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How Waste is Affecting The Environment?

by | Jun 6, 2022 | Environment, Waste Management

The waste generated by humans every day has been affecting the environment in several ways. The industrial revolution gave an impetus to excessive consumption and materialistic activities. Since then, human waste has significantly increased. People worldwide are generating loads of waste and are unable to dispose of it efficiently and sustainably. The trash that is non-biodegradable and non-recyclable is dumped in landfills and is filling up the oceans. Plastic waste is the most waste generated by humans. According to a recent survey, out of 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic litter generated, only 9 percent of the waste has been recycled. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in the year 2017, calculated the total amount of generated municipal trash in the United States to be 267.8 million tons. Imagine the amount of waste generated in 2022. So let us see exactly how waste is affecting the environment and what needs to be done.

Waste: A Global Issue

How Waste is Affecting The Environment? Projected Global Waste Generation

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Companies and industries, especially in developed nations, tend to generate and dispose of tons of harmful and dangerous waste products every day. Sadly, even the popular and wealthy companies do not correctly deal with waste disposal. Waste products, from plastic wrappers to tons of radioactive waste, can have a significant and damaging effect on the planet earth.

Today, each household ends up generating around 1 tonne of waste per year. This amounts to 27 million tons for the United Kingdom per year. As the trend of affluent lifestyles in society increases, so does the practice of overconsumption. Industries create several new packaging materials and technology every year. The increasing number of goods and products entering the consumer market contributes to the global issue. Almost a quarter of the trash produced in the average household is packaging materials. The waste affects the environment by aggravating the effects of climate change, negatively impacting the health of animals and forests, and having harmful effects on human health. Large-scale awareness and education on the global waste issue are essential. Humans need to be aware of the detrimental impacts their waste has on the environment.

Ecological Impacts

The methods humans use to dispose of their waste have devastating effects on the environment. Unfortunately, humans could not care less about their disposal of waste. Waste dumped into landfills or dumping grounds release a harmful gas, methane. According to research, open-air dumping grounds release 91 percent of all landfill methane emissions. The burning of waste at landfills around the planet releases harmful levels of C02 into the atmosphere. This dangerous practice contributes to the rise in the earth’s temperature. Researchers have estimated that around 40 percent of the world’s waste is disposed of using this method. Not only does this add to the earth’s temperature, but it affects the lives of the people living near these sites.

Our global waste problem damages marine ecosystems and waterways. Besides the detrimental impacts on marine creatures, human waste also affects the communities that rely on the ocean for subsistence. Marine creatures cannot distinguish between waste and food. Aquatic animals end up dead due to the consumption of waste products. Scientists have found various aquatic animals like sea turtles, fish, seals, and whales with numerous plastic fragments in their bodies. Due to the intake of trash or plastic, marine creatures starve and eventually die, as they cannot digest the waste. Few species can ingest trash; however, plastic fragments can last up to hundreds of years in their bodies. Waste is affecting the environment and the health of the world’s species.

Environmental impact of food waste - How Waste is Affecting The Environment?

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Humans themselves are at risk due to their inaction. Humans generate large amounts of waste but do not dispose of it correctly. In the end, the whole world will suffer because of our inaction. Due to a lack of awareness and ignorance, humans continue to produce enormous quantities of waste. Public health will be ultimately affected. One can suffer from various illnesses like cancer, COPD, low birth weight, asthma, bronchitis, etc. New diseases will be added to the list in the coming years.

Solutions

Governments should be committed to reducing waste by setting up targets and goals. They should implement new strategies to manage the waste generation of the 21st century. Local authorities are mainly responsible for proper waste disposal. Legislative targets need to be introduced for local authorities to implement and follow. Besides governmental efforts, individual efforts can also have an enormous impact. The issue begins when we purchase and consume a product without thinking about how we will dispose of it without harming the Earth.

Refuse

  • Avoid purchasing the products you do not require.
  • Avoid buying disposable or single-use items. Industries produce these items to be thrown away after just one use.
  • Do not purchase over-packaged products.

Refill

  • We can purchase product refill bags or products in refillable containers/packaging. This helps us avoid excess packaging.

Reduce

  • Purchase items that will last for years.
  • Utilize reusable containers and bags. Reusable bags and containers help you reduce the use of plastic and paper.
  • Purchase in bulk.
  • Always carry your own shopping bag when you go grocery shopping.
  • Use rechargeable batteries and electric appliances.

Reuse

  • Use glass or steel containers, bottles, and jars. You can reuse these for storing several things like spices, pickles, candies, snacks, etc.
  • You can reuse plastic bags to carry groceries, shopping items, etc.
  • Donate your old books, clothes, toys, utensils, bags, and other goods to charity or goodwill shops.

Repair

  • When electric items stop working, we usually throw them away or dispose of them. We can easily repair electrical appliances. You can easily find electric repair shops around you. Not only does it help the environment, but it also provides employment.

The products and goods that you cannot reuse, repair, recycle or reduce should be disposed of properly. Most waste products can be recycled and reused. That just leaves you with a few waste products to throw in the trash can. Think about the huge impact it would have on public health and the environment if even half of the world’s population followed this method.

 

Author

  • The author has done a master's in Environmental science and is currently working as chief Environmental Advisor with New Delhi State Government.

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