The Brundtland Commission report provides an excellent definition of sustainable development has been quoted and more recently, the United Kingdom government in the form of its Sustainable Development Strategy, published by the DETR also defined it, and that definition can be found on the web.
However, these definitions shouldn’t be left to government only. The idea is after all very simple to understand and we thought we would give you our slant on their definition as follows:
Sustainable development starts with the idea that the most sustainable aim for all is a better quality of life for everyone, not only now, but for generations to come.
To achieve this, sustainable development is concerned with achieving economic growth, in the form of higher living standards. It is definitely not about hair shirts and scrimping and saving, or punishing ourselves for enjoying the use of the world’s resources now.
But it IS about our protecting and where possible enhancing the environment, not just for its own sake but for our own enlightened self interest, because a damaged environment would quite soon begin to hold back economic growth and lower the quality of life.
It IS egalitarian, because it to be truly sustainable as history shows, things only work in the long term if we all make sure that economic and environmental benefits are freely available to the whole society and not just a privileged few.
Sustainability is compatible with all the major faiths and can be supported by all.
So, it is commonly accepted that sustainable development must encompass four broad objectives.
These are; social progress which recognises the needs of everyone, the effective protection of the environment, prudent use of natural resources, and maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment.
One of the most important areas for society to act sustainably is in how it throws away its waste, its trash and detritus. Nothing else, other than fossil fuel energy over-use causing climate change, and war, has the potential to do so much accumulating damage.
Unsustainable waste management poisons watercourses and underground water, leaves litter around everywhere to maim and kill our wildlife, encourages rats and vermin, pollutes the air with odours and unhealthy aerosols and can render vast areas of land damaged or largely unusable.
What is Sustainable Waste Management
There is no one sustainable waste management solution which yet reigns supreme. There are still conflicting views as to the most practical, environmentally beneficial and effective means of achieving sustainable waste management.
The overall policy aims to achieve sustainable waste management, that have been established in recent years across the whole of the European Union and many other nations are:
* to reduce the amount of waste that society produces;
* to make best use of that that is produced; and
* to choose waste management practices which minimise the risks of immediate and future environmental pollution and harm to human health.
Over the last ten years or so the actions needed for the waste industry and individuals to follow, and which are most sustainable have been defined by the policy makers.
A waste disposal method for making the choice between waste treatment and disposal options which puts landfill disposal at the bottom of the list of possible waste disposal routes, has been provided throughout the EU, for use by everyone. It is known as the waste disposal hierarchy.
Landfill does have a role in this strategy in mopping up the residual waste after all pre-treatment of waste has already removed as much of the waste stream as possible, but it is a continually reducing one, and consensus among waste professionals still remains tenuously established at best.
Flushing bioreactor landfills have been suggested as the only way to achieve sustainable landfills but very real technical problems exist in developing these, not least obtaining enough fresh clean water for the flushing in the first place.
However, there is a general consensus on the objectives of sustainable landfill, which we list as follows:
- The contents of the landfill must be managed so that outputs are released to the environment in a controlled and acceptable way.
– The residues left in the site should not pose an unacceptable risk to the environment, and the need for aftercare and monitoring should not be passed on to the next generation.
– Future use of groundwater and other resources should not be compromised.
The striking point here though is it could be suggested that slow leakage to the environment can be better than a total containment if slow improvement and stabilisation is achieved without any irreversible harm being caused.