Why is Waste Management so important?

Why is Waste Management so important?

Every year, we generate a massive 2.01 billion tons of waste. It is an obnoxious number because 99% of the stuff we buy is trashed within six months. At least 33% of that (a generously conservative number) is not managed environmentally safely. According to the World Bank, global waste is expected to grow to 3.40 billion tonnes by 2050, more than double population growth over the same period. 

Most global waste is either incinerated or dumped in landfills, streams, and, eventually, our oceans. The problem with garbage is that we fundamentally think of it as “out of sight, out of mind.” The world has been at a crossroads for a long while since before the discovery of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; almost cleared but is expected to assemble again if human behavior does not change radically. Land-disposed trash is a serious climate issue that drives global warming and displacement, crime, and economic burdens, choking our cities and playing havoc with our health.

The issue of waste seems to have little impact on one individual. Still, it threatens all of us, and the challenge will only continue to grow as the population increases and more cities develop. This was most evident at the pandemic’s peak sanitation departments across the plant struggled to clear trash on streets worldwide.

Waste management will not only save natural resources, biodiversity, and human life, but it also positively impacts the economy, creating more jobs for an efficient waste management system. In developed countries, waste is disposed of at garbage disposal sites, while in developing economies, the waste usually lands in streets and empty areas. When this untreated waste is exposed to the air, it causes environmental hazards and impacts infrastructure. Over time, waste management is becoming more important for environmental protection and as a growing industry for an economy.

Waste composition differs across income levels and reflects varied patterns of consumption. High-income countries generate relatively less food and green waste, at 32% of total waste, and generate more dry waste that could be recycled, including plastic, paper, cardboard, metal, and glass, which account for 51% of waste. 

Middle and low-income countries generate 53% and 57% of food and green waste, respectively, with the fraction of organic waste increasing as economic development levels decrease. In low-income countries, materials that could be recycled account for only 20% of the waste stream. 

Across regions, there is not much variety within waste streams beyond those aligned with income. All regions generate about 50% or more organic waste, on average, except for Europe and Central Asia, and North America, which generate higher portions of dry waste.

Globally, most waste is currently dumped or disposed of in some form of a landfill. Some 37% of waste is disposed of in some form of a landfill, 8% of which is disposed of in sanitary landfills with landfill gas collection systems. Open dumping accounts for about 31% of waste, 19% is recovered through recycling and composting, and 11% is incinerated for final disposal. Lower-income countries generally rely on open dumping; 93% of waste is dumped in low-income countries and only 2% in high-income countries. 

Three regions openly dump more than half of their waste—the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia. Upper-middle-income countries have the highest percentage of waste in landfills, at 54%. This rate decreases in high-income countries to 39%, with 36% of waste diversion to recycling and composting and 22% to incineration. Incineration is used primarily in high-capacity, high-income, and land-constrained countries.

In most countries, solid waste management operations are typically a local responsibility, and nearly 70% of countries have established institutions responsible for policy development and regulatory oversight in the waste sector. About two-thirds of countries have created targeted legislation and regulations for solid waste management, though enforcement varies drastically.

What is GCC region doing to improve waste management?

Waste management in the UAE: 

Waste management in the country is coordinated through local authorities, with every emirate having its own resources and methods of disposal. 

In Dubai, the Dubai Integrated Waste Management Master Plan established in 2012 aims to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfills to zero in 20 years. Dubai Municipality announced the establishment of the largest plant in the Middle East that will convert solid waste into energy. In the first phase, it will receive 2,000 metric tonnes of municipal solid waste per day to produce 60 megawatts. The waste incineration project is the first of the four projects to produce green energy.

Dubai Municipality, in coordination with Dubai Supreme Council of Energy and Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, is seeking innovative solutions to achieve the strategy of Dubai for Clean Energy, to produce 7% of Dubai’s total energy from clean energy sources by 2020.

Waste management in KSA

According to Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Waste Management, the environmental degradation caused by solid waste in 2021 was estimated at $1.3 billion.  Nearly half of the total waste comes from three major cities: 21% from Riyadh, 14% from Jeddah, and 8% from Dammam.

