Over time, the effects of improper waste disposal to the environment have always been negative. The waste humans generate has been detrimental and deleterious to our environment.
Due to activities that go on by the day human generate a large amount of waste in which ideal sustainability has not been put into practice, especially in developing countries of the world.
Non-biodegradable waste that cannot be properly recycled has been discovered to fill our oceans and landfills. Taking plastic waste, for instance, research and study found that of the 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste that has been produced, only 9% of that plastic waste had been recycled.
In 2017, for instance, the Environmental Protection Agency calculated that the total generation of municipal solid waste in the United States just that year was 267.8 million tons.
Compared with 2015 levels, it was a 5.7 million increase. Therefore, the amount of waste generated which are improperly disposed of or handled affects our environment in several ways which are seen in its contribution to the worsening climate crisis, its negative impact on wildlife and the natural environment, and its detriment to our very own public health.
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What is Improper Waste Disposal?
Improper disposal of waste can be defined as the following; the disposal of solid waste at any location which is not permitted, the disposal of waste contrary to any rules and regulations set up by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the disposal of waste in a way that has negative consequences on the environment, etc.
Improper disposal of waste can also be known as illegal dumping or illicit discharge of waste in the environment.
Examples include littering, hazardous waste that is dumped into the ground, not recycling items that should be recycled, disposal of used oil and toxic materials resulting from the improper management of such substances, disposal of excess pesticide, tobacco-related products, spray mix or rinsate, disposal of domestic and municipal waste in an inappropriate designation.
Furthermore, improper disposal of waste in the environment takes place due to:
- High Level of Overall Waste Production
- Population Growth
- Avoidance of Disposal Fees at Waste Management Sites.
- Some Individuals Simply don’t Understand the Importance of waste recycling
- Social Norms and beliefs.
- Laziness and ignorance.
Effects of improper waste disposal to the environment
The effects of improper waste disposal on the environment are always negative and they include
- Soil contamination
- Air Pollution
- Plant Death
- Water Contamination
- Animal and Marine Death
- Global Warming
- Loss of Habitats and Lowering of Biodiversity
- Climate Change
- Extreme Weather
1. Soil Contamination
Contamination of the soil often occurs whenever waste ends up on the soil. Soil contamination which is seen as the alteration of the soil quality is the No. 1 major problem caused by improper waste removal and disposal.
Waste dumped on the land doesn’t just sit there; the contents break down, whether by rotten or decay and seep into the area around it. This means the dirt and all surrounding areas absorb the pollution and this becomes dangerous for people and animals.
Also, some waste that ends up in landfills excretes hazardous chemicals that seep into the soil in form of leachate. For example, plastic bottles when they eventually break down, release Diethylhydroxylamine (DEHA), a carcinogen that affects our reproduction systems, and causes liver dysfunction, and weight loss.
Soil contamination does not only affect plant growth, but it is also unhealthy for humans and animals feeding on those plants.
2. Air Pollution
Air pollution is a major issue worldwide, and an understanding of how improper waste disposal affects the environment through air pollution is necessary. Obnoxious odor is released from waste disposed of in the environment which alters the air quality within the region where the waste is disposed of.
Waste that releases dioxins are also dangerous and pose a health risk when they diffuse into the air that we breathe. Add to that the methane gases released due to decomposition lead to the greenhouse effect.
Waste that contains hazardous chemicals, such as bleach and acids, needs to be disposed of properly, and only in approved containers with correct labels. Landfill gas produced by the decomposing wastes can be explosive and can harm nearby communities
3. Plant Death
Contaminants in soil, air, and water have horrible effects on plants, as soil with contaminants will kill most plants leading to poor crop yield. Even if there are no contaminants in the soil, the water brought by the rain can be toxic to plants and kill them.
4. Water Contamination
Industries and individuals have been discovered to dispose of waste on water bodies or waterways such as gutters. This makes the water unsafe and unfit for aquatic life, consumption purposes, and swimming. This process is known as water pollution.
Hazardous wastes in the environment, on the other hand, can leech into the ground, and ultimately, into the groundwater contaminating or polluting groundwater. This water is used for many things, from watering the local fields to drinking.
