waste



Environmental pollution encompasses the different ways that the human activity damages the natural environment. It can be in the form of an open garbage dump or as simple as a burning house. Pollution can also be invisible, odourless, and tasteless, thus, making environmental pollution one of the most serious and insidious problems facing humanity and other life forms today. One of the chief sources and most visible forms of environmental pollution is solid waste. In order to reduce solid wastes, one has to understand the sources and volumes of solid waste generated by humans, and then the impacts and handling of the solid wastes. Only then can one begin to propose solutions to this environmental problem.

Locally, every year millions of tons of solid garbage are disposed of in Canada. Canada has been said to generate almost 600kg of waste per person per year; one of the highest per person rates in the world. The numbers are not so astounding given the fact that Canadians are among the highest consumers in the world, and thus most of what is consumed becomes waste. According to the B.C. ministry of Environmental Lands and Parks, it is estimated that 40% of solid waste is generated by the industrial, commercial, & institutional (ICI) sector, 30% of the solid wastes is reportedly generated by the residential sector, and the remainder of 30% is generated by the demolition, landclearing, & construction sector (DLC). The cost of disposal for each of the three sources respectively are: $100 million for ICI, $90 million for residential, and $40 million for DLC.

Majority of solid wastes are trucked to landfills which occupy valuable land space. The remainder of the solid wastes are sent to incinerators. According to Ministry of Environmental Lands and Parks, by the year 2000, it is estimated that 60% of the 236 existing landfill sites in B.C. will be filled to capacity. Furthermore, with the high rate of consumption and increased standard of living, it is possible that the future of the environment will be dismal.

Impacts on the environment inflicted by solid waste is at minimum, very harmful. Solid wastes sent to landfills can contribute to groundwater contamination and air pollution. Other methods of disposal of solid wastes can also cause damages. For example, although high-tech incinerators produce much lower levels of pollutants, they still emit acid gases, carbon dioxides, and toxic chemicals. There are several views on which way is the best way to dispose of solid wastes. Incineration is popular based on its 99.9% effectiveness rate to destroy the solid waste; however, the question still exists about the .1% of the emissions, which might contain dioxins. Landfills are starting to lose popularity because they take up too much precious land space, plus they have to be monitored regularly for methane gases. Furthermore, the idea that everything that goes in the landfills decays is a myth. Due to the lack of oxygen the decomposition process is very slow, for example, according to Once and Future Landfills (National Geographic, May. 1991) by William Rathje, a newspaper about 25 years old was recently unearthed at a landfill barely decomposed. The future of landfills looks bleak as finding new landfill sites is a difficult task primarily because few communities want a landfill site in their backyard. Another way to manage solid wastes is through recycling. According to Ministry of Environmental Lands and Parks, over 75% of waste generated in many communities can be recycled, reused, or recovered. Recycling receives lots of publicity; however, it is not really cost-effectiveif used improperly, as it costs tax payers $200 per ton to recycle while just $130 per ton to throw it to the dumps. Turning waste products into contents of a recycled product might be something worth looking into, and that is exactly what businesses abroad, especially in Asia, are discovering.

Controlling solid waste pollution depends on the efforts made by governments, business & industry, environmental organisations, and individuals. Governments should pass recycling laws which would make it mandatory for every individual to recycle, such is the case in countries like Austria. Governments should also ban disposal of certain products in landfills because they could take up too much space, and there could also be regulations proposed that would require that landfills have double lining