Waste pollution is a serious environmental concern because it increases CO2 emissions and poses a risk of dangerous chemicals leaking into the soil and groundwater. Sustainable living therefore puts a major emphasis on waste consciousness and promotes responsible waste disposal, reduction and recycling.
How to Reduce Waste
We all produce waste and it is impossible not to produce any. There are, however, ways to produce less waste and help reduce waste pollution. One of the simplest measures to reduce waste is to avoid disposables such as plastic carrying bags, using kitchen cloth instead of paper tissues, donate or sell old clothing, toys, furniture and other unwanted but still useful items, buying in bulk to reduce packaging materials but avoiding buying in excess to avoid discarding never used products/materials because they are out of shelf life.
Reusing and Recycling
Many things that are discarded on a daily basis can easily be reused. For example, egg box can be reused as seed starter, envelopes can be used for scrap paper, magazines can be used to make paper carrying bags, while just about all materials can come very handy for arts and crafts. But reuse of waste materials alone is insufficient to solve the problem of waste pollution. And this is where recycling steps in.
The majority of materials can be recycled and reused over and over again. Recycling which is a three step process – collection, processing and purchasing – doesn’t only reduce the pressure on landfills but it also reduces CO2 emissions because it uses a lot less energy than virgin material production. At the same time, it also reduces the pressure on natural resources which makes it one of the key components of sustainable living.
Responsible Waste Disposal
Responsible waste disposal is much more than just making sure that all unwanted items and materials are discarded in a trash bin. To solve the issue of waste pollution, it is crucial for each unwanted item to be disposed correctly, that is glass in a glass bin, paper in a paper bin, etc. in order to be able to recycle them. Even more important is to make sure that hazardous materials aren’t mixed up with other waste because they are highly toxic to the environment.
Waste As a Sustainable Energy Resource
Decomposing materials in landfills produce huge amounts of methane which is a potent greenhouse gas. However, the gases which are produced by decomposition of biodegradable materials such as food, plant waste, manure, sewage and others can also be used to produce biogas which in turn can be used to generate electricity and power vehicles. It is not a zero CO2 energy resource but since it is released into the atmosphere anyway and the source (biodegradable waste) is constant, it is a sustainable source of energy.