Waste has become a major problem in the world today because of the many health hazards associated with it. Secondly, waste that is not properly managed may lead to pollution of the environment. Waste is a major cause of water and air pollution. This occurs when waste finds its way into the water bodies and water becomes contaminated, therefore it becomes unfit for human consumption. If people drink this contaminated water, there are at a risk of getting infected with diseases like cholera. Waste also produces a foul smell which results to air pollution, people living in such an environment live uncomfortably and this may lead to infections. Therefore, it is important to find ways of sustaining and managing it. Waste refers to articles that have been abandoned by the owner because they may have lost value or are no longer useful to the consumer. The term waste can also be used to refer to systematic removal of garbage as required for the safety of public health and the environment. It is impossible to have a waste free society because human activities are accompanied by waste generation. Solid waste is produced during the buying of raw materials, during refining and manufacturing procedures and when products are used by the consumer (Fricker, 2003). Large amounts of waste are also produced during mining and agriculture operations.
Waste contains toxic chemicals that are harmful to human beings and the environment. In addition to solid waste, human actions produce products that are in liquid and gaseous form that are harmful to the environment. Therefore individuals, the government and other agencies must find ways to minimize waste production, get back material and energy sources from waste, control production of green gas from waste, and throw waste in a way that is safe to human health and so avoid environmental degradation (Buckingham, 2004). The major challenge in developed and developing countries is coming up with ways in which waste can be managed.
The increase in waste throughout the world creates major problems for people seeking to attain environmental sustainability. Such pressure is seen at the local level where there is an increase in the production of household waste. Individual persons play a great role in waste management right from their homes. In this paper we discuss why waste is treated as a central problem in questions of sustainability and if it is possible to attain zero waste and how it can be designed.
Waste sustainability is important in order to manage waste. The government, individuals and organization must take up responsibilities and find ways to sustain waste, if not so waste might be scattered everywhere, including places of work, this environment would not be conducive for working. In addition, investors from other countries would not love such a place to come and do business. The benefits received from the tourist industry would also decline because tourist would not be attracted to such a country. Therefore it is very crucial to sustain waste in order to avoid the serious consequences involved with it. Though, there are many difficulties involved in managing waste, which began when people changed from hunting and gathering communities to settled communities. Individual persons, companies, the government and other institutions are required to make hard choices in order to eradicate waste or at least sustain it (Fricker, 2003). With the rapid increase in population every year, choices leading to good waste management actions and wise use of resources will be very important. Many institutions are trying to contain waste and, but the difficulties in managing it are basically confined to a small area. Millions tones of waste is produced annually, majority of this is thrown to landfill, only a small percentage of this is recycled.
The industrial revolution, which led to high population of people in the cities, gave rise to population problems in a large scale. Urbanization and growth in economic development generate large quantities of waste. Furthermore, they put great pressure on energy resources of the earth.
The amount of domestic waste is increasing at an alarming rate and there are no signs for it decreasing in the near future. As a result, the impact of this to the environment is disastrous and concern arises on how it can be controlled. The UK has come up with ways in which green gases can be reduced along with finding suitable location for landfill. This is sometimes difficult because, there is opposition of setting some localities aside for waste disposal. Consequently, the government is left with fewer alternatives for waste disposal (Buckingham, 2004). The administration of home waste is basically a big problem. It has been as a simply environmental subject. Land filling is a bad example on how to manage wastes and is seen unacceptable before the eyes of many people. It is seen as an action that reduces and destroys the quality of land.
The UK government together with the European Union has tried to give a solution to the issue of waste disposal, and more so the issue of landfill in regard to specific targets. The European Union has had discussions with the Landfill Directive that sets out key goals for the reduction in the amount of biodegradable waste that land on environmental grounds. The government set out goals for an incorporated waste policy for England and Wales, for waste recovery and recycling and diversion of this waste from landfill. The policy is based on the waste hierarchy; it represents a series of options for dealing with waste (Buckingham, 2000). Preferably, waste should not be produced at all, when this is not possible, the materials produced should be re-used. If the material cannot be re-used then energy should be recovered by burning the material. At the bottom of the hierarchy waste can be land filled.
