According to a World Bank Report on waste generation and Management, current waste generation around the globe is 1.3 billion tonnes per year and is expected to rise by 2.2 billion tonnes per year by 2025 which accounts for a disturbing figure of 1.42 kg per person per day.
In such a scenario, the problem that comes up before all is management of this waste especially the non biodegradable one. With the ever rising population, the amount of waste generation is surging and with that the problem of waste management is becoming the one we all should be seriously concerned about.
Types of Waste
- Solid Waste
Solid waste can be classified as municipal, industrial, medical, mining waste , sewage sludge and agricultural waste. Medical waste includes waste from hospitals, municipal waste is waste from homes that contains discarded materials like polythene bags, empty cans, scrap metals, waste paper, cloth material, food waste etc.,
Then, there is waste collected from shops and markets like waste paper, packaging material, cans , polythene,egg shells etc, biomedical waste including pathological and infectious wastes, construction waste including debris, wood and concrete and wastes from horticulture and slaughter houses.
- Industrial Waste
This includes factory rubbish,packaging material, organic wastes, acids and metals etc. During some industrial processing , hazardous and toxic matter is also produced like pathogen from chemical industries, e- waste from electronic industry and metal waste from mineral and metal industries. Other industries produce solid wastes like rubber, paper, plastic, radioactive wastes, flying ash, paints etc.
- Biodegradable waste
The waste material that microorganisms present in the nature can degrade, is called biodegradable waste. Example: Vegetable waste, tea leaves , egg shells, paper and dry leaves etc.
- Non – Biodegradable Waste
Waste that cannot be degraded by microorganisms is known as Non -biodegradable waste. Example: polythene bags, plastic cans, scrap metal and glass bottles etc. Such wastes pose serious threat to the environment as they do not undergo the natural process of degradation and malign the land and water bodies.
How is waste generation harmful for us?
Too much of waste generation doesn’t only becomes difficult to manage but also has harmful effects on human beings and environment alike.
- Dumping of wastes in immediate localities by households and industries produces foul smell and acts as a breeding ground for various insects and infectious organisms creating unhygienic conditions for all together with ruining the aesthetics of the surroundings.
- Solid Waste from industries contains toxic metals and hazardous wastes which may cause land degradation and affect productivity of soil. It could also intoxicate ground water thereby making it useless for consumption purposes
- If in case hazardous wastes get mixed with other garbage and combustible waste, it is very difficult to segregate them all over again which results in loss non toxic materials like paper which could have been recycled.
- Burning of few types of waste produce toxic gases like dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyl which are responsible for various types of illnesses including cancer.
The problem with plastics
Plastics are non biodegradable in nature and has severe effects on environment causing air pollution when burnt, water pollution when dumped into water and soil pollution when disposed off in land. It gets mixed in food posing threat to human and animal lives.
Carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and hormone-disruptive chemicals are standard ingredients and waste products of plastic production, and they inevitably find their way into our ecology too. The chemicals it possesses can cause diseases like cancer in human beings. Also, animals that swallow it get choked to death due to it’s harmful nature.
The problem with E-waste
E-WASTE stands for electronic waste generated due to disposal of electronic items like batteries, computers, mobile phones etc.
These material contain a lot of toxic and non biodegradable metals like cadmium, lead, barium which can be very harmful if they enter the food chain as they can cause severe damage to respiratory and nervous system of humans. Disposal of E-waste is a serious issue we need to find solutions for as soon as possible.
Management of Waste : Methods and Precautions
- Composting: Biodegradable waste can be broken down and decomposed by microorganisms. So, this kind of waste can be collected separately or segregated from waste heaps to be put into compost where waste degrades in an oxygen rich medium. This forms an environment friendly manure that improves soil quality in terms of fertility.
Role of decomposer : Decomposers are living organisms that help break down living and non-living things after they die. The dead plants and animals serve as a food to these decomposers.
They can recycle dead plants and animals into chemical nutrients such as carbon and nitrogen that are released back into the soil, air and water as food for living plants and organisms. Thus, decomposers help keep the flow of nutrients available in the environment.
- Landfills: Landfills include covering of spreaded waste on the ground with clay or plastic foam. Bottom is also covered with an impermeable liner that protects the groundwater from being contaminated. The waste undergoes anaerobic decomposition and the methane produced as a result can be utilised for energy production.
- Incineration: The process of waste disposal by incineration includes burning a large amount of materials at a very high temperature in incinerator plants. It is suggested to remove batteries ,heavy metals and plastic before burning the waste material.
The above methods are convenient in case of biodegradable waste, however for non biodegradable waste, stress is on the three Rs’ I.e.; REDUCE , REUSE AND RECYCLE .
REDUCE: We need to reduce our demand for metallic products, raw materials and electronic items so as to have a corresponding reduce in generation of waste to an extent.
REUSE: It is preferable to reuse those materials that are non biodegradable but can be put to reuse before dumping them finally. Example: Refillable containers.
Also, other things can also be produced from the material using junk to gem concept. Example: casseroles and silos can be made from waste paper and other materials, rubber rings from discarded cycle tubes , artificial flower from waste paper material etc.
RECYCLE: Recycling promotes reprocessing discarded waste material into new useful products. Example : Recycling of paper, metal ,wood , glass and even some kind of plastics. This method is not only eco friendly in nature, but also helps in saving money, landscape and preventing pollution.
Other Measures and Initiatives
- Solid Waste management initiative by United Nations
The environment branch of United Nations looks after finding the solutions for effective waste management and ensuring implementation of those in the member countries. For example:-. The UNEP International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC) in Japan supports the implementation of integrated solid waste management systems. It also focuses on the proper treatment of special wastes (electronics, agricultural biomass, plastics) in developing countries.
- Government plans and actions:- (India)
When we see waste generation in context of India, according to Environment Ministry of the country, “62 million tonnes of waste is generated annually in the country at present, out of which 5.6 million tonnes is plastic waste, 0.17 million tonnes is biomedical waste, hazardous waste generation is 7.90 million tonnes per annum and 15 lakh tonnes is e-waste.
Only about 75-80 per cent of the municipal waste gets collected and only 22-28 per cent of this waste is processed and treated.” (source: moef.gov.in , Minister of Environment, India)
The Indian Government has also laid down some rules regarding management of solid waste and frequently keeps checking on it’s proper implementation. The recent rules of 2016 has rules on segregation of waste at source,
Collection and disposal of sanitary waste, waste processing and treatment and promoting conversion of waste into energy as well as use of compost.
- Waste management initiatives at Individual level
The role of people plays a key role in dealing with such problems. Environment has no boundaries and it’s important that we try our best to reduce waste generation for the sake of our lives and environment alike which can be done by following these practices:-
- Use Eco-friendly products.
- Promote reuse and recycling wherever possible and reduce the production of wastes.
- Use rechargeable batteries to reduce metal pollution.
- Use of waste generated during one manufacturing process as a raw material for some other production.
- Do not use polythene bags.
- Use low phosphate or biodegradable dish washing liquid, laundry detergent and shampoo.
- Check population growth so that demand of materials is under control.
Conclusion : Need for effective waste management
As mentioned before, the facts and figures that record the amount of waste generated and it’s severe affects make it obvious that we are in dire need of effective as well as efficient waste management techniques.
The foremost thing that comes to mind is reduction of waste generation at the source and also by following the principles of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
The surging population is another reason for increased waste generation and that needs to be dealt too otherwise these huge amount of wastes will cause serious degradation of environment causing air, water and soil pollution as well as will be detrimental for humans and animals. In other words,
“ It’s time we learn to manage waste well, and prevent the heaven of Earth from turning into hell !!”