As mass production continues with no sign of slowing down, waste management is cause for concern. By Karisa Boyce
Everything is Connected
Each person produces an average of between4 to 5 pounds of waste each day. Our estimated world population is now about 7.7 billion. Extensive efforts are ongoing to recycle these wastes but the remainder is still an enormous amount of waste that goes into our ecosystem. We generally know that our industrial and domestic waste is affecting our quality of life. We live in a time that we are able to access and are given so much information on the harmful consequences of our waste to our environment, our water supply, our food chain and the air we breathe and it's about time for us to help stop and reverse these effects.
The amount of waste that we are producing today is only part of the problem. We are also burdened by the wastes that have not been properly disposed of in the past. Packaging products, building materials, and other products that have not decomposed are still affecting us today.
Pick Your Part
For a number of years now, we are seeing an upsurge of individuals, groups and organizations that are trying to solve, or at least contribute, to the proper disposal of different waste products. Individual governments are enacting laws and guidelines. Manufacturers are self -imposing stricter control on their manufacturing processes and waste disposal. Local groups are working together to make their contribution to this problem. As individuals, we can also help in this struggle by waste segregation, composting and most importantly through our choices of products we buy and use. Information is the key to choosing between a product that can be recycled or composted, and products that are just thrown away for disposal. It is not enough anymore to just look into labels saying a product is biodegradable or compostable, but it is our responsibility to check how long packaging or a product can decompose and from what materials they are made from.
The more we get together
Grassroots organizations are a good start to do more. By combining our efforts in these groups, we can accomplish a lot more for our community. Sharing of ideas, community interaction and collective effort would accomplish more than doing it on our own.
These groups start out with initiative from a few community members. More members are enticed to join in and contribute as they progress. These organizations would further grow with your support and funding from local government, institutions, and corporations.
Large population communities will directly benefit from these community organizations. Heavier density produces more waste and demands more waste disposal and recycling facilities to be funded. It is also a good idea to implement this in lesser populated towns as program information and application are easier to spread around and monitor.
These community-level organizations, in cooperation with their towns or municipalities, have had different levels of success directly contributing to improving their quality of life. This can be further improved by our help and cooperation with the ultimate goal being zero waste going to our ecosystem.
Developing countries are also benefiting from these community groups. Funds for effective disposal and recycling are often low and at times non-existent. Wastes are not segregated and are commonly disposed of by either landfill dumping or open burning both of which contribute to the detriment of the ecosystem. A large portion of these wastes are compostable and we are seeing the emergence of organizations that are helping to limit the dumping of these wastes by setting up their own composting programs. Successful groups in these areas can influence and educate neighboring communities to adopt similar programs.
Besides the actual contribution to waste management, these groups also serve a large part of the information structure. Educating people on the differences in product labels, means of disposal, material content and the consequent impact on our ecosystem goes a long way in achieving a good waste management program. We are familiar with such terms as hazardous, recyclable, biodegradable and compostable waste, but do we really know the differences and how to identify and classify our waste?
The easiest way that we and these local organizations can help in waste disposal is through composting. Compostable materials, being organic in composition, will breakdown into harmless gases and other compounds. The compost can then be used in our home gardens or donated to parks and farms. These composts can also be sold commercially.
Different areas approach waste management in different ways. Some groups use door to door campaigns, others advertise locally and others in peculiar and innovative ways. Still, the main objective is to spread the word on the problem of waste, what we can do about it and the ways to save the only planet we live in. Effective waste management is not cheap. Between 20% to 50% of municipal or town budgets are expended to provide this service. These funds can be utilized in providing better education, emergency services, recreation facilities, and other programs. Community organizations that contribute to their waste management programs not only relieve the local budget but also provides for the overall preservation of the environment.
Did you know?
Oregon was the first state in the union to pass a "bottle bill", in 1971. As of October 2010 there are 11 states that have container deposit laws. California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Vermont.