Principles of government policy relating to waste management in the UK
Beat practicable environmental option Best outcome for the environment, weighing costs and temporal factors.
(From most to least preferable, in descending order)
Dealing with waste locally to enhance regional sustainability.
The government has been informed about this idea on waste management. The recycling and recovery process has led to speculation that a large number of facilities for burning the organic matter will be needed nationwide in order to reach those targets. The government has issued recycling targets for all local authorities in the hope that these targets will be met (Bilitewski, 1994). The significance of minimization and recycling has been somewhat ignored and this has negative impact in managing waste.
Attaining zero waste
To attain a hundred percent zero waste is almost impossible, but it is possible to go close to it. “One way to achieve this is by solid waste source reduction; this is the making and use of products that create less waste and toxics when they reach the end of their useful lives” (Bruno, 2007). This action reduces the amount of material that enters the waste stream. One good example is the change in the composition of elements used to make household batteries. Before, batteries had a high percentage of mercury and cadmium in waste but today manufacturers have reduced the mercury and cadmium content. Cadmium-free rechargeable batteries have been developed with lithium replacing it which is less harmful. Source reduction is an idea to be implemented by both manufacturers and consumers. Manufacturers reduce the consumption of raw materials in production and delivering and consequently waste production which occurs at the end of the product life. Source reduction by consumer is difficult because people live in different lifestyles. Offering training and using certain program can help them learn how to reduce waste.
One of the best way to reduce waste is by minimizing what one purchases. One should only bring home what is really necessarily and is going to be used. This of course will not only reduce the articles you throw away but also what is used to carry them which is the biggest contributor of waste (Bruno, 2007). When buying things at the grocery, there are a number of things that we can do to minimize trash; place fruits and vegetables directly into your cart and avoid using the available bags, go for items in glass rather than plastic because glass can be recycled after using the item, aerosol can should be avoided because they cannot be re-used or recycled, when going for shopping, go with a shopping basket to avoid use of more plastic bags.
Recycling items also contribute to attaining zero waste. This entails gathering all those materials that cannot be used anymore and processing into new materials from which other materials are made. Recycling has many advantages. One, it minimizes the amount of green gas that are exposed to the environment. Secondly, the amount of energy consumed is less compared to using new materials. Recycling is much better than throwing the items as trash (Bagchi, 2004).Giving away items that are no longer in use, is also a good way to reduce waste.
Science and technology has helped man live a better life with improved living standards. Technology has helped man consume and diminish the resources of the earth, therefore making it hard for the earth to absorb wastes (Roberts, 2004).
The idea of eliminating waste involves all manufacturing aspects such as the waste not being produced at all or minimizing its production. Waste prevention can be differentiated both qualitatively and quantitatively. Qualitative refers to keeping away from harmful products, while quantitative deals with overall reduction of recyclable or disposable wastes in general. Agents involve in waste generation can be direct or indirect (Schultz, 1993).The direct include homes, manufacturing and industries. The indirect are made up of regulatory organizations. There exists a relationship between the indirect and direct actors. The center for any decisions and measures taken by indirect actors relies on the overall environmental policy.
Environmental problems appear before even the final product becomes garbage. This is because pollution begins right from extraction of raw materials, production and even marketing. Therefore, every process in production has a negative impact to the environment. In order to reduce the occurrence of wastes and even prevent pollution, then there should be a mass balance in: eco-balance, material and energy balance and product line analysis (Packard, 1963).
