Waste Management Is A Grave Environmental Issue

Waste Management Is A Grave Environmental Issue
In an attempt to tackle the issue of waste management it is pertinent to understand what waste is and what are its adverse effects on environment. The unusable or unwanted substance or any material after its primary use is excess, worthless, of no use or defective. Waste can also be termed as a by-product. Now, management of waste incorporates mechanisms, procedures or actions for its final disposal.

There are four tiers related to waste management to lessen its environmental impact: pollution prevention and source reduction; 3R mechanism - reduce, reuse, and recycle - for unwanted, surplus materials; treatment, reclamation, and redistribution of materials within the waste; disposal through incineration, or land burial through thermal treatment plants and chemical-physical-biological treatment. Waste management is crucial to maintain the element of environmental protection. The purpose behind is the provision of hygienic, efficient and economic solid waste storage and treatment or disposal of waste without contaminating the soil, atmosphere or water system.

Sustainable living is a concept or extension of sustainable development goals aiming to reduce environmental impact (personal and societal) by climate change. In other words, sustainable living is a process of reducing one's “carbon footprint”. A carbon footprint is the sum of the total amount of greenhouse gases (which include carbon dioxide and methane) generated by our economic activities. The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, one of the highest in the world.

There is a connection between waste management and sustainable living. The ultimate goal of waste management is to reduce the consumption of natural resources - that substances or materials taken from natural resources are reused and the waste is retained to a minimum. The effective management has a huge potential to turn issues or problems into solutions, thereby, leading the way towards sustainable development.

The recovery and reuse of valuable natural or artificial resources could help in creation of new employment opportunities and businesses, especially for the informal gig sector; through reduced emissions of greenhouse gasses from waste management operations, such as landfills, and through transformation of waste into energy.

Mankind currently produces two billion tons of waste annually. Gross mismanagement of waste is a major contributing factor towards climate change, ecosystem disturbance, infectious diseases, land and water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and many negative impacts on environment affecting sustainable living.
Environmental pollution caused by solid waste mismanagement is a global issue. Worldwide, waste generated per individual every 24 hours averages 0.74 kilogram however, ranging widely, from 0.11 to 4.54 kilograms. The biggest production of waste per capita is in Canada. With an estimation of 36.1 metric tons per year, this is 10 metric tons more per capita than in the United States of America. As far as trends in waste management are concerned, since 2016, Germany has had the highest recycling rate in the world, with 56.1% of all waste it produced last year being recycled; followed by Austria – 53.8%, South Korea – 53.7%, Wales – 52.2%, and Switzerland – 49.7%.

Pakistan generates about 48.5 million tons of waste annually, which has been increasing by more than 2 percent per year. Condition of solid waste management in Pakistan is alarming as more than 5 million people die every year due to waste-related diseases. Due to a lack of proper planning, strategy and funding, the solid waste management is becoming an issue of grave concern worsening with each passing day. Rawalpindi alone is facing serious solid waste crises because of rapid industrialization, urbanization, and insufficient funding. Due to rapid and significant growth in population, increments in solid waste generation rate, management deficiencies, and lack of legislative implementation, the solid waste management systems of Rawalpindi are not working properly.
All of the above stated facts are eye opening and make waste management imperative as it will play a role of key habit. American journalist and author, Charles Duhigg, defines key habit as small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.

Waste management will dampen impact of climate change followed by other steps such as biodiversity restoration and maintaining ecosystems. Basic human needs such as clean water, clean air and safe food are jeopardized by improper waste disposal. Waste management is one of “the most complex and cost-intensive public services,” tending to absorb large chunks of municipal budgets.

Some of the recommendations are:

  • Investment in waste management plants or energy sectors to make energy/electricity from waste.

  • Stringent punishments for plastic use and provision of alternatives such as seed bags or reusable bags.

  • Elimination or termination of the use of paper plates and cups (disposables) shall be considered.

  • Storage of leftover foods in reusable jars instead of plastic bags or polystyrene disposables.

  • Donation of unwanted, slightly used items such as clothing, furniture and other household products to local non-profit organizations or individuals to use the items till end.

  • Taking advantage of the many curbside and drop-off recycling opportunities is yet another blessing. Using native plants with fast growth and non-watering landscapes will help in longer run; enriching the soil and reducing water scarcity.

  • Purchasing food material in bulk or those which use less packaging will be another wise step.

  • Purchasing fruits and vegetables items not pre-packaged in containers and plastics.

  • More and more installation of sewage treatment plants.

  • Moreover, investment on waste disposal infrastructure is necessary.

Waste management is an important and crucial issue that needs as much attention as it deserves and thus the timely governmental action. Even though there is not any quick fix, if we do not start working now, the environmental impact will worsen. Currently, there is very little to no awareness regarding this issue. We need to sensitize people by images on bins and in electronic media. Otherwise, there could be devastating effects for our future generations as well. Joining hands to save the environment is the need of time. We owe our planet proper waste management in order to have a sustainable and secure future.

 The writer can be reached at kainatsaif02@gmail.com