The production of waste is an inherent part of living in an industrialized society. The amount of waste produced by society is on the rise, largely due to the growth of populations in urban areas. Traditionally, waste is disposed in landfills and oceans or is incinerated. These procedures are proving to be unsustainable for the planet and for populations who rely on a healthy ecosystem to survive. The disadvantages of waste disposal may be mitigated by focusing more on management of waste and less on its disposal.
The Disadvantages of a Sanitary Landfill
A sanitary landfill is where most of the waste in the United States, and around the world, is housed. A sanitary landfill is disadvantageous because it can promote the spread of disease. In addition to the area being hospitable for bacterial growth, it is a haven for vectors that spread disease, such as rats and flies. These pathogens are even more detrimental if they seep into groundwater.
The Disadvantages of Ocean Disposal
The disposal of waste in oceans is on the rise. The method is relatively inexpensive and convenient. Ocean waste disposal leads to deleterious effects on ocean ecosystems. It can cause massive destruction of natural food sources, which affects the food chain from the bottom up. Destruction of algae and plankton, which grow and live on the surface of the water, leads to poorer air quality and begins a domino effect of scarcity of food resources.
The Disadvantages of Incineration
Incineration, while being one of the cleaner ways to dispose of waste in regards to stability of byproducts, has some inherent disadvantages. The incinerator facilities are significantly expensive to build, maintain and operate. The air-borne byproduct of incineration is detrimental to the ozone layer. In addition to these disadvantages, the air-borne particles have a noxious smell and vermin tend to congregate in the facility, potentially spreading disease throughout the area.
Open dumping, which is the unfettered disposal of wastes without precaution, is sometimes used in nonindustrial nations, as well as in industrialized ones, by persons who break the law. The method can cause widespread groundwater pollution and has been shown to be an extreme health hazard. On the other side of the spectrum, recycling waste provides some relief to overburdened waste disposal facilities. Despite its cost, there has been a push to incorporate recycling into the majority of urban communities.