Humans generate a lot of waste, much of which now affects the air we breathe, the water we drink, and land on which we live. According to the United Nations, about 11.2 billion tonnes of solid waste is collected worldwide, almost all of which comes from humans alone. We therefore not only need to manage this waste but also come up with strategies that will manage such waste sustainably. This article will talk about sustainable waste management, its importance and said strategies for sustainable waste management.
Waste management refers to the practice of collecting, transporting, processing or disposing of, managing and monitoring various waste materials. It is important to observe sustainability in this aspect so that every bit of waste can be managed in an efficient manner rather than just dumping it all in landfills.
- What is Sustainable Waste Management?
- 4 Ways to Create an Efficient Waste Management Plan
- Why Sustainable Waste Management Is Important?
- Best Solutions for Sustainable Waste Management
What is Sustainable Waste Management?
Sustainable waste management refers to the collection, transportation, valorization and disposal of the various types of waste, in a manner that does not jeopardize the environment, human health or future generations. It includes any activity involved in the organization of waste management, from production to the final treatment.
It is important to note that there are various types of wastes, such as municipal, which includes household, commercial and demolition waste; electronic or e-waste, which includes computer parts; and radioactive waste, among many other forms of waste.
The goal of sustainable waste management is to reduce the amounts of natural resources consumed, reusing the materials taken from nature as much as it is possible, and creating as minimal waste as possible. It is our responsibility to maintain sustainability for the benefit of our environment as well as future generations. A well-functioning sustainable waste management system, should incorporate feedback loops, focus on processes, embody adaptability and divert wastes from the disposal.
Sustainable waste management is a key concept of the circular economy and offers many opportunities and benefits to both the economy, the society and the environment. Sustainable waste management involves collecting, sorting, treating, recycling, and when properly facilitated providing a source of energy and resources. It, therefore, creates jobs, improves waste management methods, and lessens the impact of human activities on the environment, thereby, improving the air and water quality. It also reduces food wastage, keeps heavy environmental costs at bay, and prevents some human health conditions, thereby improving the overall human life.
4 Ways to Create an Efficient Waste Management Plan
You can create an efficient plan for waste management in your facility through the following 4 ways:
1. Considering Sustainable Materials Management
Don’t consider waste management as your last resort to manage waste efficiently; rather take the approach of sustainable materials management. The former needs you to look at all the waste that is generated and think of different methods in which you can recycle or reuse the waste. However, the latter allows you to make deliberate and informed decisions about how materials should flow at different manufacturing stages to generate less waste.
2. Planning at Every Stage
Planning for waste management is not a one-time event but a process consisting of various stages that come together to help you achieve your goals. Follow and track your plan at every stage. By employing strategic planning, you get the opportunity to deliver sustainable improvements to local waste management practices as it has the ability to respond to the ever-changing waste and recovered materials markets.
3. Collaborating Whenever Possible
You must collaborate with different organizations and companies that share the same goal. Public-Private Partnerships for Service Delivery (PPPSD) is one such approach that promotes sustainable and self-supporting partnerships between various businesses and local governments.
This kind of collaboration helps in stimulating improved cooperation between public, private and citizen stakeholders. It also helps in minimizing the adverse effects of waste in poor communities, contributes to the sustainable improvement of recycling and solid waste management, and improves the livelihood of people and businesses in rural and urban communities equally.
4. Aiming to Avoid the Landfills
Aim to stray away from landfills as much as possible. Civic bodies must make an effort to operate under various legislative requirements that want to achieve specific diversion goals. Determine the actual diversion rate at the different stages of recycling programs. You must know the quantity of materials that was usable in the production of recyclable products.
Importance of Accurate Weighing in Recycling
Everyone in the recycling industry stresses the importance of accurate weighing of materials. In fact, we can say that the recycling industry depends on weighing recycling waste accurately, regardless of whether you are a buyer or a seller.
By incorporating weight scales such as truck scales, forklift scales, floor scales, bench scales, etc., you can ensure that every waste material, no matter what it is made up of, is weighed accurately so that you know exactly how much is being recycled, reduced and sent to the landfills. It also helps in getting the right amount of money corresponding to the exact quantity you are selling or buying.
Why Sustainable Waste Management Is Important?
1. It creates space
If waste was never managed, it would end up on land, either scattered or may be centralized in a landfill somewhere. Landfills are big and can use up a lot of space. In some confined areas, you will have to sustainably control and manage your waste, so that you make the best use of it.
The best example is Singapore, which measures roughly 700 square kilometers and is home to over 5.5 million people. They already have land constraints and that is why the nation’s National Environment Agency understands the need to reuse waste as well as properly dispose of it.
2. It saves and also makes money
Once you reuse or recycle anything, you will not need to go buy another of the same. You will be saving some money that would otherwise be used to buy an item that can be recycled or reused. It also means the agencies that take care of our trash, will not be forced to consistently manage our trash as there will be less of it.
Increasing recycling can cut our disposal costs and improve our bottom line. In line with the concept of money, sustainable waste management can help generate money for some establishments. For instance, municipal administrations that collect the garbage can charge collection and recycling fees, making money in the process. This will also discourage institutions that generate a lot of waste, making them sustainable and more responsible for the environment.
3. It enhances sustainability
Managing waste, energy and water, and doing it more efficiently, are at the core of sustainability. Improving our individual, business, government or organizational sustainability can boost our image as individuals, businesses, governments and organizations, respectively, attracting more quality tenants, clients, and customers to our establishments. It also positively engages our employees, volunteers and citizens.
