Archeological evidence tells us humans had a way of managing their waste even before landfills and incinerators were developed. In many archeological sites, dumping pits were discovered where early civilizations were believed to have collected their waste. In the course of history, waste regulations were enacted. This suggests that waste management is not a modern principle but in fact a natural response to problems arising out of our existence.
Humans naturally know what to do with their waste as evidenced by the instituted waste management systems in the pre-modern and modern forms. Along with global industrialization and population explosion, waste production has blown out of proportion endangering the environment and threatening humans and other living things. There seems to be a need to remind humans of the importance of waste management with the environmental issues that are being raised here and there.
Education and awareness campaigns play a great part here. Not all people are aware that the one piece of waste material they are sending to landfills or incinerators constitutes a threat to the environment. Presently, calls to recycle and waste reduction are widely active. Various projects and campaigns are launched every day adding more clamor to the earlier advocacies on proper waste management.
The good news is that a good number of the population is increasingly becoming aware of the importance of waste management and is getting involved. However, more need to be tapped. There are still who remain passive. This segment of the population probably knows that proper waste management benefits the Earth and consequently everyone and everything living in it, but only vaguely. The finer and more intricate details are probably not known to them.
Waste does a lot of things. When brought to the landfills, waste emits greenhouse gases in the form of methane. Although methane can be used to make energy, it is generally hazardous to health. Wastes buried in landfills also tend to leach chemicals that can contaminate groundwater. Wastes can also be incinerated. The problem with incinerators, however, is they also produce greenhouse gas and other forms of toxins such as dioxin. Dioxin is found to cause cancer. Whether waste is brought to a landfill or an incinerator, it seems like it is a potential source of pollution and threat to health.
Although it does so indirectly, waste does cause resource depletion. This is due to the common buying pattern: buy, throw, and then buy again. As the waste piles up, the demand for more products also rises, almost exhausting the natural resources. This has a spiral effect which mainly involves threats to biodiversity, deforestation, pollution, and other environmental problems.
Waste management can be part of the solution in two ways: one is through waste reduction, and two through recycling. Consistent waste reduction and recycling activities mean there will be less waste materials sent to landfills and incinerators. The emission of greenhouse gases and other forms of pollutant will be reduced by a large percentage. Reusing and recycling of used items will also result in less production of new products and this helps in the conservation of natural resources.
There is a great need to understand the importance of waste management. We need to educate everyone and reduce our waste.