Solid Waste Management is the process of collecting, transporting, treating, and managing solid waste that can no longer be used. It includes recycling all the materials that can be reused for one purpose or another. Being an important aspect of urban area management, it is intended to reduce the harmful effects of waste on the health of humans and animals. That said, improper disposal of solid waste can also lead to various types of environmental pollution.
Solid waste management works on the principles of 3Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle, and involves activities that present various technical challenges — challenges that call for the need to adopt much more efficient methods of waste treatment.
Sources of Solid Waste
Solid waste, also called municipal solid waste (MSW), consists of household waste, commercial waste and institutional waste. The type of waste generated varies greatly by the source, material composition, and the population density. Waste can be categorized as municipal solid waste, industrial solid waste or hazardous waste. Tonnes of solid waste is disposed of to dumping grounds every day. Major contributing sectors include:
- Residential: Plastics, food waste, leather, wood, glass, metals etc.
- Industrial: Food, packaging and housekeeping waste, ashes, construction, and other hazardous waste like asbestos.
- Commercial: Plastics, rubber waste, packaging materials etc.
- Institutional: waste comprises plastics, food waste, wood, rubber items, metals, paper, cardboard etc.
- Construction And Demolition: Concrete, wood, steel, plastics, glass, rubber, dirt, etc.
- Treatment Sites: Scrap materials, industrial process wastes, plastics, metals, and other hazardous wastes.
- Municipal Services: Street waste, dead leaves, tree trimmings, other waste from the park, sludge, landscaping wastes, etc.
- Agriculture: Pesticides, spoiled food, and other agricultural wastes are the types of solid waste produced by vineyards, orchards, farms, dairies, and feedlots.
- Biomedical: Syringes, drugs, food waste, plastics, rubber, surgical gloves, equipment, etc.
All these types of solid waste need proper management and treatment or else can negatively impact the environment and people.
Due to the poor management and treatment of solid waste, it gets accumulated and becomes a problem. This improper waste disposal and irresponsible attitude of the community towards the environment results in uncontrolled breeding of insects and different kinds of diseases.
While decomposition of biodegradable waste from the domestic sector is the cause of the foul — rotting smell, toxic waste materials from industries cause air, ground, soil pollution when released in the environment. Additionally, poisonous waste materials pollute the groundwater. In fact, when hazardous wastes from the industries mix with ordinary garbage of household, it makes separation and disposal even harder and riskier.
Related: Importance of Solid Waste Management, Importance of Liquid Waste Management
Methods Of Solid Waste Management
Since improper waste disposal poses serious damage to the environment, flora and fauna, and human life, it is imperative to adopt effective methods of solid waste management. Of course, you can hire a waste removal and disposal company like A Better Service Ltd get rid of your trash. Their team offers effective waste management and drainage solutions, and carries out their day to day duties with great competency. But there are other fool proof ways of solid waste management. Enlisted below are a few of them.
Composting is the process of decomposition of solid waste with the help of microorganisms. In this process, organic waste is converted into manure that is rich in nutrients and can be used for growing plants. Being a cheap and clean method of waste disposal, composting recycles the nutrients in biodegradable yard waste and returns them back to the soil as nutrients.
Various other benefits of composting are:
- Compost increases the nutrient retaining power of the soil.
- Reduces the negative effects of excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides.
- Helps maintain the temperature of the soil.
- Prevents soil erosion.
- Controls the growth of weeds.
The process of recycling includes processing discarded items for further use. Recycling or recovery aims at reducing energy loss, consumption of new materials, the emission of greenhouse gases that cause global warming, and landfill waste.
It also helps conserve more resources for the future. Furthermore, it aids in creating valuable resources that can be used for the benefit of humans and the environment.
This is one of the most popular methods of solid waste management. In sanitary landfills, garbage and waste are buried underground or in large piles. The bottom of the landfill is lined with thick plastic and a layer of impervious clay. The ground is also lined with a network of plumbing that functions as a collection system of leachates. Once it is set up, the waste is organized in alternate layers of soil. This way of filling waste to the landfill reduces the odour and encourages faster decomposition. When the landfill is full, it is then covered with layers of clay, sand, and gravel. Once the landfill is considered safe, it is converted into areas for recreational activities.
Incineration is the process of treating waste until it is reduced to ashes. In the process, solid organic waste is burnt and combusted to form residue and gaseous products. The furnaces or units used for incineration are well-insulated so that the waste is burnt quickly without heat being lost in the environment. This method is largely used to treat residues of both solid and water waste management.
Pyrolysis is another form of incineration in which organic waste materials are chemically decomposed by heat in the absence of oxygen. Under pressure and at the temperature of up to 430°C, these materials are converted into gases, liquids, and solid residue. It is almost impossible to perform pyrolysis in an entirely oxygen-free environment. That said, a certain amount of oxidation always occurs.
Proper solid waste disposal, treatment and management is an essential part of environmental protection that should be followed by individuals and businesses globally. Such steps will help save the environment and reduce health problems.
Related: Modern Techniques of Solid Waste Management in India, The Importance of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)