For once only the English term seems decisive. The German “Abfall…” (that, which falls aside) and the French “dechét…” (that which remains after proper usage), both provide hints. But a term like “… this may just be a waste of time” makes the point (i.e. … waste can be (or create) anything from devastation to careless squander).
Wondering just when the term waste in its current usage was first introduced? Was rubbish dumped in the middle ages? What did wo/men of the Renaissance consider refuse? I suspect the distinction of litter (like cat litter, i.e. decomposable) and waste
(like most plastics, I.e. non-decomposable) became necessary only after the rise of chemistry mid-nineteen-hundred. Or, what before that time would have been non-biodegradable?
Today unknown numbers of materials, items and substances are not biodegradable. Many consider chemical fertilisers a waste product. In their hay day many considered them a saving grace. And none-the-less millions of Europeans emigrated to Amerika,
not only for fear of dying from hunger in their home lands. A new, clean, wide-open
land with no need for fertilisers beckoned.
Industrialism and the stock market in tandem, however, initiated the wave of waste from which the planet today suffers terminally. Waste management has become the big thing. It begins in the kitchen, obviously…! So… where do I find a supplier that permits me to ladle yoghurt and such in my own glas containers? Yes, I can go to the cheese, fish or produce table, bring my own wraps and a basket! Never buy baked goods in a plastic box or wrap! Where can I buy tea and coffee by weight delivered into my own container? And, obviously, this is only the smallest of beginnings… a long list follows… Each and every one can participate in limiting the amount of waste… by simply not buying it.