Introduction to solid waste management
Solid waste is the unwanted or useless solid materials generated from combined residential, industrial and commercial activities in a given area. It may be categorised according to its origin (domestic, industrial, commercial, construction or institutional); according to its contents (organic material, glass, metal, plastic paper etc); or according to hazard potential (toxic, non-toxin, flammable, radioactive, infectious etc). Management of solid waste reduces or eliminates adverse impacts on the environment and human health and supports economic development and improved quality of life. A number of processes are involved in effectively managing waste for a municipality. These include monitoring, collection, transport, processing, recycling and disposal.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Methods of waste reduction, waste reuse and recycling are the preferred options when managing waste. There are many environmental benefits that can be derived from the use of these methods. They reduce or prevent green house gas emissions, reduce the release of pollutants, conserve resources, save energy and reduce the demand for waste treatment technology and landfill space. Therefore it is advisable that these methods be adopted and incorporated as part of the waste management plan.
Waste reduction and reuse
Waste reduction and reuse of products are both methods of waste prevention. They eliminate the production of waste at the source of usual generation and reduce the demands for large scale treatment and disposal facilities. Methods of waste reduction include manufacturing products with less packaging, encouraging customers to bring their own reusable bags for packaging, encouraging the public to choose reusable products such as cloth napkins and reusable plastic and glass containers, backyard composting and sharing and donating any unwanted items rather than discarding them. All of the methods of waste prevention mentioned require public participation. In order to get the public onboard, training and educational programmes need to be undertaken to educate the public about their role in the process. Also the government may need to regulate the types and amount of packaging used by manufacturers and make the reuse of shopping bags mandatory.
Recycling refers to the removal of items from the waste stream to be used as raw materials in the manufacture of new products. Thus from this definition recycling occurs in three phases: first the waste is sorted and recyclables collected, the recyclables are used to create raw materials. These raw materials are then used in the production of new products. The sorting of recyclables may be done at the source (i.e. within the household or office) for selective collection by the municipality or to be dropped off by the waste producer at a recycling centres. The pre-sorting at the source requires public participation which may not be forthcoming if there are no benefits to be derived. Also a system of selective collection by the government can be costly. It would require more frequent circulation of trucks within a Figure 1. Colour coded recycling bins for neighbourhood or the importation of more waste separation at the source of production vehicles to facilitate the collection. (source www.unpluggedliving.com) Another option is to mix the recyclables with the general waste stream for collection and then sorting and recovery of the recyclable materials can be performed by the municipality at a suitable site. The sorting by the municipality has the advantage of eliminating the dependence on the public and ensuring that the recycling does occur. The disadvantage however, is that the value of the recyclable materials is reduced since being mixed in and compacted with other garbage can have adverse effects on the quality of the recyclable material.
Waste from our homes is generally collected by our local...