As the population has grown and industrialization has expanded, human waste generation has increased substantially. Ecosystems function in a cyclic manner, meaning that all waste is recycled to become new resources. Humans used to be a part of this process, but over time, our waste and what we do with it has changed.
Human waste is the only waste on the planet that must be managed and stored, because we produce waste that does not recycle naturally. The result is that human waste is accumulating worldwide. Much of our waste is actually just unutilized resources — energy and resources that could still be used and are becoming obsolete, because they are trapped in our landfills and dumps instead of being recycled.
There are numerous sources of human waste:
|Sources of Waste||Description|
|Household||Household products, such as furniture, are thrown out because people want a change in style. Instead of being repurposed, household products are taken to the landfill.|
|Industry||Industry produces large quantities of waste, often as by-products to manufacturing, like polluted water, stack emissions, and useful materials like wood scraps.|
|Treatment Plants||Treatment plants attempt to clean things like wastewater from cities, and they create by-products such as sewage, sludge, and biogas.|
|Agriculture||Agriculture often produces large quantities of waste, both organic and non-organic in nature, such as cow manure or broken-down tractors.|
|Mining||Mining, which provides lots of materials for items like modern-day electronics, produces massive quantities of waste, whether it be mined material that pollutes nearby waterways, or huge tailings that transform topography.|
Waste can have a host of impacts. In order to store it, large plots of land must be set aside that could have been used for growing food or for other uses. Off-gassing from waste in landfills, as well as other sources of waste, contributes to air pollution.
EXAMPLEMethane is a primary gas given off by decomposing landfills, and is a heavy contributor to climate change. Waste can also produce particulate matter and CO2 emissions.
Waste can sometimes contaminate surface and groundwater when it seeps into water systems, which could lead to human health impacts. In general, waste can damage human and ecosystem health, interfering and damaging otherwise healthy populations.
EXAMPLEA prime example is hazardous waste, which is a category of waste with special characteristics that make it more dangerous to human health and more difficult to dispose of.
There are different ways to manage waste in order to mitigate or buffer the negative impacts it can cause, though not all are created equal. In the past, waste was dealt with according to the whim and desire of those managing it. However, many such practices historically have led to disease. As a result, in many developed countries, there are now laws and regulations about how to manage and dispose of waste. In many developing countries, however, waste management laws are still lax or nonexistent.
We're going to cover six main strategies of managing waste.
Some municipalities charge residents for garbage produced, often priced by the can or bag, to discourage the production of waste in the first place.
Many products are labeled to indicate if they're recyclable, and some places will pay for recyclables like empty aluminum cans.
Source: Adapted from Sophia instructor Jensen Morgan, LANDFILL PD HTTP://BIT.LY/1DGGRKM LANDFILL2 PD HTTP://BIT.LY/1CZDLOX BURNING TRASH PD HTTP://BIT.LY/1ZSJECT OCEAN TRASH CC HTTP://BIT.LY/1DYPKDY BEACH CC HTTP://BIT.LY/1F6MYXE GLASS CC HTTP://BIT.LY/1I2TDOX GLASS MACHINE CC HTTP://BIT.LY/1XJ7TH5 COMPOST PD HTTP://BIT.LY/1ZKSO4N