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Solid Waste

Solid waste includes solids or semisolids, non soluble materials (including gases and liquids in containers) such as agricultural refuse, demolition waste, industrial waste, mining residues, municipal garbage, and sewage sludge.

Types
The most common types of solid waste are:

  • Municipal solid waste
  • Industrial waste
  • Agricultural waste
  • Hazardous waste

Main Composition
The solid waste composition varies from region to region  and time to time. There are following different types of waste.

  • Biodegradable waste i.e. could be decomposed naturally such as food and kitchen waste, green waste, paper, etc.
  • Recyclable material i.e. could be recycled again and again; such as paper, glass, bottles, cans, metals, certain plastics ,fabrics, clothes, batteries etc.
  • Inert waste i.e. not liable to decompose; such as construction and demolition waste, dirt, rocks, debris, etc.
  • Electrical and electronic waste (WEEE); such as electrical appliances, TVs, computers, screens, etc.
  • Composite wastes; such as waste clothing, Tetra Packs, waste plastic, etc.
  • Domestic hazardous waste & toxic waste medication; such as paints, chemicals, light bulbs, fluorescent tubes, spray cans, fertilizer and pesticide containers, shoe polish, etc.

Problems
Solid waste generation in Pakistan ranges between 0.283 to 0.612 kg/capita/day and the waste generation growth rate is 2.4% per year. Solid domestic waste is typically dumped on low-lying land. This land could be used for more productive purposes and potentially valuable recyclable materials are lost.

The following are the main problems regarding solid waste management in Pakistan:

  • There is no proper waste collection system
  • Waste is dumped on the streets
  • Different types of waste are not collected separately
  • There are no controlled sanitary landfill sites
  • Citizens are not aware of the relationship between ways of disposing off waste and the resulting environmental and public health problems

Effects
The unavailability of proper disposal methods and resources for solid waste managing results in various environmental and human health hazard effects. Problems can spread over a wide area.

1. Health Hazards

  • Skin and eye infections are common
  • Dust in the air at dumpsites can cause breathing problems in children and adults
  • Flies breed on uncovered piles of rotting garbage and spread diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, hepatitis, and cholera
  • Mosquitoes transmit many types of diseases like malaria and yellow fever
  • Dogs, cats and rats living around refuse carry a variety of diseases including plague and flea born fever
  • Intestinal, parasitic and skin diseases are found in workers engaged in collecting refuse

2. Ground Water Pollution
The most serious problem is groundwater contamination. As water filters through any material, chemicals in the material may dissolve in the water, a process called leaching. The resulting mixture is called leachate. As water percolates through Muncipal Solid Waste, it makes a leachate that consists of decomposing organic matter combined with iron, mercury, lead, zinc, and other metals from rusting cans, discarded batteries and appliances. It may also contain paints, pesticides, cleaning fluids, newspaper inks, and other chemicals. Contaminated water can have a serious impact on all living creatures, including humans, in an ecosystem.

3. Air Pollution
When waste is burnt heavy metals like lead, toxic gases and smoke spreads over residential areas. The wind also carries waste, dust and gases caused by decomposition. Putrefaction of waste in sunlight during daytime results in bad smells and reduced visibility.

The Most Reliable Solution of Solid Waste Management
There is an urgent need to manage MSW from the time it is created to its safe disposal. The public and local municipal authorities need to work together. It is important to create awareness about the consequences of pollution so that people become conscious of the need to deal with this problem.

Legislation

  • Pakistan has responded to its environmental problems by developing laws, establishing government agencies and accepting technical assistance from donors, including the World Bank. Despite this, the response remains fragmented and environmental institutions, laws, and other initiatives do not solve the whole problem
  • Environmental legislation is still not well developed in Pakistan, especially in comparison to the developed world. For example, there are no National Quality Standards for SWM

Install Waste Disposal Facilities

  • Currently, individuals dispose of wastes by throwing away plastic bags, wrappers, fruit peels, cigarette butts, etc. in public places. Littering spreads pollution and ends up clogging drains and causing sanitation problems. This can be controlled by making roadside dustbins or proper disposal of waste at home
  • If proper waste management is practiced, this waste could be converted into useful products. There are three Rs practiced to manage the solid waste

Reduce
The best way to reduce waste is not to produce it in the first place. Everyone should try to reduce his/her consumption of goods as much as possible. For example, choose products with minimum packaging and instead of accepting plastic bags when shopping, use cloth bags.

Re-use
Items should not just be thrown away after use if they can be used again. Doing this result in a reduction in waste and better conservation of resources. Items, which can be re-used, include glass jars and bottles, and plastic bags.

Recycle
Recycling means creating new things from used items. Almost 20-30 percent of MSW contains materials which could be recycled. For instance:

  • Paper can be re-pulped and reprocessed into recycled paper, cardboard and other paper products
  • Broken glass can be crushed, re-melted and made into containers. Some forms of plastic can be re-melted and fabricated into carpet fiber or cloth
  • Food wastes and yard wastes can be composted to produce fertilizers and soil conditioners