Eco- Balance: An eco-balance study should indicate whether changing to an environmentally friendly process will indeed protect the environment in the end. The purpose of an eco-balance is to find ways to minimize environmental impacts, minimize hazards, and optimize the use of raw materials, water and energy (Riley, 1995). During this study, the entire lifecycle of a product is checked starting with obtaining of raw materials to product manufacturing. Many difficulties come up during comparisons. For instance, large waste materials are generated from the production of A, whereas B requires a tremendous amount of fresh water. A solution to this problem is performing a weighted analysis. In spite of all these difficulties many eco-balance studies have led to successful analysis, an example of this analysis is the production of plastic and paper shopping bags.
Material and Energy Balance: Material and energy cannot be destroyed but rather transformed to something else; they stand for the basic building block for a good planning process (Jackson, 1996).
Product line analysis: This analysis examine the entire life-cycle of a product and how needs are met in an environmental friendlier way. The indirect actors set up policies that help to reduce wastes and ensure that they are implemented. Some of these are: laws and prohibitions, economic policies and public relation campaigns. The aim of the indirect actors is to ensure manufactures control occurrence of waste (O’Brien , 1998).The direct actors have accountability for waste production and thus have an impact on the amount of hazardous waste that is produced.
Within the European Union, bad waste disposal practices have been replaced with better methods of waste management, in order to have waste reduction and resource recovery. Because of the EU laws, waste prevention by individual members is greatly implemented (Capra, 1997).
In Germany, a packaging rule was implemented. Commercial units were given a chance to form local collection and recovery systems for shopping containers and incase of system failure they were required to take back their products. The impact of this regulation had a positive outcome, not only in recycling but also in waste prevention. A clean air act allows that facilities must be created and formed to avoid generating wastes residues, unless they are properly treated without generating additional waste (Hardin, 1996). Otherwise, waste must be disposed off without any impact on human health and environment. Fulfillment of this act is compulsory. The clean air act applies only to construction and operation facilities and not to specific products such as packaging material. There are several ways of promoting waste prevention in order to positively influence the manufacturing sectors.
Economic incentives: They are successful measures meant to reduce waste accumulation in the areas of manufacturing. This is correct because waste prevention policies in industries are based on economics such as costs associated with pollution control equipment (Tenner, 1996). The producer performs various investment calculations to determine the amount of savings that can be attained by installing and implementing environmental pollution control equipment. Hence, the aims of waste avoidance and the efficient use of raw materials become related.
Other incentives include: giving financial assistance to avoid environmental pollution, supporting environmental friendly manufacturing processes, providing government benefits for innovative technologies. The manufacturing sector must be directed and guided with technical expertise towards implementing waste prevention measures and self responsibility when generating production waste and hazardous waste (Chappells, 1999). Setting future waste quantity limits and incorporating state of the art production and waste management strategies can be accomplished with cooperative agreements and voluntary discussion among retailers and industries.
The manufacturing industry could make a major contribution in waste prevention by presenting a greater selection of products with minimum covering and maximum prolonged existence. This new approach should not be silenced by existing product advertisement and marketing because environmental friendly products market themselves. Majority of the waste come from the industry during the processes of manufacturing and production, thus the need for industry to be keen on preventing wastes occurrence. The environment has become a major element in production, next to the classical production factors like land, capital, and labor and still appears unnoticed by many firms (O’Brien, 1999).
Waste prevention does no only save the disposal costs but also create a positive self image for employees and a positive public image particularly to the consumer. Additionally it reduces the risks associated with disposing harmful materials. Structuring waste management according to waste prevention implies a necessarily limitation on free production. Thus in terms of environmental compatibility of operation materials, waste prevention conflicts with the companies economic interests (Fricker, 2003). Hence, the manufacturing industry view waste prevention only as a political goal, and incorporates it only in the marginal capacity.
Waste is an environmental hazard which is treated as a major problem. It is almost impossible to live in a society without producing waste, because this is how we get a livelihood. Though it is impossible to have zero waste, there are many preventive measures that can be carried out in order to minimize occurrence of waste. Starting from the manufacturing industries to the house hold; they all play a big role in avoiding waste. The government also contributes by putting up laws that manage waste.
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