Be it used plastic bags, broken glass, obsolete cell phones, or used battery cells, we’ve got a plethora of used products in our homes that require appropriate disposal to limit their harm to the environment.
Waste disposal is therefore a systematic action for managing waste from its origin to its final disposal. It includes incineration/burning, burial at landfill sites or discharge at sea/lake/river, and recycling.
WordWeb defines waste disposal as a “unit for getting rid of and destroying or storing used, damaged or other unwanted industrial, agricultural or domestic products and substances.”
It also entails proper discard or discharge of the material waste in accordance with the local environmental regulatory framework.
Because waste disposal involves a myriad of processes such as collection, transportation, dumping, recycling, or sewage treatment among other waste product monitoring and regulation measures, there are lots of problems associated with waste disposal.
Here are the common waste disposal problems and their solutions.
Various Waste Disposal Problems
Some of the common problems include the following:
1. Production of Too Much Waste
One of the major waste disposal problems is attributed to the generation of too much waste. America alone is responsible for the production of about 220 million tons of waste annually.
In 2007 for instance, it was recorded that Americans generated nearly 260 million tons of municipal solid waste. This is about 2.1 kg per person each day.
The point is; if these are only figures in America, let’s try to imagine the amount of waste produced by the rest of the population across the globe.
According to the World Bank report, the average global municipal solid waste (MSW) generation per person daily is about 1.2 kg and the figure is expected to rise to 1.5 kg by 2025.
It therefore means that every state and local authority suffers the problem of effective waste disposal due to the generation of too much waste.
The problem is that the present era is driven by throw-away consumerism with companies and producers striving to maximize profits by producing one-time-use products without prioritizing reuse, recycling, or the use of environmentally friendly materials.
2. Most of The Waste Is Toxic
The majority of the state and local authority legislations are generally lax in regulating the ever-expanding manufacturing industries.
On a daily basis, these industries produce toxic products that end up getting thrown away after use. Most of the products contain hazardous and health-threatening chemicals.
A report by the National Center for Health Research indicates that more than 60,000 untested chemicals are present in the consumer products in our homes.
There are even products known to contain toxic chemicals, such as Biphenyl-A (BPA) – often present in plastic toys, but they are still poorly regulated.
Packaging is also one of the biggest and rapidly enlarging categories of solid waste which accounts for 30% of MSW and approximately 40% of the waste is plastic which is never biodegradable. It’s this level of toxicity together with the lax regulatory laws that exacerbates the problem of dealing with waste disposal.
3. Landfills Are a Problem as Well
Most landfills lack proper on-site waste management thereby contributing to additional threats to the environment. In the long term, landfills leak and pollute groundwater and other neighboring environmental habitats making waste management very difficult. They also give off potentially unsafe gases.
Also, the laws and regulations guiding the operations of landfills are often lax at monitoring and regulating the different types of waste namely medical waste, municipal waste, special waste, or hazardous waste.
With this kind of laxity of the laws in landfill waste management, the landfill toxicity and hazardous nature significantly increase to a point where the landfill waste problems often last for up to 30 years.
4. Regulations Are Based on Vested Interests
Since waste disposal and management has become a profit-making venture, those who advocate for safe, quality, and proper management of waste disposal are outmatched by industries in the business.
Large enterprises in the waste disposal business dictate all aspects of the market from operating landfills, sewer systems, and incinerators to recycling facilities. The corporations simply aim at making profits regardless of the waste reduction requirements or the resultant destructive environmental impacts.
As such, they collaborate with vested interest regulators thereby creating a big problem in the effective regulation of waste disposal, which has worsened the devotion to waste reduction and recycling programs.
To make matters worse, even some state officials work together with industry officials to expand landfills, increase waste tonnage, and develop new waste disposal recycling or treatment facilities to augment profits.
5. Reliance on Dying Technologies to Reduce and Recycle Waste
Waste disposal and management facilities as well as state resources have continued to rely on myopic and quickie solutions instead of developing effective recycling and waste reduction programs.
Consequently, it has created continued reliance on the use of outdated technologies to deal with waste disposal. The problem is that most states are reluctant and less creative towards advancing novel technologies for reducing the toxicity and volume of waste or enhancing recycling, especially solid waste.
