For a long time, the waste that humans generate has been harmful to our environment. Humans produce far too much garbage and are incapable of dealing with it in a sustainable manner. Nonbiodegradable waste that cannot be recycled properly is filling our oceans and landfills.
As an example, consider plastic waste. According to a recent study, only 9 percent of the 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste that has been produced has been recycled. (Learn more about plastic pollution and how to reduce your own waste.) For example, in 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the total generation of municipal solid waste in the United States was 267.8 million tons.
It was a 5.7 million increase over 2015 levels. Overall, the amount of waste produced has a negative impact on the environment in several ways, including its contribution to the worsening climate crisis, its negative impact on wildlife and the natural environment, and its harm to our own public health.
We have a problem with how we dispose of waste. Worse, it appears that waste disposal has become more careless in the last decade. What we haven't done is put the ideas we believe will help us mitigate or adapt to climate change into action. For example, trash disposed of in landfills emits methane gas.
Taken a step further, open landfills were discovered to account for 91 percent of all landfill methane emissions. Large, open piles of trash burned in various parts of the world emit dangerous levels of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is warming our planet.
According to researchers, approximately 40% of the world's trash is burned in this manner, posing large-scale risks to both our atmosphere and the people who live near these burning sites.
Ecosystems vary greatly from place to place. However, one of the most dramatic consequences of our global waste problem is seen in our marine life and waterways. Simply put, it affects people who rely on the ocean for a living.
They are unable to distinguish between what is and is not food. They consume trash, which causes death because the aquatic animal is unable to process it. This has an impact on fish, seals, turtles, whales, and many other aquatic animals, as scientists have discovered numerous plastic fragments in over a thousand different species.
Because some species do not have high acidic levels in their stomachs to break down the object that they ingested, starvation is usually the next step. Some animals do, but plastic fragments have been known to last up to 100 years. When it comes to biodiversity, our waste problem is wreaking havoc on the health of the planet's species.
Our inaction puts human health at risk. We continue to generate large amounts of trash and fail to properly dispose of it, which will ultimately be our undoing as well as that of the environment and wildlife in the ecosystems we all share.
With the way we treat our planet, we cannot prevent or promote longevity. The more emissions we produce as a result of how much trash we generate, the longer we live. Asthma, birth defects, cancer, cardiovascular disease, childhood cancer, COPD, infectious diseases, low birth weight, and preterm delivery are all possible. Bacteria, vermin, and insects can all contribute to the trash problem.
Health impacts of solid waste
Modernization and progress have had their drawbacks, and one of the most serious is the pollution it is causing to the earth - be it land, air, or water. The amount of waste generated daily by each household has increased as the global population has grown, as has the demand for food and other necessities.
This waste is eventually thrown into municipal waste collection centers, where it is collected by the local municipalities and disposed of in landfills and dumps. However, due to a lack of resources or inefficient infrastructure, not all of this waste is collected and transported to final disposal sites.If the management and disposal are not done properly at this stage, it can have serious consequences for health and the environment.
Unmanaged waste, particularly excreta and other liquid and solid waste from households and the community, poses a serious health risk and contributes to the spread of infectious diseases. Unattended waste attracts flies, rats, and other creatures, which spread disease. Wet waste, in most cases, decomposes and emits a foul odor.
This leads to unsanitary conditions and, as a result, an increase in health problems. Surat's plague outbreak is a prime example of a city suffering as a result of the local government's callous attitude toward cleanliness. Another source of illness is plastic waste. As a result, excessive solid waste generation should be controlled by taking preventive measures.
Impacts of solid waste on health
The population in areas where there is no proper waste disposal method, particularly pre-school children; waste workers; and workers in facilities producing toxic and infectious material are among those at risk from unscientific solid waste disposal.
Other high-risk populations include those who live near a waste dump and those whose water supply has become contaminated as a result of waste dumping or leakage from landfill sites. Uncollected solid waste also raises the possibility of injury and infection.
Organic household waste, in particular, poses a serious threat because it ferments, creating conditions favorable to the survival and growth of microbial pathogens. Direct contact with solid waste can result in a variety of infectious and chronic diseases, with waste workers and rag pickers being particularly vulnerable.
