HAZARDOUS WASTE - a blatant threat to human health and environment

With the growth of human population come new places for human settlement, more number of industries, increased agriculture, and certainly a greater demand for resources. There is so much more that’s done to have a comfortable lifestyle. But do we think back to what our environment receives as a consequence of our over-exploitation? Unfortunately, waste and only waste! 

The world generates over 2 billion tons of garbage each year. That’s over 3.5 million tons of garbage in a single day. But a large majority of it doesn’t even make it to a landfill, because it is chemically unstable. 400 million tons of our yearly waste is considered hazardous and is frequently incinerated.

But what makes the waste hazardous?

The generated waste is considered hazardous when it possesses any of the following characteristics: corrosive, flammable, toxic, or reactive. The waste may be liquid, solid, or sludge and contain chemicals, heavy metals, radiation, pathogens, or other materials. The products that routinely constitute hazardous waste include- batteries for electronic devices, pesticides, used syringes, brake fluids etc. The release of toxins from this hazardous waste leads to extreme weather conditions, natural disasters and mishaps like accidental poisoning.

If a product is dented or sticky, often a retailer can’t or won’t sell it. It simply gets thrown away without even being used! The disposal of such products can have a pretty disastrous effect on the environment.

But what if we could prevent these materials from becoming waste in the first place?

Until recently, the production and consumption model was predominantly linear, that is, it comprised a sequence of stages: resource extraction, production, consumption and waste disposal. This model, in which waste is generated at each stage, is highly polluting. The way to combat this starts with changing our mode of production and consumption from a linear economy to a circular economy.

In order to do so, it is essential that companies and consumers change their way of thinking and acting. Companies must design products in accordance with a circular economy approach, using waste as raw materials and reducing the use of resources. Heavy metals like lead and mercury, can be recycled, which cut the number of released toxins in the production process. Consumers, at the same time, bear a significant amount of responsibility. Since over 60% of waste generation results from product containers and packaging, that are often made to be disposed of after one use, consumers must responsibly use resources by following the 3 R’s rule: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. 

“If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, recycled or composted, then it should simply be restricted or removed from production”