6. Some of The Technologies Marked as “Green” Are Not True in Actual Sense
Recycling technologies such as plasma arc, gasification, and pyrolysis are often marked as “green” but the truth of the matter is that they are not 100% green.
These recycling technologies burn up waste with little or no oxygen and for this reason, it doesn’t differentiate them from traditional incinerators which produce energy from burning waste.
As much as burning waste to produce energy is considered green because it does not involve the use of fossil fuel, it still releases toxic materials into the environment.
Also, like traditional waste incineration systems, these technologies emit toxic ash into the atmosphere that can potentially harm people’s health and the environment. Therefore, the technologies simply divert concentration from the development of cleaner recycling and waste reduction technologies.
Waste Disposal Solutions
Having looked at the waste disposal problems, let’s switch gears and see some of the solutions that can help solve the current waste quagmire.
1. Eco-responsibility – “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle”
Eco-responsibility pertains to the three Rs mantra of reuse, Reduce, and Recycle. Local communities, authorities, and states need to put more effort into the education of waste management.
Essentially, the slogan can help reduce the levels of unsustainable waste that prove problematic in various environments across the globe. With the implementation and consistent practice of the three Rs, communities, local authorities, and states will not only be able to manage waste but also move in the direction of achieving zero waste.
More emphasis should be placed on responsible resource use with an objective of avoidance, maximizing recycling, and waste reduction methods.
Avoidance and waste reduction involve techniques such as repairing broken things instead of buying new, purchasing and re-using second-hand items, and designing reusable and recyclable products.
2. Effective Waste Disposal and Management
An effective strategy for municipal waste disposal and management can offer improved solutions for the various problems associated with waste materials. It ensures there is gradual improvement of new and cost-effective facilities that aim to encourage higher environmental protection standards.
An effective management strategy will also see to it that landfills are purposefully located to ease waste collection, transfer, and monitoring or recycling. This can be achieved through the implementation of waste disposal plan which must include proper monitoring and regulation of municipal solid and food waste, livestock waste, sewage sludge, clinical waste, and construction waste.
3. Control and Monitoring of Land Filling and Fly-Tipping Activities
Thousands of tons of construction and demolition materials are generated by various local construction industries. In most cases, a large portion of these waste materials can be reused, reclaimed, or recycled.
With the control and monitoring of landfilling and fly-tipping activities in the area of public works, construction, and demolition materials can be resourcefully reclaimed, reused, or recycled in other projects such as landscaping, village houses, recreation facilities, car parks, or roads.
By applying these techniques and monitoring fly-tipping activities, the construction and demolition materials that sometimes go into landfills which further worsen the management of solid waste can easily be managed.
4. Waste Diversion Plans
A multifaceted approach to waste transfer and diversion in terms of more hygienic and efficient waste disposal management can offer tremendous solutions to waste problems.
To address most of the waste problems, especially landfills and sewer material, the local authorities and state waste management facilities need to formulate waste diversion plans, to make certain that there is convenient and proper waste disposal at landfills and waste transfer facilities.
Measures such as mandating equipment standards and rerouting of refuse collection/transfer can enhance the environmental performance of waste disposal operations.
5. Improvements of Thermal Waste Treatment
Thermal waste treatments have been proven not to be 100% green as they are normally pronounced.
Therefore, to mitigate the problems that come with thermal waste treatments – (issues such as emission of toxic gases with organic compounds such as furans, PAHs, and dioxins); states, researchers, green groups, and academicians can explore the possible developments with regard to advanced thermal waste treatment techniques.
Appropriate and improved thermal waste treatment technology is important as a strategy for tackling the environmental concerns.
6. Polluter Pays Principle and Eco-Product Responsibility
The polluter pay principle is where the law requires the polluter to pay for the impact caused to the environment. When it comes to waste management, the principle will require those who generate waste to pay for the suitable disposal of non-reclaimable materials.
For the effectiveness of the pay principle, it should incorporate charging schemes on all waste disposal aspects including construction waste and domestic waste through public fill reception facilities.
Eco-product responsibility policy, on the other hand, is a tool for waste reduction, recovery, and recycling. It is achieved by requiring producers, wholesalers, importers, and retailers to share responsibility for the collection, treatment, disposal, and recycling of used products to cut back and steer clear of the environmental impacts caused by such products. All these measures must have a view to reduce wastage and encourage reuse and recycling.