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Solid Waste

Solid Waste

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Author: Sophia Tutorial
Description:

Identify the types of strategies for managing waste.

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Tutorial

what's covered
This tutorial will cover the topic of solid waste. We will discuss human-generated waste: its numerous sources and how it has changed. We will also discuss the impacts of solid waste, and cover the many ways to manage waste, and to mitigate or buffer the negative impacts it can cause.

Our discussion breaks down as follows:

  1. Human-Generated Waste
  2. Sources of Waste
  3. Impacts of Waste
  4. Waste Management
    1. Landfills
    2. Combustion
    3. Ocean/Lake Dumping
    4. Reusing
    5. Recycling
    6. Composting
    7. Other Efforts


1. Human-Generated Waste

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.

Landfill


2. Sources of Waste

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.

big idea
When talking about waste, it is important to note that when referencing solid waste, this includes solid, liquid, and gaseous material. Wood scraps, wastewater effluent, and smokestack emissions would all be considered solid waste.


3. Impacts of Waste

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.

EXAMPLE

Methane 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.

EXAMPLE

A 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.

Solid Waste on a Beach


4. Waste Management

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.

4a. Landfills
Landfills take up otherwise usable land to store waste in compacted piles. They contribute to climate change with methane and CO2 emissions, affect nearby communities with their smell, and can seep into water sources, contaminating them.

Landfill

4b. Combustion
Combustion, or the burning of waste, may get rid of volume quicker than most management strategies. However, it can release dangerous toxins, impacting human health and adding to air pollution issues.

Combustion

4c. Ocean/Lake Dumping
Ocean/lake dumping can severely impact aquatic system ecosystems, contaminate food chains, and eventually, human health. The photo below shows a section of the Pacific Gyre, which is a state-sized floating pile of trash in the Pacific Ocean.

Ocean Dumping - The Pacific Gyre

4d. Reusing
Reuse means taking an item and repurposing some or all of its parts, or refurbishing it for the same use. In the photo below, a glass bottle is being reused as a building material to bring natural light through the wall.

Reusing a Glass Bottle

4e. Recycling
Recycling refers to breaking an item down into its core materials and making something completely new out of it. Below is a photo of a glass-bottle-recycling vending machine. These bottles will most likely be broken down and used in some other glass product.

Bottle Recycling Machine

4f. Composting
Composting is taking organic waste materials and facilitating their decomposition so they can be added as a soil amendment, ideally to grow more food.

Compost

4g. Other Efforts
In addition, there are other efforts being made to assist the management of waste or to discourage the creation of it entirely. In many U.S. states, glass bottles have deposits paid on them, which can be refunded if returned and properly recycled.

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.

Trash


summary
Today we learned about human-generated waste, which has increased in quantity over time, and changed so it's not naturally recyclable. Solid waste includes solid, liquid, and gaseous material. It has many different sources, such as household products, industrial waste, and agriculture, to name a few. The range of negative impacts of waste are wide, and strategies to manage it are many, including landfills, combustion, ocean/lake dumping, reusing, recycling, and composting.

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