Waste disposal affects everyone because we all produce waste every day. As an individual, you may feel like you do a good job coming up with eco-friendly solutions for waste disposal, but what about your neighborhood, city, county or country? Unfortunately, waste tends to get passed around for someone else to deal with. In reality, solutions are needed for waste disposal with consideration for individuals, businesses and entire countries.
According to Business Insider, Western countries have sent trash to Southeast Asia for more than 25 years. And it's not just a bag here and a bag there — the so-called "global waste trade" has sent tens of millions of tons of plastic to this area of the world, where environmental regulations are lax or simply nonexistent.
Dealing with waste with an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality does not represent a sustainable solution. So, what makes more sense for waste management? Here are some waste disposal problems and solutions.
First, it's important to note that most manufacturers produce needless waste instead of embracing reclamation and recycling technologies. Known as a circular economy, the production of new materials automatically incorporates recycled waste products in such a system, cutting down on both the waste sent to landfills and the amount of raw materials harvested for industrial use.
Second, recycling as a whole does not occur near its capacity. In fact, National Geographic reported in 2017 that only 9 percent of the world's plastic was ever recycled. And plastic is just one of many materials capable of being recycled — glass, paper, aluminum, copper and other metals can all be recycled as well, but they still end up in landfills. Finding enough land for a landfill is another problem, as too much of it is taken up by materials that cannot degrade or that won't do so for a long time.
Third, the waste that is produced is often not landfill-friendly by any stretch of imagination. In fact, it's toxic and should be dealt with in such a way that it does not contaminate water sources.
Solving these waste disposal problems requires a large-scale effort directly from the source, meaning manufacturers need to take responsibility for their waste by operating in a circular economy as much as possible. However, individuals can also play a role in the circular economy by seeking to fix products they currently own rather than throw them out. Municipal governments can also do their share by expanding the types of recyclables that can be handled by local recycling facilities.
Landfills can also take responsibility by actively sorting through trash and reclaiming recyclable materials. This can free up room in landfills for materials that truly cannot be recycled or used in any other way. Landfill managers should also look at embracing technology to create what is known as a bioreactor landfill, which creates optimal conditions for bacteria to feast on the waste and break it down.
When it comes to toxic waste, the current solution involves sealing the waste in leach-proof containers and burying it underground. However, technology allows some hazardous waste to be chemically treated so that it converts into a safer substance. Doing so should remain a priority.
Of course, when it comes to waste management, it's easy to hone in on recycling and landfills. However, it's important to remember that other types of waste exist, from sewage and run off to gas emissions and air pollution. Any kind of by-product constitutes waste: what changes could be made in your city, business or home?