In 1989 the EPA issued an Agenda for Action that first included the idea of an Integrated Waste Management Hierarchy, which took on many variations before reaching the common one today.
The EPA’s basic idea was to attempt to suggest–but not mandate–that, even though landfilling was most common in the marketplace because it appeared cheapest, other options to handle discarded materials were preferable. These included source reduction, recycling, and even waste-to-energy.
Most recently, Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA), a global zero waste organization has upended traditional concepts about the Integrated Waste Management Hierarchy taking that thought further to fully reflect today’s principles of sustainability.
And now with state and city policies mandating the diversion of recyclable materials from landfill coupled with the technological advances the waste industry is seeing to not only eliminate the waste more efficiently but to capture the data about the composition of that discarded waste, the hierarchy will likely need to be refreshed often.