In the past, when life and the environment were simpler, all of life’s processes were taken care of by nature itself, including the processing and elimination of natural wastes. When man and society evolved, life became more complicated.
People’s needs for survival became competitive. As population grew, needs became more heightened, and material resources for everything had to be increased. Waste became an important item to be solved.
Waste management is the collection, transport, and processing of waste materials. Generally, this is to reduce the ill-effects on health, the environment or maybe simple aesthetics.
The ill-effects of random and indiscriminate waste disposal had impacted on people’s health and the environment. This led to other practices of disposal that includes recycling and the recovering of resources.
In most countries, landfill is the most practiced of all the waste disposal systems. This is because it is the most inexpensive among all others. Effectively managed and designed, the practice can be sanitary and safe.
Poorly managed landfills, however, produce adverse by-products: leaching of toxic fluids into the ground, noxious odour caused by organic breakdown, destruction of surface vegetation, and the production of greenhouse gases.
This waste disposal method involves the combustion of waste materials (sometimes called “thermal treatment”) producing heat, gas, steam, and ashes. Usually, this is used to dispose of hazardous waste materials (like dangerous wastes from hospitals). What makes it questionable is the fact that it releases gas pollutants.
In some countries, the heat generated in incinerators is used as energy to generate in turn steam and electricity.
Plastics, glass, PVC, and those made of the same materials are collected and recycled into new products. In progressive countries like Australia, recycling is successfully implemented by the government and the cooperation of more than 90% of the population.
In composting, organic waste materials (food scraps, paper, and other bio-degradable materials) are decomposed in a controlled environment. Organic end-products are used as fertilizers, mulch soil, etc. Waste gas (methane) is captured to generate electricity.
This campaign is being vigorously pushed in many industrialized countries. People are encouraged to reuse second-hand products, repair broken items, avoiding disposable products, and designing new products that can be refillable or reusable.
This is the three Rs in waste management concept – reduce, reuse, recycle. Today, it remains a potent cornerstone in waste minimization strategies. The simple concept is to maximize a product’s benefits and generate the most minimum of waste from it.
Seen from a global perspective, educational awareness campaigns in waste management are becoming crucial. Several schools and universities have adapted the Taillories Declaration into their curricula.
The Tailloires Declaration is about the speed of environmental degradation caused by pollution and depletion of natural resources. It details the perils as well as the means to combat this very imminent global danger.
Other waste management concepts
These include EPR or extended producer responsibility which means they are also responsible for their products not only during manufacture but also after use.
The PPP (Polluter Pays Principle) means the producer of a pollutant will have to pay. In waste management, this is the requirement of a waste generator for the proper disposal of waste.
As the world becomes more and more industrialized and consumption of resources increases, so will the production of waste increases. Waste management is a crucial concern for everyone.