By 2030, Saudi Arabia intends to divert 60% of construction and demolition waste from landfills — recycling 12%, reusing 35%, and treating 13%.  Moreover, it plans to divert 100% of municipal solid waste from landfills by recycling 82% of this waste and processing 19% to use as energy sources (waste-to-energy).

Saudi Arabia published a new Waste Management Law in 2021 that regulates the transport, segregation, storage, import, export, safe disposal of waste, and all other related activities. According to article 11 of this law, waste producers must conserve natural resources and materials, reuse products, reduce waste, store it in designated areas, and separate it for the purpose of reuse or recycling.

What can individuals do to help?

For effective waste management following things should be kept in mind always,

Know your waste 

Poorly managed waste contaminates the land and sea, clogs a space and encourages flooding, promotes diseases, increases respiratory problems when burned, harms animals that consume waste unknowingly, and affects tourism. Knowing your waste is fundamental in effective waste management. They can be loosely divided in three types:

  • Hazardous wastes cause long-term health problems, so it is imperative to dispose of them correctly and safely and not mix in with the normal waste coming from your home or office.
  • Organic Waste includes all edible food, fresh or expired. This is one of the easiest waste to sort. 
  • Household Junk includes all the items humans use in their day-to-day life that need to be sorted before disposal. 
  • Chemical waste is any solid, liquid, or gaseous waste material that may pose substantial hazards to human health and the environment if improperly managed or disposed of.  
  • Lastly, heavy waste includes bricks and concrete, sand or soil, or any construction waste. 

Reduce-Reuse-Recycle: The Golden Mantra

We’ve all heard this, but it can’t be said enough. It is the one way everyone can contribute to reducing waste in our ecosystem. Reduce consumption to things needed rather than wanted. Reuse items until they reach the end of their lifecycle and recycle them either in your own home, changing their function, or sending them to a recycling plant. 

 The ease of consumption and disposal is a falsely advocated myth. Being aware of our purchasing habits and allocating time for proper waste management is something that has been removed from our everyday lives and needs reconsideration. 

Segregate waste at the source

The waste production rate is fast growing and requires different management methods. This is based on the type of waste and the most appropriate treatment for its disposal. Failing to segregate waste properly means that it will end up mixing in landfills to mix and decompose, releasing run-off into the soil and harmful gas into the atmosphere. Biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste should be separated. 

  1. Wet waste (Biodegradable): This is biological waste produced by food products that can decompose. It is heavier in weight than dry waste. This includes cooked and uncooked food, fruits, flower waste, and vegetable peels.
  2. Dry waste (non-biodegradable): Dry waste includes plastics, wood, metals, glass, and other related products. The treatment is through various waste disposal methods.

Say no to plastics

This step is easier said than done when everything we consume is packaged in plastic. But our buying behavior runs the world, this is no small responsibility. When we buy, we must consider the following above costs when we can: 

  • Products being manufactured sustainably
  • Items in minimal packaging
  • Made free of toxic materials
  • Able to be recycled or made from recycled materials
  •  Made with biodegradable material
  • Designed to be repaired or reused

Cost over conscious?

When you buy sustainable products, you are supporting the use of sustainable resources, third-party certifications, fair labor, and green practices. If more of us make this stand, more businesses will listen and adapt. You also tell businesses that there is an increased demand which will lead to more eco-friendly products that cost less.

It sets a good example for your friends and family, helping to educate them and making them more likely to follow suit. It is a great opportunity to start conversations with children, explaining the benefits of choosing eco-friendly products.

With the expensive upfront cost of some products, you save more in the long term because they last longer. This means you will have to buy new products less frequently, saving you money! For example, LED lightbulbs last up to 50,000 hours, whereas incandescent bulbs typically only last 750 hours.

With the world’s supply of natural resources rapidly declining, Alpin believes it is vital to protect environmental assets from degradation. Environmental considerations also go hand in hand with long-term profitability. The better you understand the environmental impact and how to minimize it, the more you will be able to prepare and manage risks and asset devaluations, as well as reduce costs. Learn more about Environmental Management here.