4. It controls pollution
Each waste we dump has a particular effect on the environment. For instance, pharmaceutical waste poisons our water, and waste foods invite flies and rodents. Sustainable waste management helps us understand our waste and how best to deal with it.
As such, pharmaceutical waste should be taken to its original manufacturer for proper disposal such as incineration, waste food should be composted and plastics can be recycled. All these measures and more will help control pollution. As such, the pharmaceutical waste will not poison the water, plastics will not clog marine life and food wastes will not invite rodents.
5. It is the core of environmental conservation
The greatest enemy to the environment is humans. We produce trash at an incredibly quick rate and our waste management methods are still poor. Sustainable waste management is therefore at the core of environmental conservation, seeing as it will help preserve the environment as well as improve it, not only for us but also for other species and future generations.
It, therefore, conserves resources including trees, metals and water, reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, and improves the existing resources such as providing compostable waste that nourishes the soil
6. It makes us into better and responsible inhabitants of the earth
Humans cannot live without generating waste. As such, sustainable waste management will help us become better and responsible citizens of the planet by carefully, effectively and sustainably managing our waste. We will come up with better ways of managing waste, new technologies of dealing with our waste and the best alternatives for each waste. For instance, food remains and fruits can be composted, plastics recycled, and paper incinerated instead of dumping them all in a landfill.
Best Solutions for Sustainable Waste Management
1. Go paperless
Despite the world becoming more technologically advanced, most businesses still use paper and ink, which is one of the biggest waste categories. To become sustainably responsible for the environment, we need to cut down the amount of paper and ink we use. get rid of paper as far as it is possible, and instead implement policies that can allow individuals and businesses to go digital, go online and use cloud storage.
Only print when it is absolutely necessary, and when doing so, print on both sides of the paper, and decrease the margins so that you reduce the number of sheets to use. Print in ‘draft mode’ to cut down on your ink consumption and in the bathroom, switch to hand dryers, to eliminate paper towels.
2. Incinerate waste
Incineration is a technique that transforms waste through fire. Waste combustion generates heat and electricity, although it pollutes the air. Incineration works properly where you do not want to store the waste in a central location and where the waste cannot be used for any other purpose.
Singapore, for instance, incinerates about 8,200 tons of garbage daily, reducing its waste volume by 90%. Their incineration plants, in turn, produce over 2,500 MWh of energy daily, enough to support 900 homes daily. Although it pollutes the air, Singapore’s incineration programs recover reusable metals that can be sold for profit. However, the nation is amplifying its recycling programs.
3. Donate anything useful
Not everything that has been used should be drowned on the trash bin. Donate some of the stuff you no longer use or need as they will benefit those who receive them. For instance, restaurants, hotels and grocery stores should donate extra, perishable and prepared food to shelter homes and food banks. Donate soaps, toiletries, shampoos and skincare products, old computers, printers, hardware and other electronics, and old furniture like desks, and chairs to those who might need them.
4. Reduce, reuse, recycle
Recycling saves energy, keeps materials out of landfills and incineration, and provides raw materials for new products. Have more bins for collecting recyclables like paper, glass, plastics and many more, which can then be recycled. Where possible, reuse some products like plastic bottles instead of throwing them away as soon as you use them.
Reusing keeps these and more products from the garbage bin, conserving the environment. Also, minimize your use of some of these products. For instance, instead of having takeout food in buckets and cups that will end up in the bin, go into the restaurant and have the food there on plates that will be cleaned and used again and again.
5. Compost your lunches
Composting is a green and great way of disposing of waste. At home, put the food in a bag and while at work, do it in the break room or cafeteria. You can compost the excess fruits, tea bags, eggshells, coffee filters, greasy pizza boxes, and much more. Tightly seal the composting bin or bag to minimize odors and fruit flies.
Also, be sure to use compostable bags to easily transfer the waste to your own composting pile. The compost pile will become a good addition to your office or home garden, as it will nourish the soil. Composting, in general, converts and recovers organic matter into stabilized, hygienic and soil-like products, that are rich in humic compounds that enrich the soil.
6. Anaerobic digestion of waste
This is a process similar to composting, although it does not use oxygen. Anaerobic digestion allows the treatment of organic waste and sludge by fermentation, in the absence of oxygen. The materials or waste are sealed off and the bacteria lives of the organic matter itself.
It is a slower process in comparison to composting, but it can have far more useful results. Anaerobic digestion of waste results in methane, a key component to biogas, which is a renewable source of energy that can be used to cook, generating heat and even producing electricity for the home
7. Waste collection
The waste collection should not be left to the municipal authorities but should be the responsibility of every individual, business, organization and government. The collection of household waste is done by garbage trucks, which go to each point of garbage production to collect the garbage.
These systems should be streamlined or centralized so that all waste is classified, and collected the same way. What can be recycled should be recycled, and what cannot, should not contaminate the recyclable waste. This way, it is possible to enjoy some benefits of waste, like energy recovery, which could generate fuel or electricity as discussed above.
8. Educating the masses
We inherently know that we need to take care of our waste. However, not everyone knows how to do it sustainably. It is therefore important to understand the amounts and types of waste we produce, as well as how to effectively and sustainably manage them.
We also need to know to reduce their hauling costs and negotiate for waste and recycling services that fit our needs. After having all this knowledge, we need to share it to others, through books, videos, articles, seminars and all other available means.
Kevin Hill heads up the marketing efforts and provides technical expertise to the sales and service teams at Quality Scales Unlimited in Byron, California. He enjoys everything mechanical and electronic, computers, the internet and spending time with family.