The Impact of Municipal Solid Waste on the Environment

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The Impact of Municipal Solid Waste on the Environment

"We cannot adopt the way of living that was satisfactory a hundred years ago. The world in which we live has changed, and we must change with it"(Adler). We are living in a consumist - throwaway society (see Figure 18–15) where there is little awareness about the impact of Municipal Solid Waste, "MSW—more commonly known as trash or garbage—consists of everyday items such as paper and paperboard (35.7%), yard waste (12.2%), food wastes (11.4%), plastics (11.1%), metals (7.9%), rubber, leather, and textiles (7.1%), wood (5.7%), glass (5.5%)" as shown in Figure 18-2 (United States Environmental Protection Agency, "Municipal"), on the environment. New York City is one of the largest cities that leads the MSW production in the USA by exporting 11,000 tons per day of MSW to other states, at an average cost of $64 a ton (Wright 495). Therefore, we are facing a great challenge by trying to reduce the impact of garbage on the environment because there is a lack of education, public policy, and civil action. Our goal will be to achieve an integrated solid waste management, in order to go toward a sustainable future (Wright 506). First, let's have an approach to the concept of consumption which refers to the goods, services, energy, and resources that are used by people, institutions, and societies (Giddens et al. 611). It is a phenomenon with both positive and negative dimensions (Giddens et al. 611). On the one hand, rising levels of consumption around the world mean that people are living under better conditions than in times past (Giddens et al. 611). Consumption is linked to economic development – as living standards rise, people are able to afford more food, clothing, personal items, leisure time, vacations, cars, and so forth (Giddens et al. 611). On the other hand, consumption can have negative impacts as well (Giddens et al. 611). Consumption patterns can damage the environmental resource base and exacerbate patterns of inequality (Giddens et al. 611).We are running out of space to put our trash and garbage (Wright 491 - 492). Perhaps we are happy to purchase the goods displayed so prominently in our malls and advertised in the media, but we are reluctant to accept the consequences of getting rid of them responsibly (Wright 491 - 492). Long Island has a garbage problem ("Taking"). It is producing trash in ever larger amounts, with no place to put it all -- not around here, anyway ("Taking"). We have no landfills, no more room at our incinerators and no realistic chance of ever building new ones ("Taking"). But the amount of waste we produce keeps rising, year by year, ton by ton ("Taking"). From one perspective, this problem is no problem at all, because landfills in other states have been happy to do business with us ("Taking"). We can still buy, eat and consume all we want, and pay to make whatever is left go away ("Taking"). But it is obvious, as John Rather explained in a perceptive Times article last Sunday, that this system is inherently unstable ("Taking"). We are buying our way out of trouble, but that may not always be the case ("Taking"). Cities are consumers of natural capital such as water, energy and other resources, and producers of large quantities of wastes, which must be absorbed by the natural systems upon which cities depend (Kenworthy 75 – 76). There is now a well-documented view that cities are "parasitic organisms" (Kenworthy 75 – 76). It has been shown that the ecological footprint of prosperous cities already extends many times beyond the areas of land that they actually occupy, while innumerable other less resource-consuming, though fast-growing, cities in lower-income nations are increasing their impacts at an alarming rate (Kenworthy 75 – 76). Indeed, there is now a global movement which argues that, given the profligate resource consumption and waste in wealthy nations, and the pace of urbanization, especially in developing countries,...
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