Middle English waste, wast; in sense 1, from Anglo-French wast, from wast, gast, guast, adjective, desolate, waste, from Latin vastus; in other senses, from Middle English wasten to waste


  • 1 a : a sparsely settled or barren region : desert
b : uncultivated land
c : a broad and empty expanse (as of water)
  • 2 : the act or an instance of wasting : the state of being wasted
  • 3 a : loss through breaking down of bodily tissue
b : gradual loss or decrease by use, wear, or decay
  • 4 a : damaged, defective, or superfluous material produced by a manufacturing process


Waste (also referred to as rubbish, trash, refuse, garbage, or junk) is unwanted or unusable materials.

In living organisms, waste is the unwanted substances or toxins that are expelled from them. More commonly, waste refers to the materials that are disposed of in a system of waste management.

Waste is directly linked to human development, both technologically and socially. The composition of different wastes have varied over time and location, with industrial development and innovation being directly linked to waste materials. Examples of this include plastics and nuclear technology. Some components of waste have economical value and can be recycled once correctly recovered.

Waste is sometimes a subjective concept, because items that some people discard may have value to others. It is widely recognized that waste materials are a valuable resource, whilst there is debate as to how this value is best realized.