The conventional waste hierarchy is a tool that lists methods of waste management in order of their impact on the environment in a simple diagram and was introduced in the 2008 EU Waste Framework Directive, which sets out the basic definitions of concepts and principals involved in waste management.


Consequently, ZWE is calling for an updated model that would change the mindset from waste management to resource management.


ZWE are working towards eliminating waste in our society by empowering communities to redesign their relationship with resources.


The organisation states: ‘The driving force of the hierarchy should be not only be the safe disposal of our waste but also to ensure that the value of our resources is preserved in the economy for the new generations.’


The new model suggested by ZWE focuses on keeping resources in use for as long as possible.

First level

The top levels of the hierarchy focus on ‘products’ not waste, expanding the ‘prevention’ level of the traditional hierarchy out into ‘Refuse, rethink, redesign’. This captures anything that stops waste from being produced, from behaviour change to prevent consumption of single-use items, to rethinking business models to make them waste free by design.

Second level

This level consists of ‘Reduce and Reuse’ which focuses on keeping used products in use and preventing them from becoming waste.

Third level

Next we have ‘Preparation for Reuse’ which refers to taking waste products and refurbishing/remanufacturing them so that they can become usable again.

Fourth Level

This mirrors the traditional hierarchy, with recycling, composting and anaerobic digestion the ideal ‘last option’ for keeping materials in use. ZWE prioritises ‘Material and chemical recovery’ over simple energy recovery – these places more of a focus on retaining materials and resources, rather than changing valuable material into energy through, say, incineration.

Fifth Level

Finally, at the bottom of ZWE’s hierarchy are disposal options, with residuals management the last option for the waste that is left over after all valuable materials have been reclaimed.


Find out more about ZWE.


Here at TDC we are dedicated and focused on the circular economy. We know it is imperative we follow the circular principles for the future of our world and want to help other businesses do the same with their printing needs.