Household waste as a global problem
Waste elimination is one of the global problems of modern civilization. The accumulation of waste is detrimental not only to the environment and human health, but also entails serious social and economic damage.
The scale of waste produced by mankind is enormous. It is known that on average one European family generates about a ton of household waste per year. In the same period Great Britain produces 27 million tons of waste, Russia – 150 million tons, USA – more than 250 million tons. If we add to these values the number of industrial wastes produced annually, we get just a crazy figure.
Burning in open dumps and landfills are the best known and most accessible methods of garbage disposal. But are they that effective? When trash is burned, a huge amount of harmful and poisonous chemical compounds are released into the air. Open dumps, in addition to spreading a stench, are crawling with insects and rodents – sources and carriers of many infectious diseases. Landfills, especially when done uncontrollably, which is unfortunately not uncommon, can lead to dangerous consequences: the contamination of groundwater or uncontrolled fires which occur when the biogas produced by the decomposition of waste without air is ignited. In addition, methane, which makes up 70% of the biogas produced by decomposing waste, can kill vegetation in high concentrations.
Waste burial, the spread of open dumps can’t continue indefinitely, one day there will simply be no free territories for it. Judge for yourself, if we’re talking about our country, only in Moscow every year generates about 25 million tons of waste. Of these, only 10% of household waste and 59% of industrial waste is recycled. The remaining waste is decomposed in huge expanses of landfills, whose resources are rapidly running out. Few people know, but in Krasnoyarsk the capacity of existing landfills will last another three years, four at the most. And then?
Infectious diseases, contamination of groundwater and soil, the release of huge amounts of methane into the air – this is just a small fraction of what happens with this approach to waste disposal. What is the best way to deal with pollution? Almost all the ecologists in the world have stated the need to recycle waste into secondary raw materials with the prospect of further regeneration cremation.
Many developed countries are striving to recycle garbage. In Western Europe there are plants with special equipment: sorting belts with optical sensors which sort the waste into categories.
The law obliges citizens to sort their garbage by themselves, and in fact, in the Western world this has become almost part of the national idea: proper sorting is taught from kindergarten onwards, and appropriate propaganda is on TV.
Today people understand that waste is an inexhaustible source of raw materials. In the USA, for example, landfill gas is used as a source of energy. As a result of decomposition of waste, methane is produced, which is collected and used as a vehicle fuel or to generate electricity. However, this gas contributes to the “greenhouse effect”, so now, scientists are looking for ways to optimize the methane production process to make it more environmentally friendly.
The global averagem is to bring back “to life” waste, which consists of materials of practical value: metal, glass, rubber, wood, bricks, plastic.
Although not all garbage is recycled in America, Europe and Japan, in the last ten years the average percentage of recycled waste in these countries has increased to 50 and further growth is predicted. In Russia the situation is more difficult: we do not recycle even 20%. The thing is that the recycling industry in our country is understood in a one-sided way: they prefer to collect waste and transport it to specialized waste dumps. And even fertile land is often used for landfills.
In England, two other types of recycling are practiced: the method of composting garbage by aerobic fermentation. Its advantage is that a significant number of microorganisms, potentially harmful to human health, perish. The utilized carbon mixture is used as fuel, and the rest is used as fertilizer. Another method is pyrolysis. This is a process of shredding waste without oxygen. The gases that are produced during this process are captured. Both the gases and the solid residue are used as fuel. In this way, rubber and plastics are recycled.
In Italy, earthworms are actively used to recycle organic waste. Today, this practice is accepted throughout the Western world.
The Japanese burn garbage, having previously divided it into four types: combustible garbage, non-combustible, large-sized and going into storage. After the incineration, the slag and metal are used to make plywood flooring for houses and paving slabs for streets, as well as to generate electricity. Iron, aluminum, copper, etc. are extracted from the bulky garbage. As of 2015, in Japan, only ten percent of the remaining garbage is landfilled.
Russia recycles food waste into humus. Through processing, nitrogen-fixing bacteria and fungi transform the waste into black soil. But that’s about it, there are very few really working waste recycling facilities – no more than three hundred across the country, just think about it, there are over a thousand in the US.