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Many of our daily activities involve the creation of waste.
That is a problem because, globally, we dispose of our everyday waste very inefficiently.
Inappropriate waste disposal can cause a lot of problems to human health and the environment.
The main waste disposal problems include producing too much waste, most of which is toxic. Landfills have become challenging to manage, and we still rely on old technology to reduce and recycle waste. Some green-labeled waste disposal technologies are not green, and regulations are based on vested interests.
Let’s take a closer look at each problem, and see a few promising waste disposal solutions, too.
Keep reading to find about:
- What is waste disposal?
- 8 waste disposal issues
- 8 waste disposal solutions
- Sum up
What is waste disposal?
Waste disposal is the process of getting rid of and destroying damaged domestic, agricultural, and unwanted products or substances.
Waste disposal involves the collection, processing, and recycling or deposition of waste material.
This involves burning, discharge at sea/lake/river, recycling, and burial at landfill sites.
Waste comes in different forms, it can be liquid, solid, or gaseous, and each has its disposal method and management.
Here are the 8 common waste disposal problems and their solutions:
1. Landfill pollution
There is a lack of proper on-site waste management in most landfills.
This issue increases leachate, which is the liquid formed when waste breaks down in the landfill.
This liquid is highly toxic and can pollute land, groundwater, and waterways.
The next issue is greenhouse gasses. When organic material like food scraps are sent to landfills, they are covered by other trash.
The food waste then breaks down in an anaerobic process, which releases methane – a greenhouse gas, 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Methane is also a flammable gas that can become dangerous if allowed to build up in concentration. Yikes.
In addition, laws and regulations that deal with the operations of landfills are often slack.
2. Flawed regulations and laws
Nowadays, waste disposal and management have become a profit-making venture.
Sewer systems, incinerators, and landfills are managed by large enterprises in the waste disposal business.
The corporation’s goal is to make profits regardless of the waste reduction requirements.
This leads to ineffective regulation of waste disposal since they collaborate with vested interest regulators.
3. Relying on old technologies
Waste disposal and management facilities rely on quick, inefficient, and outdated technologies instead of developing effective recycling and waste reduction programs.
Most states and countries are reluctant regarding newer and advanced technologies that can reduce the volume of waste.
4. Too much waste
We create too much waste. According to C&R Lewis Skip Hire, this is one of the significant waste disposal problems.
A study found that America produces about 220 million tons of waste every year.
And this is only America. Imagine how bit that number is when we combine the rest of the world.
The problem also lies much in companies producing one-time products that do not prioritize reuse, recycle, or use environmentally friendly materials.
5. Toxic waste
Most state and local authorities are very lenient when it comes to the regulation of toxic substances.
Chances are, there are toxic chemicals in many of the products in your home, and unfortunately, many of use a lot of various toxic products daily, such as:
- Solvent-based paints
- Pesticides and other garden chemicals
- Cleaning and polishing chemicals
Often, they are disposed of incorrectly, which then poses a risk to our health and the environment.
A report by the U.S. EPA shows that more than 60,000 untested chemicals are present in the consumer products in our homes.
And this is just what we, as consumers, produce. So the amount of pollution from corporations and industries is a huge issue, too.
6. Some “green” technologies are not truly green
Some recycling technologies are considered “green.”
However, when you look into it, they aren’t that sustainable.
Some of these technologies include gasification, pyrolysis & plasma incineration.
When burning trash, toxic materials are released into the environment, so it isn’t the best solution for waste disposal.
7. Too much single-use plastics
As shocking as it might sound, a massive amount of plastic waste (~40%) is from single-use packaging.
We can replate single-use plastics with more sustainable alternatives.
However, for some reason, you can still find them EVERYWHERE.
A positive sign is that laws are rolled over, and many states/countries finally ban various single-use plastics.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t magically remove all the single-use plastics accumulated from before.
The vast majority of plastic waste (40%) finds its way into landfills, where they gradually break down for years and years.
8. Contamination and improper recycling
Recycling is very grey area. It has different rules from city to city. And most people don’t know how exactly to handle things.
Even though I spend a lot of time researching various questions on recycling, I still wonder sometimes, and can’t figure out where to throw away certain things.
The problem is that when we mix up our trash, then it is very hard to separate it in the recycling facility.
Plus, mixing trash together can contaminate the whole batch, and can make the recycling process difficult and unsuccessful.
