Owing to intense development in science and technology, waste generation has grown by leaps and bounds with disposal turning into a herculean task. India generates about 100,000 metric tonnes of solid waste per day, with contributions of 9000 mt/day and 8300 mt/day from large metropolitans such as Mumbai and Delhi, respectively. Municipal solid waste generation per capita in the country ranges from approximately 0.17 kg per person per day in small towns to nearly 0.62 kg per person per day in cities. The average composition of MSW produced by Indian cities is approx. 40 wt.% inert, 41 wt.% organic, with 19 wt.% potentially recyclable materials. Organic waste is mostly generated from households, and inert waste is generated from demolition, road sweeping and construction (Check more here).
Like India, China is a growing economy and a superpower. In order to protect its strength and environment, as of January 2018, China has stopped accepting trash from other nations. USA and other European countries are now facing problems with their excess recyclable waste lacking an exit. In 2016 alone, China imported 7.3 million metric tonnes of recovered plastic from the US, waste being the 6th largest export to China and other countries from the former. The ban on different kinds of yang laji or precious foreign garbage was announced by China’s Ministry of Environment Protection to the World Trade Organisation in July 2017. A practical way of understanding this ban is that the Chinese are buying more and throwing away more, just like the Westerners, and in the process generating enough waste to recycle at home rather than importing the same from outside the country. This ban is believed to eradicate solid waste pollution and environmental toxicity occurring in China (Check more here).
Waste production in today’s scenario can be metaphorised to breathing. Therefore, people should know and understand the different kinds of waste generated, their proper segregation and the best way to dispose the same.
Listed below are four waste disposal processes, with advantages and disadvantages:
It is a ‘thermal treatment’, i.e. a process requiring very high temperatures for combustion of organic substances present in waste materials.
Advantages of this process include volume reduction by an estimated of 80-85%, need of land for landfills reduced, decrease in cost of transportation as incinerators can be built near waste dumping stations, Waste-to-Energy process due to incineration producing heat and power can be transferred to nearby areas, the ash produced can be used by the construction industry, and the problem associated with leachates in landfills can also be minimized.
Disadvantages include high cost, requirement of skilled workers for operating an incinerator, release of dioxins, nitrogen oxides, heavy metals, particulates in the air, and encouraging more waste production to keep the incinerators working (Check more here).
Landfills are designated sites for disposal of MSW which cannot be recycled or waste which cannot be incinerated. These types of wastes are collected from localities, transported and buried in a landfill in order to reduce pollution in the environment.
Advantages of landfills are that the trash around localities does not pile up, reducing health problems and disease due to vectors, Waste-to-Energy conversion can be allowed, and an engineered landfill has the potential of ‘taking care’ of the waste dumped by itself such as after proper ‘capping’, wildlife can be allowed to grow on site.
Disadvantages are that the rotting organic matter releases carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere increasing incidence of global warming, chemical leachates are released into groundwater or nearby streams, and a finite space, with high cost of land as well, limits the dumping of MSW from a particular locality (Check more here).
It is an easy and cheap way to make nutrient rich fertilizer for kitchen gardens, lawns, orchards etc. It is also a great method to get rid of kitchen waste, yard clippings, leaves, and other organic biodegradable waste normally produced in a household.
Advantages include reduction and reuse of household waste, environmentally friendly fertilizer for the vegetable garden, no need of mixing organic waste with recyclables, low cost, no contamination to groundwater, and no adverse health impact while usage.
Disadvantages are not many, though the problem of it being dirty and smelly remains.
It is the process of converting waste product into reusable material, by singling the trash out and repurposing it for some other use.
Advantages include reduced energy consumption, decrease in pollution, environment friendly, slows rate of resource depletion, fights global warming, and decreases landfill waste when properly segregated.
Disadvantages include recycling not always being cost-effective with high initial costs, needing more global buy-in, recycled products being of lesser quality, and recycling sites being unsafe (Check more here).
A thorough understanding of all mentioned waste disposal processes is needed now to help people ‘Know Waste’, segregate it, and place it where it rightfully belongs. A more apparent need of the hour is reduction in generation of waste, which gradually would in the long run prove advantageous in leading a happy, healthy, and toxic waste free life on Earth.
Adeela Hameed is pursuing Masters in Environmental Sciences at Amity University, Noida.