A Quick Look Into Current Waste Management Practices

man throwing plastic bottle in recycling bin

Did you know that a gallon of paint, if not disposed of properly, could contaminate 2.5 million gallons of drinking water? How about the debris that the deconstruction and demolition of buildings in the United States alone produce, which go to landfills, with only a total of 2 percent of waste building materials being recycled? That is equivalent to 125 million tons of wastes.

Facts like these have bombarded people for a long time. It would be easy to fill up a few volumes of books with numbers and figures on how our planet is dying. Perhaps it’s because of this that most people are now desensitized to the environmental degradation that is taking place globally, not just in the United States.

These statistical data are presented, however, to encourage everyone to do their part in reducing and recycling wastes. For the most part, it is working. But more things need to be done to make a bigger impact.

Fortunately, there are companies now that are helping address the issue of secure destruction and disposal of waste.

What is waste management?

Waste management refers to the necessary and vital steps taken to deal with by-products or wastes from the moment it is discarded to its final disposal. These steps include collection, transport, treatment, and disposal. All of these steps are monitored and regulated during the entire process.

Classification of wastes

Matter comes in three forms—solid, liquid, and gas. Wastes come in these three forms as well, and all three require different ways of management. Waste management is all-inclusive, dealing with waste that is industrial and biological in nature, and those that come from the households (also called municipal solid waste).

Undisposed of properly, waste would eventually pose a health risk to humans, animals, and practically all living things. The objective of waste management is to reduce these adverse effects to humans and the environment.

Global waste management

Sadly, a strong emphasis on waste management is only done in the first world or developed countries. In developing nations, governments are struggling to deal with the problem of the increasing amount of waste due to the ever-increasing population. A stronger education coupled with a stronger response is necessary.

color coded trash bins

Municipal Solid Waste

This consists mostly of items discarded on a daily basis—paper, packaging (plastic, paper or glass), old or broken furniture, used bottles, food scraps, newspapers, magazines, etc. Aside from the house, municipal solid waste is also generated by schools, hospital, government agencies, and businesses. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a major portion of waste management efforts is directed towards municipal solid waste.

Here are the Methods of Waste Management:

1. Reducing waste.

In the American household, it’s common to resort to using plastic plates and utensils when dining at home. Afterward, these plastics are not discarded in an appropriate manner. Plastics do not really break down and a large percentage of them end up in our oceans, which pollute our water. Just because we don’t see it at home does not mean it’s completely gone.

2. Recycling.

An item’s usability does not end in a singular use. Rather than throwing plastic packaging, for instance, be creative in finding other ways to reuse it.

3. Composting.

This is the deliberate decomposition of organic waste. By allowing microbes to decompose organic waste, compost, which is rich in nutrients, is created. It may be slow and requires a significant amount of land to be used, but this method is proven to improve soil fertility.

The next three methods are not as desirable methods of waste management. However, as there is a need to find a more acceptable solution, governments are resorting to these three methods.

4. Incineration.

Burning waste allows for their transformation of wastes into base components, while the heat generated is collected for energy, which can be used for cooking, heating, and powering turbines. Various gases and inert ash are then produced. However, using filters can check the level of pollution or reduce it. Still, constant vigilance is necessary to ensure that pollution is kept to a minimum or is prevented.

5. Sanitary Landfill.

This means putting our waste underground. A protective lining is applied on the ground, which serves as a barrier to prevent toxic chemicals from getting into groundwater. Waste is then compacted, dumped and covered with a layer of dirt. Landfills are ideally located in areas with low groundwater levels, and far enough from areas that are prone to flooding.

6. Ocean Disposal.

Radioactive waste is disposed of in the oceans, far from human habitation. A massive opposition against this method comes from environmentalists, as they believe that it would eventually leak and affect aquatic life.

Waste will never go away completely. But you can do something to make even a small difference. Join the revolution to minimize your contribution to improper waste disposal, so our planet will not end up full of waste.