Waste is defined as unwanted or unusable material. It is any material that is thrown away after its first use or is worthless and of no use. Waste in our environment is also referred to as garbage. Items are only considered waste if they cannot be recycled.
Examples of waste include municipal waste (waste from schools, offices e.t.c), household waste, which is solid waste from homes (garbage), hazardous waste, sewage (e.g., sewage containing bodily waste (faeces and urine) and surface runoff), radioactive waste, and industrial waste, which, as the name implies, comes from industry.
Globally, waste generation is on the rise. According to UN, in 2016, the world’s cities generated 2.01 billion tonnes of solid waste, equivalent to a footprint of 0.74 kilogrammes per person per day. With rapid population growth and urbanisation, annual waste generation is expected to increase by 70% from 2016 levels to 3.40 billion tonnes in 2050.
Compared to developed countries, residents of developing countries, especially the urban poor, are more affected by unsustainable waste management. In low-income countries, more than 90% of waste is often disposed of in unregulated landfills or openly incinerated.
Apart from odour pollution and environmental degradation through flooding, improper disposal of waste also affects our health and well-being. Air pollutants are released into the atmosphere, waterways are blocked leading to the proliferation of insects that cause malaria and other infectious diseases, crops are sometimes grown on contaminated soils and contribute to climate change through the production of methane.
Behavioural change and public participation is one of the most important keys to a functioning waste management system. Awareness, which can be done by the government, companies, CDAs, must be created to motivate waste reduction, waste separation and reuse.
Recycling is another way of effective waste management. The process helps in processing waste or used products into useful or new products. Recycling helps in protecting the environment as it helps in controlling the pollution of air, water and soil. It also uses less energy, which saves energy. There are a number of products that can be recycled, such as paper, plastic, glass, etc.
In 2019, a well-known confectionery company developed the world’s first technology for recyclable packaging that degrades in a marine environment within six months. Interestingly, the company also decided not to patent the technology for others to use and committed to making all of its plastic packaging reusable or recyclable by 2025.
Our well-being should not be put at risk in these delicate times. Therefore, we should be responsible enough to take care of our welfare and environment by disposing our waste properly.