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The Waste Hierarchy

The waste hierarchy shows ways in which waste can be managed. The methods are sorted and prioritised according to the most environmentally friendly to the method that is the least environmentally friendly option.

Preventing products and materials from becoming waste for as long as possible and turning non-avoidable waste into a resource are key steps to achieve a circular economy.

A ranking system, the “waste hierarchy” helps businesses to manage their waste according to what is best for the environment.

The best waste is the waste that does not occur in the first place! Thus preventing waste is the top priority when applying the  waste hierarchy.


Thus, your preferred option should always be the reduction of plastic consumption and plastic waste.


If you have already reduced your plastic waste as much as possible, the remaining plastic waste should be reused in any way which is the second-best option (e.g. using plastic bottles as vases).

If you can’t reuse it, maybe someone else can? Check if there are any organizations in your area that reuse plastic products and waste.


The remaining plastic waste should then be recycled so that it is used as a resource. Some types of plastic have a high recyclability and recovery rate. Read more about it in the next module.


All remaining waste that cannot be reused, recycled or even recovered should be safely disposed of, even though it is the last preferred option.