In the past 16 years, there´s probably no word I´ve thought more about than "waste." And I mean the word: what it means, how it´s used, how it´s perceived, what its implications are.
When we started up Waste News 16 years ago, we debated about using that word in our name. From the start, none of us cared for its pejorative connotations. The late chairman of our company, Gertrude Crain, didn´t like it: "Nothing is wasted," she´d say. Eventually, we would add "Recycling" to our name to more specifically define our market.
But the fact is, "waste" was and is the word most used in the solid waste business, and the other fact is, the majority of material has always gone to a landfill.
And from the beginning there have been readers who have voiced their objections to our name, primarily in the recycling community. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries in particular has long taken issue with it, for understandable reason. How the government classifies "waste" and "scrap" or "commodities" has had an enormous impact on the recycling business.
In this issue we have letter to the editor from an ISRI member taking issue with our use of "waste" with electronics. I respect his opinion and all readers who have a problem with our use of the W word. But when we write about electronics, it´s not solely as a commodity to be reused. It´s also as a material that still is widely dumped in landfills. Our mission is different than that of ISRI members. To wit, we have a special section in this issue that we called e-waste.
When in doubt, ask Google, right? For what it´s worth, there are about double the number of Google results for e-waste as there are for e-scrap. Meanwhile, one of our other editors argues that e-waste and e-scrap mean nearly the same thing in a broad sense and are basically interchangeable.
It´s an example really of the complexity and dynamic nature of language. There may come a time when "waste" may become an archaic negative word with no application outside of quaint historical references. But the reality is the word isn´t ready for the landfill yet.