The main goal of intelligent, state of the art waste management is to do minimal harm to the environment while deriving the greatest possible recovery and/or recycling benefit from the waste in question.
Modern approaches to waste management encompass all of the necessary steps, from waste collection to waste recovery operations, so as to enable waste to be used for energy or recycling. Some types of waste such as paper and organic waste are collected in separate containers at the point of origin so as to facilitate recycling. Other types of waste are sorted and treated at purpose-built facilities.
Residual waste that is not conducive to collection at the point of origin is sorted using mechanical-biological methods, so as to allow for the recovery of recyclable or high heat-value elements. Mechanically sorted elements are used for energy or recycled, while the remaining waste is taken to landfill sites after undergoing biological treatment. Thermal treatment normally involves incineration for purposes of using the resulting energy to generate electricity, heat and/or process steam. Organic waste can also be used to generate energy, to which end it is transformed into biogas through fermentation.
Hazardous waste is handled using specific disposal methods that allow for extirpation or conversion of the pollutants contained in these materials. Depending on the nature and properties of the hazardous waste in question, it needs to be treated in either hazardous-waste incineration or physicochemical treatment facilities.