Waste Hierarchy

Waste Hierarchy: Step Up & Go Green


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By Recycling.com/ 20 October 2019 Shares

Original Waste Hierarchy of Ad Lansink

Recycling is the third step in the waste hierarchy, or Lansink’s Ladder, after the priorities initiated by the politician Ad Lansink in the Dutch parliament in 1979.

The waste management hierarchy indicates an order of preference for action to reduce and manage waste from most favorable to least favorable actions.

Ad Lansink is internationally recognized for making the original waste hierarchy or ‘Lansink’s Ladder’ (read more about its background and history) and often gets named ‘Father of the waste hierarchy.’

A proper application of the hierarchy can help prevent greenhouse-gas emissions, reduces pollutants, save energy, conserves resources, create jobs, and stimulate the development of green technologies.

Redesign of Lansink’s Ladder

In 2012 we designed Lansink´s Ladder into a modern format called: ‘Waste Hierarchy: Step Up & Go Green’.


Download the Waste Hierarchy: Step Up & Go Green

Download the official and original design of the waste hierarchy by Ad Lansink. Such as a .PDF or .PNG. The image of Lansink’s Hierarchy is in the public domain and free to use. Please provide a hyperlink to www.recycling.com when you place the image on your website or blog.

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Who invented the Waste Hierarchy?

Ad Lansink is the founder of the original waste hierarchy called ‘Lansink’s Ladder.’ The former Dutch politician introduced the waste hierarchy in the Dutch parliament in 1979. Internationally, Lansink’s Ladder’s principle is known as the Waste Hierarchy or the Hierarchy of Waste Management.

What does the Waste Hierarchy mean?

The waste hierarchy, or Lansink’s Ladder, distinguishes six steps of waste management to reduce and manage waste to maximize natural resources’ efficient use. It ranks waste management options according to what is best for our environment.

Prevention and reusing waste are the top priority (avoidance). Recycling and high-quality energy recovery is the second priority (recovery). The least preferred is burning waste and dumping waste on landfills (disposal).

Zero Waste Hierarchy

The hierarchy of waste management intends to Step Up the ladder and reduce the amount of waste and the need for virgin resources. This is the reason we also see Lansink’s Ladder as a Zero Waste Hierarchy. The goal is to Step Up and Go Green together.

What is the order of the Waste Hierarchy?

To explain the hierarchy of waste management further, we have to look into the waste hierarchy concept. Lansink’s Ladder is a list of six steps in the shape of a pyramid or ladder. The waste hierarchy diagram consists of the following steps:

List of steps of Lansink’s Waste Hierarchy

waste hierarchy lansinks ladder - A


Quantitative and qualitative prevention and avoidance of waste. Reduce and minimize waste by replacing pollutant products with biodegradable alternatives, such as replacing disposable plastic bags with reusable canvas bags.

waste hierarchy lansinks ladder - B


Reduce waste by reusing products and materials. Reusing and reducing go hand in hand. By reusing materials, you also reduce the amount of waste. A form of reusing is up-cycling. These are environmentally friendly DIY projects. Such as transforming an old pallet into a vintage table.

waste hierarchy lansinks ladder - C


Most waste streams can be recycled. Such as single streams of plastics, paper, and metals. Recycling is a (long) process where disposed items or waste materials are separated, collected, and processed to manufacture an entirely new product. Recycling is a preferred option when waste can’t be reused. It prevents the need for extracting raw or virgins resources.

waste hierarchy lansinks ladder - D


Generating energy from (mixed) waste materials. This is also known as ‘waste to energy conversion.’ By incinerating waste materials, energy can be generated. Such as heat and electricity. The downside of energy recovery is that waste materials are burned and lost forever to generate energy. Composting organic waste or biomass waste to generate power is also a form of energy recovery.

waste hierarchy lansinks ladder - E


Incineration is also a form of burning waste materials. But in this case, no energy is produced by burning the waste. The purpose of incineration is to dispose of waste to prevent it from being dumped on landfills.

waste hierarchy lansinks ladder - F


A landfill is a site for the disposal of waste materials by burying them in the ground. This is the last method of waste disposal and the least favored. Dumping waste on landfills only has disadvantages. It won’t generate energy, and it is heavily polluting, and recycle resources materials can’t be reused. Landfills are one of the causes of the amount of plastic waste in our oceans.

Why is the Waste Hierarchy important?

The waste hierarchy guides consumers and businesses to generate a minimum amount of waste per product. It stimulates a circular economy, and it promotes sustainability because it shows opportunities for waste minimization. This results in reducing the number of virgin materials being extracted and used for new products. Because of recycling, reusing, and reducing, we decrease the amount of waste generated by the community, industry, and government.

Advantages and benefits

  • Saving energy.
  • Reducing pollutants.
  • Conserve valuable resources.
  • Stimulate the development of green technologies.
  • Prevent emissions of harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

Waste Hierarchy and the 3rs: Reduce, Reuse & Recycle

The most critical steps of the Waste Hierarchy are the three Rs. These steps represent reduce, reuse and recycle. The three steps can also be found in the universal recycling symbol. Each arrow symbolizes reduce, reuse or recycle. Recycle is step three, reuse is step two, and the most desired step is reduced. By reducing, reusing, and recycling the waste, we can bend our linear economy into a circular economy.

Left: Lansink in dutch parliament (1988). – Right: Lansink receives painting: ‘Transformation of Lansink’ (2012).

More info about Lansink’s Ladder

Blogs by Ad Lansink

Waste hierarchy essential for the circular economy

Presentation on the Third International Conference on Waste Management in 2015 in Pisa held by Ad Lansink on the relation between Lansink´s Ladder and the concept of circular economy.

Download presentation (pdf – size: 1,4 Mb)

Climbing Lansink’s Ladder

Ask Ad: climbing Lansink’s Ladder


By Recycling.com/ 20 October 2019 Shares