That’s why it is super important to find out what you can recycle, and how to separate your trash.
Otherwise, items that are recyclable will go to the landfill.
The 8 waste disposal solutions:
The best thing you can do is start composting your food scraps. It is an easy and effective way to reduce your waste – it will turn food scraps into soil.
Additionally, composting can reduce methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint.
If you decide to try it out, you can choose between a few easy and effective composting systems.
You can follow my step-by-step guide for 7 different composting methods.
2. Recycle correctly (especially the toxic substances)
Make sure you separate your trash correctly. If you mix up waste, you will contaminate the whole recycling batch.
Check out the exact recycling rules in your local area since they usually vary from city to city.
If you have household hazardous waste and you wonder how to dispose of it properly:
- Always check first the laws and rules of your local municipality
- Look for locations where you can drop off any household hazardous waste
While recycling isn’t very efficient, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make it better.
It saves energy, keeps materials out of landfills and incinerators, and we can make new products without using virgin materials. So we should try to do it properly.
3. Contact your local municipality
You can contact your local municipality with various questions, complaints, or suggestions for improving the waste disposal in your area.
Know that contacting your local municipality can be a bit frustrating.
Once I tried to do it since we have containers for food waste in my city, and I wanted to ask where the food scraps are sent.
After a day of phone calls, I was forward from one person to another. But, in the end, I couldn’t find a clear answer to my question.
If you have the time and nerves, you can still send some suggestions or ask for improvements.
4. Choose sustainable plastic-free options
Do not underestimate the power of your individual decisions.
By choosing products brands that align with your values, you vote with your wallet, supporting the type of businesses you want in the world.
As a consumer, you always have the power to “vote” with your dollar and encourage corporations and firms to move to more environmentally friendly and sustainable practices.
Whenever you can, choose products and services that are:
- Locally made
5. Avoiding toxic waste
Bleach, furniture, carper or oven cleaners, air freshener, antifreeze, all-purpose cleaners…
The changes are, you have (or use) at least one of these products.
When you use these chemicals in your toilets, sinks, dishwashers, etc., the chemicals are rinsed down the drain.
The water heads to wastewater treatment facilities, but most contaminants still make their way to rivers and lakes.
The solution here is to ditch all the toxic chemicals you use and find environmentally-friendly alternatives.
Luckily, there are better & more sustainable alternatives to almost anything now.
6. Saying NO to single-use plastics
Single-use plastics are incredibly wasteful, so ditching them will be the best thing you can do.
You can easily find reusable and eco-friendly alternatives to common single-use plastics like:
- Plastic water bottle = Reusable stainless steel bottle
- Plastic bag = Reusable bag
- Plastic cutlery = Reusable cutlery set
- Disposable coffee cup = Reusable coffee cup
- Disposable food containers = Reusable food container
- Trash can = Reusable recycling bins
- Disposable & plastic razor = Reusable stainless steel razor
- Plastic toothbrush = Bamboo toothbrush
- Toothpaste tube = Plastic-free toothpaste
- Menstrual single-use products = Menstrual cup / Reusable pads
- Shampoo in a plastic bottle = Shampoo bar
- Deodorant spray = Ethical deodorant in plastic-free packaging
These are just a few examples. For more, check my article with 142 zero waste swaps & sustainable alternatives.
7. Start a petition
By starting a petition, you can encourage laws that deal with proper waste disposal.
You can start a petition at Change.org and see some examples of Proper waste disposal petitions.
8. Teach about personal eco-responsibility
Informing others about proper waste management can significantly help in reducing unsustainable practices and waste.
Any efforts towards waste management education need to be encouraged and practiced by individuals, local authorities, and communities.
Proper waste disposal can be achieved, but it is not an easy task. Local authorities must formulate waste diversion plans and aim for:
- increasing recycling rates
- proper disposal at landfills and waste transfer facilities
- educating people about proper waste disposal
- eco-product responsibility & Polluter pay principle – a low that requires polluters to pay for their impact on the environment. The goal is equity, to set environmental standards, and to encourage sustainable development
- ban unsustainable single-use items
When it comes to us, the consumers, we also have plenty of ways to help and to inspire & promote positive change.
Related post: How Can We Encourage People To Produce Less Waste?
We can’t take everything into our hands, and most things we can do may seem minor.
However, on a bigger scale, if everyone decides to make more sustainable choices, this will have a positive impact.
What are some other waste disposal problems & solutions that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below!