Sustainable Waste Management
Waste disposal is a major environmental concern. It is one of the main sources of local pollution, a threat to the local ecosystems, contributor to the greenhouse effect and a threat to the public health. In addition, the recent review of the problem with waste disposal has revealed that there are only a few years of landfill capacity in some parts of the United Kingdom. Sustainable waste management, however, is not only about responsible waste disposal and search for proper locations. In fact, sustainable waste management foresees waste disposal as the last resort.
Waste reduction is the very first priority of sustainable waste management. It is impossible not to produce any waste but there are ways to create less waste and this applies to both households and businesses. Examples include avoidance of disposable products such as plastic carrying bags, donating old clothing and toys which are still useful to charity organisations, etc. Many objects which end up in trash bins can also be reused, while even more can be recycled and reprocessed for further use which has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of both waste minimisation and sustainable waste management.
Most of the products including those that are eventually discarded such as metal, glass, paper and even plastic can be reprocessed and reused. In addition to reducing pressure on the landfills, recycling also reduces the pressure on natural resources such as forests for example as most of paper is produced from wood. But it also significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions because reprocessing uses considerably less energy than virgin material production. Waste recycling, however, does not only reduce consumption of energy but it can also be used to produce it. Example includes biogas plants which use organic waste to produce biogas which can be used to generate electricity, water heating as well as to fuel vehicles. But in order to be able to recover recyclable materials and use organic waste to produce energy, it is crucial for everyone to cooperate and sort their waste. The system for recycling waste has been established a time long ago, however, the percentage of recycled waste is still unsatisfactory. This implies that the public is not adequately educated about the benefits of waste sorting or about which materials are recyclable, or both.
Although sustainable waste management is primarily focused on alternative solutions to the existing waste management methods, it puts a major emphasis on responsible waste disposal as well, especially of hazardous materials. Many products that are used by households on a virtually daily basis are highly toxic chemicals, while the majority of population tends to be unaware of the harmful impact they have on the environment because they are easily available in supermarkets and are in use for decades. Local authorities should therefore put more emphasis on rising the awareness about dangerous household products and promoting environmentally-friendly alternatives.