What is waste?
Waste is any byproduct that is discarded after its primary usage then deemed worthless and/or valueless. It is a natural product of urbanization, economic development, and population growth, so wherever you go, you will find piles of waste; from the streets, along the beaches and even in some taxis. If you did not see any waste today, it is most probable that the lockdown has confined you.
As populations continue to increase, waste also increases proportionally and the areas of high economic activities are the hotspots for a greater waste generation; High-income countries account for 16% of the world’s population but generate 34 percent, or 683 million tonnes, of the world’s waste, whereas low-income countries only generate 5 percent or 93 million tonnes of the global waste (What a Waste 2.0). At a global scale, solid waste contributes to climate change and is one of the largest sources of pollution in oceans, even polluting the air, water, and soil. In managing this waste, landfilling is still the common method that is being used. However, landfilling is not good for the reasons that new landfills created leads to a loss of habitat and poorly designed landfills leaches leachate into water bodies, and emits Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions like methane into the air.
Landfills lead to habitat loss because new landfill space needs to be made available when current landfills close due to either filling up or the increasing environmental impacts associated from its use. Creating new landfills destroys natural habitats which causes animals to be driven away to find new homes, and endemic species also lose a portion of their habitats, further endangering them.
Waste Management contributes to nearly 5% of greenhouse gases emissions, such as methane, which mainly comes from food waste and the improper management of waste. The organic waste or leachate that is leached from poorly designed landfills enters water bodies and reduces the amount of available oxygen available in the water bodies and promotes the growth of harmful organisms that endanger endemic species.
Mr landfill has been bad to the environment around him, he has polluted water bodies and the air with bad chemicals. However, with the advancement in Science and Engineering, he now has a better body but he is still accepting anyone that goes to him; when Food, Batteries, Paper, Plastic and others get together at Mr Landfill they do not want to leave but continue to produce greenhouse gases that upset Earth. Mr Landfill’s guests also stay over for long, sometimes for hundreds of years (yes, Plastic, that’s you!). When his guests invite their ever-increasing families over, Mr Landfill just welcomes them. Truly Mr Landfill is not bothered about his guests’ harmful effects to Earth, but we should be.
If all of us dispose of and manage waste in a proper manner, we can limit and reduce the
effects that waste has on the earth. By improving simple systems related to waste management and diverting waste from the landfill through reducing, reusing and recycling (the 3Rs), GHG emissions from waste can be reduced by more than 25 percent. These systems should not only be the government’s responsibility but ours too. As citizens, we have the responsibility to not waste, but to reduce, reuse and recycle our waste, because your waste is another man’s treasure.
Today, make it your duty to recycle and think about what you can do to save the earth. Remembering that our solutions are in nature, on this #BiodiversityDay, we should demand products that are more sustainably produced and packaged in a sustainable manner so that we should not destroy nature and so run out of solutions. Let’s protect what we have, while we can.