Also, untreated sewage which is disposed of in water or that flows into nearby water bodies can threaten marine life. It can destroy and suffocate marine habitats, such as corals.
Contaminated water is also dangerous and harmful to humans who consume fish and other marine life. Since water travels and is a great solvent, the pollutants don’t easily leave the area and can contaminate other water sources.
5. Animal and Marine Death
Plants are not the only things that suffer when it comes to improperly disposed waste in the environment; both land and sea animals die from waste left around.
Therefore, it cannot be stressed enough: human carelessness with waste and garbage does not just affect us. Animals likewise suffer the effects of pollution caused by improperly disposed of wastes and rubbish.
Most especially radioactive waste and other hazardous wastes. For example, sea turtles and fishes die off because of plastic in the sea, Styrofoam and cigarette butts have been known to cause deaths in marine animals who consume them, and animals who consume grasses near contaminated areas or landfills are also at risk of poisoning due to the toxins that seep into the soil.
There’s a lot of death in nature because of this waste. In this way, improper waste disposal directly leads to the extinction of many species every day, causing permanent damage to ecosystems across the globe.
6. Global Warming
Nowadays, we are suffering environmental dilemmas such as global warming, extreme temperature, etc. One of the causes of this problem is the misbehavior of people toward waste management.
Some people are reckless in throwing their garbage. They do not think of the possible results of their actions on the environment as well as on health. The decomposition of this waste releases greenhouse gas such as methane released from landfills which is a major factor in global warming
7. Loss of Habitats and Lowering of Biodiversity
Every animal has a range of environments it can thrive and survive. This is why we only see specific species in certain locations or regions. However, waste contributes to global climate change, which changes the size of the habitats animals need to survive.
A decreasing habitat size drives species like polar bears to extinction as they attempt migrations out of the areas. And the extinction of species and deaths of crops means the biodiversity across the world is slowly lowering.
This is bad for the health of nature, as lowered biodiversity increases the chances of complete extinction during a disaster. With fewer different species, diseases have an easier time traveling leaving fewer species that can survive environmental changes.
Flooding can occur as a natural disaster as well as human-induced.
In the sense that, Improper waste disposal especially in drainage systems can block the flow of water through the drainage systems, when there is repeated or constant heavy downpour of rain the water will not recede freely into nearby streams and rivers, it tends to overflow on the ground surface thereby submerging such area.
This environmental phenomenon is technically known as flooding.
9. Climate Change
The breakdown of waste emits gases that rise to the atmosphere and trap heat. These gases are known as greenhouse gases. A huge issue that comes from all forms of pollution is the contribution and impact it has on the global climate.
Waste contributes to the gases that deplete the ozone layer. This, in turn, worsens the weather and melts the ice caps, raising the sea level and negatively impacting natural habitats and the homes of billions of people.
10. Extreme Weather
Climate change has also caused a gradual increase in the frequency of extreme weather and natural disasters. Greenhouse gases are one of the major culprits behind the extreme weather changes that the world is experiencing.
Due to climate change, there has been a noticeable increase in disasters like tornadoes, strong storms, typhoons, and floods. Even the presence of hurricanes has become more prevalent because of climate change.
Improper waste disposal has a significant negative impact on the natural environment. Thus, the need for everyone to take responsibility for protecting the environment and implement a more environmental way of addressing the issue of waste generated in the environment as we cannot stop generating waste by the day.
Therefore, the three primary levels of the waste management hierarchy should always be put to work which include, Reduce, Reuse and Recycling waste. In a situation where these cannot be implemented, individuals should make sure they dispose of their waste in the appropriate waste disposal locations. While industries should always treat their waste before discharging it either on land or water.
Also, awareness about the effects of improper waste disposal on the sound environment should be done by exposed individuals, Non-governmental organizations, agencies, and the government. Policies and laws should be enacted on proper ways to dispose of waste and adequate consideration should be given to monitoring the policy implementation.
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Ahamefula Ascension is a Real Estate Consultant, Data Analyst, and Content writer. He is the founder of Hope Ablaze Foundation and a Graduate of Environmental Management in one of the prestigious colleges in the country. He is obsessed with Reading, Research and Writing.