Exposure to hazardous waste can have a negative impact on human health, with children being especially vulnerable to these pollutants. In fact, direct chemical exposure can cause diseases because the release of chemical waste into the environment causes chemical poisoning. Many studies have been conducted in various parts of the world in order to establish a link between health and hazardous waste.
Agriculture and industrial waste can also pose serious health risks. Aside from that, mixing industrial hazardous waste and municipal waste can expose people to chemical and radioactive hazards. Uncollected solid waste can also obstruct storm water runoff, resulting in stagnant water bodies that serve as disease breeding grounds.
Waste dumped near a water source also pollutes the water body or ground water source. Direct dumping of untreated waste into rivers, seas, and lakes causes toxic substances to accumulate in the food chain via the plants and animals that consume it.
Hospital and other medical waste disposal requires special care because it can pose serious health risks. Discarded syringe needles, bandages, swabs, plasters, and other types of infectious waste generated by hospitals, health care facilities, medical laboratories, and research facilities are frequently disposed of with regular non-infectious waste.
Waste treatment and disposal sites can also pose health risks to the surrounding community. Air pollution is caused by improperly operated incineration plants, and improperly managed and designed landfills attract all types of insects and rodents that spread disease.
These sites should ideally be located at a safe distance from any human settlement. Landfill sites should be well-lined and walled to prevent leakage into nearby ground water sources.
Recycling poses health risks as well if proper precautions are not taken. Toxic exposure may occur for workers who work with waste containing chemicals and metals.
The disposal of health-care wastes requires special care because it can result in serious health risks, such as Hepatitis B and C, through wounds caused by discarded syringes.
Rag pickers and others who scavenge in waste dumps for recyclable items may sustain injuries and come into direct contact with these infectious items.
Certain chemicals, such as cyanides, mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls, are highly toxic if released untreated and can cause disease or death. Some studies have found an increase in cancer in residents who have been exposed to hazardous waste. Many studies have been conducted in various parts of the world in order to establish a link between health and hazardous waste.
The unsanitary use and disposal of plastics, as well as their effects on human health, have become a source of concern. Colored plastics are hazardous because their pigment contains toxic heavy metals. Copper, lead, chromium, cobalt, selenium, and cadmium are some of the hazardous metals found in plastics.
Color plastics are legally prohibited in the majority of industrialized countries. In India, the Government of Himachal Pradesh and the Ladakh district have both banned the use of plastics. Other states should follow their lead.
Proper waste disposal methods must be used to ensure that it does not harm the environment or pose health risks to the people who live in the area.
At the household level, proper waste segregation is required, and it should be ensured that all organic matter is set aside for composting, which is without a doubt the best method for the proper disposal of this segment of waste. In fact, the organic component of waste decomposes more quickly, attracts insects, and causes disease. Compostable organic waste can be used as fertilizer.
Occupational risks associated with waste disposal
- Infections of the skin and blood caused by direct contact with waste and infected wounds.
- Infections of the eyes and lungs caused by infected dust, particularly during landfill operations.
- Various diseases caused by the bites of animals feeding on waste.
- Intestinal infections transmitted by flies that feed on waste.
- Operators of incinerators are at risk of chronic respiratory diseases, including cancer, as a result of dust and hazardous compounds exposure.
- Handling heavy containers can cause bone and muscle problems.
- Infecting wounds caused by contact with sharp objects.
- Poisoning and chemical burns caused by contact with small amounts of hazardous chemical waste mixed with garbage.
- Burns and other injuries caused by workplace accidents at waste disposal sites or methane gas explosions at landfill sites.
Source - Adapted from UNEP report, 1996
The Effects of Hazardous Waste on Planetary Health
Hazardous Waste's Impact on Human Health
- Irritation of the eyes and skin
- Burns caused by chemicals
- Breathing difficulties
- Anomalies in behavior
- Mutations in the genome
- Physiological malfunctions
The Environmental Impacts of Hazardous Waste
Effects in the Short and Long Term
How to Dispose of Hazardous Waste Safely
What are the harmful effects of waste
What are the harmful effects of non biodegradable waste
- Drain clogging
- Destruction of soil.
- Biomagnification of mercury, DDT, and other chemicals in the body.
- Pollution of the atmosphere.
- Land pollution.
- Water pollution
- Unbalance in the environment
- Cattle died as a result of plastic ingestion.