Rubbish bins

The Waste Hierarchy

The Waste Hierarchy is a list of approaches to managing waste, arranged in order of preference.  Below is a common graphical representation of the Hierarchy, with the least preferred option for managing waste, disposal, located at the bottom and the most preferred option, avoidance and minimisation, located at the top.  The Waste Hierarchy is widely used as a simple communication tool to remind those who generate or manage waste that:

  • strategies which try to avoid products becoming waste are generally preferable to...
  • strategies which seek to find a use for waste, which are in turn generally preferable to...
  • strategies for disposal, which should be used as a last resort.

The Waste Hierarchy

The Waste Hierarchy

For more information on Avoidance and MinimisationReuseRecyclingRecovery and Disposal, click on the relevant link in the drop down menu.  

Who Uses The Waste Hierarchy?

The Environmental Protection Acts of most Australian States enshrine the Waste Hierarchy as a core principle and the UK Environment Agency supports the Waste Hierarchy as a general guide to selecting the best option for dealing with waste.  However, despite the fact that it is widely used through out the developed world, some commentators have begun to question how effectively the Waste Hierarchy is actually implemented.  For instance, in Australia implementation of the hierarchy has been patchy, with most effort to date focussed on recycling and composting (Gertsakis and Lewis, 2003). 


J Gertsakis and H Lewis, 2003, Sustainability and the Waste Management Hierarchy: a discussion paper for EcoRecycle Victoria, RMIT, Melbourne.