Causes of Solid Waste Pollution

Wastes are the materials we come across in our day to day life. These are the substances that are not reusable or can be recycled for any further use. The waste materials can be in any form ranging from solids, liquids, or gases. The waste substances are the leftovers of the stuff humans use and can be classified into domestic, clinical, construction, nuclear, industrial, agricultural, commercial, etc. Irrespective of any state, waste has different properties. It can either be toxic and hazardous or inflammable or flammable. To maintain the environment these waste products need to be treated. If left untreated, they pollute the environment giving rise to various infections and also lead to damaging the atmosphere. 

History of Waste Management

The regular practice of throwing waste on the street was first forbidden during 320BCE in Athens. In early Rome, the waste disposal in front of any home was supposed to be cleared by the respective property owners. If a larger gathering concerning the state events was observed then it was the duty the state authorities to organize proper waste collection and disposal. Generally, the waste was dumped very near to the city in open pits but as the population started increasing, the waste disposal methods improved and waste was started to be transported to places which were far away from the cities into isolated areas to ascertain no harm to the society. During the medieval period, the effort that was put forth in the sanitization task considerably reduced. In bigger cities, it was the duty of scavengers to collect the waste and dispose of waste in the exteriors of the cities but, in small towns, the people still used to dump waste on the streets. In the year 1714, the department concerning the waste disposal made sure that the scavenger is made official in every town and city of England. Though in the 18th-century, waste collection and segregation methods were still crude but yet the collection of garbage was carried out in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York cities of America.

Municipal Solid Waste and Causes of Solid Waste Pollution

The municipal solid waste is also called as trash or garbage. This comprises of all the items that are rejected and discarded in public. The solid waste consists of recyclable waste and non-recyclable waste. The different types in which the solid waste can be classified are:

  • The food waste from the kitchen: While most of the waste coming from the kitchen includes plant and animal waste that are biodegradable but it also includes plastic and paper that are hazardous and either they cannot be recycled or require special techniques to get rid of it. 

  • Solid waste items including carton boxes, paper, tins, metal cans, aluminium in the form of foils, batteries, etc are a few of the solid waste that can be recycled.

  • Hazardous waste includes chemicals, paints, fertilizers, light bulbs, and batteries that pollute the environment.

  • The waste coming from hospitals and drug companies are also hazardous. 

  • Waste from the construction that includes dust, cement, rocks, etc.

  • Some waste that is bound with two or more materials is included under composite waste and they need special treatment to be recycled. 

Overpopulation, urbanization and the growing technology are among the few reasons for solid waste pollution. The rising population have lead to the production of more waste, with every passing year people have several kinds of stuff to use and discard. Technology has a very vast impact on the growing population. Example, earlier there was the use of more glass jars and containers that were returned back to the supplier preventing from more wastage being formed, but now these glass materials are replaced with plastic and cans that cannot be recycled and are non-biodegradable and ultimately has given rise to more solid waste accumulation. Though this practice has eased the lives of the people but, the rise of non-biodegradable waste have lead to polluting the environment.  

Characteristics of Solid Waste

The properties and characteristics of solid waste differ depending upon their source and structure. The two main criteria include hazardous waste and non-hazardous waste. The hazardous waste can cause damage to the individual or community on immediate exposure. The collection, treatment, or disposal of such waste require special techniques since if it is manhandled then it may cause serious health issues among the individuals that come in contact with it and damage the environment as well. These are the waste generally coming from the construction areas or industries that deal with chemicals or any materials from hospital waste like syringes, bottles containing medicines, etc. such waste needs to be carefully handled since if not handled and disposed of properly can contaminate the whole of the area where it is dumped and also can disrupt the quality of the groundwater, lakes and other water sources. Even the waste from any radioactive sources is also considered hazardous and frequent exposure to such waste can cause serious health issues among society and can also give rise to new diseases. Few of the radioactive waste need many years before they completely decay therefore, the control of these waste is of utmost importance. Some waste is also carcinogenic and some have the capacity to change the biological structure of the species. Such waste is also called as mutagenic.

A number of chemical waste tend to change their property on exposure to the environment. These are called reactive waste. These might even cause explosions and are very dangerous while other wastes that can ignite in low temperatures might cause fire hazards. Most of the non-hazardous waste comes from the community and includes materials concerned with day to day life. These are also called the Municipal solid waste (MSW) or refuse. These are also of two varieties that are the garbage and the rubbish. The garbage includes the waste items that can decompose basically the food waste. And the rubbish includes all the dry materials like wood, paper, etc that can be recycled. Another variety of rubbish is the trash that includes all the bigger items like sofa, refrigerators, etc and requires extra care while collecting and disposing of. 

