Each year, we dump around 2.12 billion tons of waste on Earth. Yet, most of us forget about the household garbage once its from the neighborhood.
However, this waste has a long way to go before it ends up in a landfill or a recycling facility. Improper waste disposal can pollute the environment, cause health issues, damage the economy, and contribute to climate change.
Thus, by double-checking the items that get thrown away, we can prevent improper waste disposal. This is a small task in helping maintain a clean and beautiful environment.
What is Hazardous Waste?
Hazardous waste refers to any toxic materials that pose a threat to human health or the ecosystem. Since they cannot be disposed of by regular means, they might require special treatment or solidification processes. They are also taken to incinerators or a hazardous waste landfill.
Materials can be classified as “hazardous waste” based on one or more of the following traits:
A substance that can easily burn in air is considered to be a flammable. If flammable materials are not carefully disposed of, they can start accidental fires.
This can harm nearby individuals, damage the environment, and releasing toxic gases to the atmosphere.
Examples of flammable materials include:
Fuels and gasoline
Similarly, hazardous materials that can react with water or other substances and cause explosions under certain conditions. They also require special disposal measures.
Examples of reactive materials include:
Corrosives are substances that wears down the surface or structure of an object. For example, strong acids or cleaning solutions can gradually corrode metal containers and leak out harmful materials.
Examples of corrosive materials include:
Toxic substances refer to products that lead to poisoning or other adverse effects issues (such as skin irritation or respiratory troubles) when it comes into contact with living beings.
Examples of toxic materials include:
How Much Hazardous Waste Ends Up in the Trash?
Even after knowing the correct protocols for waste disposal, some people throw hazardous materials in the trash. Thus, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has laid down strict guidelines for hazardous waste disposal. However, they are not often followed in practice.
In fact, studies indicate that of 24% of municipal waste (over half a billion tons) is not collected, and a further 27% is mismanaged. This results in polluted ecosystems.
What Are the Consequences of Improper Waste Disposal?
Improper waste disposal has severe consequences that affect the entire planet. Some of the negative consequences of poor waste management are discussed below:
1. It Contaminates the Landfill
Hazardous materials can slowly destroy the landfill by corroding the bottom lining, leading to soil contamination. In some cases, the hazardous chemicals can leak into the sewage and even poison the underground water supply, resulting in a public health hazard.
Moreover, flammable substances can get ignited and cause surface-fires or underground fires within the landfill.
2. It Results in Air, Water, and Soil Pollution
Whether these dangerous wastes are dumped into a landfill or discarded by the road side, it contributes to overall pollution.
Contaminated soil makes an area unfit for agriculture. Likewise, polluted water is a breeding ground for disease-carrying pests.
Moreover, as these materials slowly decompose, they release harmful greenhouse gases and cause air pollution. This is also why open burning of municipal solid waste is not recommended.
3. It Affects the Safety of Sanitation Workers
Improper waste disposal also endangers the lives of sanitation workers. Be it the waste pickers who sort out the junk, or the staff at a landfill facility—they get first-hand exposure to the harmful substances.
Mismanaged waste kills up to a million people each year, not accounting for those who suffer from adverse health conditions for the rest of their lives due to prolonged exposure to toxic substances.
4. It Harms the Local Flora and Fauna
Hazardous waste also poses a threat to the local wildlife, marine life and plants. As a result of soil contamination, trees and shrubs are not only deprived of their water and nutrients, but also get poisoned. Local plant growth in the vicinity of the landfill is stunted.
Animals foraging in the garbage for food may consume toxic materials and gradually sicken and die. If the waste reaches any nearby waterbodies, those lakes and ponds may get clogged up. This will adversely affect the fish and other aquatic life.
5. It Can Lead to a Public Health Crisis
Additionally, if hazardous waste is improperly disposed, it can result in a public health crisis.
The dumpsite becomes a breeding ground for pests and disease-carrying agents, such as flies, mosquitos and rats. These agents spread the viruses and bacteria further and causes widespread infections.
Unaware, humans may consume the contaminated water and food, and develop life-threatening health conditions. From blood infections and digestive ailments to skin irritation and heart disease, people may develop troubling health issues.
6. It Harms the Economy
Thus, hazardous materials be it solid waste or chemicals are bad for both the environment and the economy. Landfills reeking of stench or waste piling up by the side of the road isn’t just a sight for sore eyes—it leads to unhygienic living conditions.
Moreover, the town will gradually acquire a reputation, putting off potential investors, tourists or migrants, halting its growth and economy.
Similarly, agricultural areas will be worst-hit. Farmers will breathe in pollutants from the air and have a reduced crop yield. Thus, both their livelihood and health are affected.
7. It Contributes to Global Warming
Ultimately, hazardous waste is one of the key culprits of climate change.
As more and more greenhouses gases are released, the sun’s heat is trapped in the atmosphere, leading to warmer temperatures. This also leads to extreme weather, rising sea levels and a thinner ozone layer.
Thus, each day, our planet earth is becoming more and more unhabitable, unless we take preventive measures to slow down global warming.
Ensuring hazardous materials do not end up in the regular trash can go a long way in creating a safe and clean environment. In fact, we can follow easy prevention methods, such as the ones listed below to conserve out planet:
· Before dumping any item, check if it is hazardous or inform waste management personnel about it.
· Whenever possible, try to consume less. Instead, reuse and recycle more!
· You can contact a waste management service for alternative disposal options or recycling facilities.
· A lot of people are simply unaware about the process of waste disposal once the trash is gone from their homes and office—by generating awareness about improper waste disposal and encouraging recycling, you can help in keeping your neighborhood clean.
Talk to Us About Your Project Waste Before You Toss!
Proper disposal of hazardous waste is the need of the hour. Otherwise, it will eventually destroy our planet.
So, when you're ready to rent a bin from Discount Dumpster, talk before you toss! Our team will inform you on any hazardous items that shouldn't go in a dumpster. If you're unsure about a specific material, ask away!
Call today to discuss your project details and possible disposal solutions for hazardous waste!
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