals including packaging and packaging waste both with or without content.
  3. Construction and Demolition Waste”: (According to Spanish Royal Decree 105/2008 of the 1st of February, by which the production and management of construction and demolition waste is regulated) are those wastes which by their fundamental nature are inert generated through excavation works, new construction, repairs, restorations, remodelling, rehabilitation and demolition including domestic works and repairs.

As can be observed there is no simple single classification of waste. Some emphasize on the origin or activity that produces them, others in their physical-chemical characteristics and others in special compounds within their constitution. However, the end result of this legislative variability aims to reduce and improve waste management through the use of best existing technologies.

Publicado el 21/10/14


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