Waste management has been one of the largest problems when it comes to protecting the environment. The increase in domestic waste such as food waste, commercial waste from businesses, industrial waste from factories and agricultural waste from operating agricultural activities are mainly due to the increasing population and industrialisation of the economy. We might think our daily waste output barely harms the environment, but our collective actions always have a consequence especially when we do not find ways or methods to reduce waste.
Simply put, waste management is the system of collecting, transporting, and treating recyclable or disposable waste. There have been various methods that can be done by anyone, whether it is by large corporations, smaller organizations and even individuals such as yourself. The most common waste management that we have been taught as children is the 3R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. However, did you know that treatment and disposal are also part of the 3R’s?
Why Waste Management is Important.
A proper waste management system is a major game changer to make living sustainable and improve the quality of life. This directly leads to an improved air, land and water quality by preventing worse pollution. Waste that is treated and disposed properly will reduce negative effects of health from air pollution such as asthma, cardiovascular system damage and irritation to eyes.
Not only that, preventing worse land pollution will reduce the risk of skin diseases, cancer and birth defects because of waste such as lead. Water pollution is another crisis that is negatively impacting our health because of diseases such as cholera, malaria and polio.
Since waste management is a collective effort, most of the effectiveness lies in the hands of the government to pass laws and for larger companies to take responsibility in handling their waste output. Nevertheless, there are still ways to manage waste as an individual!
How We Manage Waste.
For domestic waste, use the avoidance and reduction methods such as the 3Rs. This is the most common and least expensive method. Small steps such as avoiding or even reducing the use of single-use plastics could make a difference in the amount of waste we throw out. Reusing or recycling resources like paper, aluminium cans, glass, cardboard, empty ink and toner cartridges by separating them into the right recycling bins at home is accessible for most people. Every resource that you sort can be sent to the nearest recycling centre. Any resource such as aluminium cans can be recycled to make new ones instead of using new materials.
One of the best methods for waste management for any home is composting. Composting is a method that uses organic waste to turn into fertilisers for plants. This is another cheap option to manage waste. Any organic waste is sealed in an air-tight container to be decomposed naturally. The main benefit would be its ability to increase fertility of soil, thus increasing crop yield while being less dependent on artificial and harmful fertilisers. Composting could easily be the best option for agricultural practices and even for domestic waste management.
A popular method to manage large wastes is incineration. This method includes burning waste materials at a high temperature in a controlled chamber. An advantage of incinerators is its easy and time efficient waste management which is more efficient than landfills. This method also gets rid of non-organic waste which could take a longer time to decompose. However, a downside of incinerators is needing a larger cost to construct an incinerator. Burning waste also contributes to more air pollution unless the waste burnt is converted into energy.
Landfills are found almost anywhere in the world. Malaysia has over 100 solid waste landfills as a huge dumping site. Landfills generally have more disadvantages as accumulation of waste releases high amounts of greenhouse gases. Not only that, but bacteria in landfill only breaks down organic waste and even then, at a slow rate that could take years. The slower deterioration of non-organic waste could lead to water pollution since waste flows to the nearest water source. Land pollution is a bigger problem with landfills as it takes up more space. Odour pollution also brings the decline of the natural surroundings.
Last but not least, using waste as animal feed. This is mainly to recycle food leftovers from humans. If possible, it’s better to donate leftover food to local farmers in proper bags. Farmers could find ways to recycle the food waste to feed their farm animals so they could be more cost efficient on animal feed. On the flip side, this might not be the best option as it could lead to the animals having health issues or farmers having excessive food waste on their hands.
To conclude, it’s clear as day that managing waste efficiently is a collective effort that should be pushed more. By doing our part to find accessible and cheap ways to recycle to reduce the use of non-renewable materials, we can lessen our waste output. We should find ways to avoid or reduce the use of single-use materials in our daily lives if we can afford it. It is important to note that by the end of the day, larger authorities are the ones who have the power to change our waste management system for the better. Whether it is by passing laws on limiting the number of landfills and incinerators or spreading awareness to the public on composting and recycling, any effort is appreciated to preserve our environment.