Effect of The Solid Waste Pollution on Environment

Nowadays the problem of solid waste pollution is more in developing countries rather than developed ones. If the solid waste is not managed properly then it might lead to more and more diseases. There are several reasons why the management of solid waste is not done properly. Some of the reasons include:

  • Improper funding to dispose of the waste regularly and properly.

  • Absence of equipment to handle the solid waste.

  • Lack of proper awareness among the community. 

  • Less social involvement in properly disposing of waste.

  • Less infrastructure from the respective government’s side to make sure the solid waste is collected, transferred, and disposed of properly. 

  • Along with particular municipal and community responsibilities even severe weather conditions also are equally responsible for improper waste handling. 

Due to these factors, solid waste management is poor and leads to several environmental problems like:

  • The solid waste if not collected properly or if dumped in wrong places might lead to blocking of sewage and drain system due to which the water is accumulated in places and will lead to the growth of various viruses and parasites causing rise to various diseases. This leads society to live in unhygienic conditions.

  • Waste dumping areas if not cleaned properly will make way for various organisms and flies and increase their population. This, in turn, causes an increase in the number of vectors for the spread of the diseases.  

  • A lot of solid waste collection in an area and improper knowledge among the community might lead them to burn solid waste materials causing air pollution.

  • Discarding the plastic and polyethylene covers in the open will cause problem to the grazing animals who happen to ingest these materials. There are several cases of death reported of such animals due to this malpractice in recent years. 

  • Solid waste is categorized differently and the collection and disposing of the method of every category of waste are different. Failing to follow this protocol can lead to the poisoning or injury of the scavengers who happen to collect this waste without proper knowledge. These kinds of problems are seen more in developing countries. 

  • After a certain amount of time, there will be an escape of harmful fumes from the chemical waste if not cleaned and treated properly. This leads to polluting the surrounding environment thus effecting the life around. 

  • The accumulation of garbage and trash in more quantity leads to the production of methane which is more potent than carbon dioxide.

  • There is a formation of the garbage patch in the pacific ocean due to the crude methods used by the humans in disposing of the waste. This is clear harm to the environment caused due to the abrupt methods of humans. 

Solid Waste Management

Solid waste management includes the proper collection, transport, and treatment of the waste that can cause possible health hazards and disrupt the quality of the environment. Once the waste is collected from the source, it is further separated and segregated as per non-hazardous and recyclable objects and hazardous waste which needs to be processed, treated and disposed of accordingly.

Among all management of radioactive waste is of utmost importance since the radioactive substances stay in the environment for thousands of years before they completely decay. 

The transport of hazardous waste is generally done by the treatment, storage, and disposal facility (TSDF). In recent years laws are passed for proper dumping of the respective waste to decrease the damage caused to the environment. The transports responsible for carrying these waste are labeled properly to make sure it is disposed of accordingly. Most of the time the hazardous waste is carried by trucks. The waste management follows two main criteria that are, firstly, the reduction of the production of waste at the source and secondly recycling the waste such that it is useful in other domains. Once these criteria are observed, the leftover waste is properly disposed of. 

The Disposal of Solid Waste Can Be Done By Methods Such As

  • Incineration: most of the solid waste is burned such that nothing is left except for ashes. A separate facility is built to do this job. A unit or incinerator is built with heavy-duty insulated substances such that it minimizes the production of external heat.

  • Composting: The method of composting is applicable for biodegradable waste where quality manure is formed by decomposing the solid waste. Using this manure improves the quality of soil as well. After composting, the formed matter is rich in nitrogen and carbon which helps in fertilizing the plants and crops. 

  • Sanitary landfilling: In this, the garbage is distributed n thin layers and covered with clay such that there is no seepage of water post landfilling. This method gives rise to the production of methane that helps in generating electricity. It is a form of composting but on a larger scale.

  • Pyrolysis: This is decomposing organic materials by heat in the absence of oxygen. This method has its own limitation since creating an atmosphere completely void of oxygen is difficult. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Solid Waste?

Any solid waste from discarded materials from the household, industries, commercial, agricultural, and water treatment plants are considered as solid waste.

2. How to Reduce Solid Waste?

We can reduce the formation of solid waste by:

  • Reducing the use of plastic where ever necessary and use items that are biodegradable.

  • Limiting textile waste.

  • Donate the stuff that is in good condition rather than discarding them.

  • The use of plastic and paper must be reduced considerably to save the environment.

  • Make use of fluorescent bulbs than the incandescent bulbs.

  • Composting the vegetable and kitchen waste than simply discarding them. This helps in forming manure necessary for plants.

  • Prevent unnecessary packaging of items.