In order to avoid contamination of the environment around us, the concept of proper waste disposal and the hazardous effects of improper waste disposal are to be clearly understood. Keeping recyclable items out of trash, keeping old paint out of hazardous area and other rules of proper disposal are designed as a measure to protect the world around us. However, not everyone understands the major consequences that result when one disregards the rules. In most parts of the world, citizens obey the rules and regulations set by authorities, however in other parts, poor waste management continues polluting the air, land and water and spreading diseases. At stake is the health and life of our planet. Let us look over a few consequences of improper waste disposal.
1. Incineration or igniting
Landfills and incinerators are the most widely used waste management techniques. From municipal industrial units to small scale units, the burning of garbage is favored by mostly under developed countries that lack ample landfill space. This has a major impact on the environment. Burning plastics and other waste items releases toxic gases into the atmosphere, hence contributing to greenhouse effect. The most hazardous waste is burned to prevent contamination and spread of diseases, being unaware that the consequences of burning waste are not any less. The earth has more than enough of greenhouse gases already.
Pollution, safety and smell are the major concerns arising from using the dump. Landfills are often abandoned pits where waste is collected and compacted before burying. All this means more and more toxins and greenhouse gases get released in to the environment. Apart from toxins, the pollution caused by such areas lead to a number of hazardous diseases in humans, and the growth of bacteria and insects. Diseases such as dengue fever and malaria that are prevalent in usually developing countries are believed to be spread by unsanitary garbage disposal methods. Prevalence of reproductive disorders, including still births and low birth weights are high near landfill locations. Moreover, cancer clusters are also said to exist in areas with proximity to landfills.
3. Hazardous waste that is dumped into the environment
This hazardous waste leeches in the ground and ground water, which is used for a lot of things that maybe you are unaware about, including watering local fields, which grow food people consume. Most communities get drinking water from there too.
4. Air Contamination
When disposing garbage that consists of harmful chemicals such as acid, oil or bleach, It is necessary that they are disposed off in approved containers that are labeled properly. Plastic, paper and other materials that are burned can contaminate air when burned. These chemicals and toxins can build up in the ozone layer. Toxic chemicals like dioxin reach the air that people breathe and thereby cause public health risk. Garbage disposed off improperly in landfills also releases methane gas over time, which also contributes to greenhouse effect bringing about a significant change in earth’s climate and global warming. Moreover such contamination can also cause respiratory problems and some other adverse health effects as contaminates are absorbed from the lungs and spread to other parts of the body. Some of these wastes that lead to the production of toxins include plastics, electronics, batteries, paint and certain types of pressure treated wood.
5. Marine life and animals
Also the waste that ends up in water negatively changes the chemical composition of that water body. Technically this is called water pollution. It is not only the humans that are affected by the improper waste disposal, marine life and animals too are badly affected. Discharging untreated or raw sewage and garbage dumping can threaten animals and marine life that come in contact with that water. Often animals drink water from that polluted water body. When waste forms algal bloom or clusters, the area can contaminate and suffocate sea bottom habitat such as fish and coral becoming extinct. This contamination not only destroys the habitat of fish and sea life but also highly affects those humans that consume fish and shellfish that feast off of contaminated areas. Plastic bottle, ropes, fishing lure, cigarette butts, Styrofoam and fishing lines are often consumed by marine animals leading to deaths of thousands each year. Therefore all the ecosystems existing in the water are affected.
6. Soil contamination
Hazardous chemicals that get into soil can harm the growth of plants when they take up that contamination through their roots. Also humans and animals that eat such plant that has been in contact with dirty soil can have a negative impact on their health.
Liquid that forms as the water trickles through contaminated areas is known as leachates. It is a harmful mixture of chemicals that result in hazardous substances entering the soil, surface water, or groundwater.
8. Municipal wellbeing
People want to live in and visit places that are fresh, healthy and clean. A city that has poor sanitation, is smelly with dirty garbage all over the place does not attract anyone, including investors and tourist. Such cities have poor standards of living. Moreover littering generally causes eye sore that also devalues the land area around it. This also impacts tourism, residents and businesses alike.
9. Recycling revenue
Countries that do not invest in proper waste control and recycling miss out on revenue realized from recycling. They also miss out on resources that can be reused. This is in particular true for metals, paper and plastics. The loss of such resources means relying heavily on virgin material every time, which requires more energy to make new products and also leads to higher costs of products and ultimately higher prices. They also miss out on amazing job opportunities that pop up from compositing, recycling and other businesses that work with them.
In many cities, littering around and improper disposing of waste even for industries results in fines for the industry or person. These fines are usually in excess of what they could have paid for proper waste management of their waste.
11. Jail Time
Depending on the type of garbage and the amount of it, jail time can result. Cities vary on how long the jail times are. Sometimes instead of jail time, cities make those people who improperly dispose of their waste serve for some community service for a period of time as a penalty. Usually they end up picking up litter, even that litter for which they are not responsible.
So where do we go from here? We can keep on ignoring this problem of improper garbage disposal and continue filling air and our mother earth with toxic waste, or we can begin to address this problem individually. Every one of us can make a better choice with the type of items we purchase to reduce our waste. Things such as baby diapers take lifetimes to decompose. Instead of opting for disposable baby diapers, we can choose cloth reusable baby diapers that are not only better for our babies, but also best for the planet. We can also choose to buy items that are sold in as little packaging as possible, choosing fresh fruits and vegetables without plastic bags, instead of artificial canned substitutes. Composting organic matter properly is another way to reduce waste. Many cities now offer composting facilities, making it easier for us than ever.