BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Solid Waste Management



The increasing population and industrialisation of the modern world has led to a vast increase in production of wastes which has drawn much public health attention. Waste management involves collection, transportation and disposal of wastes, which according to UNEP are substances or objects that are disposed of, are intended to be disposed of or are required to be disposed of by the provisions of national law. There are many types of waste but the most important ones are the municipal wastes which include house-hold and commercial wastes, biomedical wastes from health care centres and hazardous waste including electronic, explosive and radioactive wastes. Waste collection generally involves use of collection bins and bags- which are sometimes colour coded depending on the region or country, and are then transported with trucks to the disposal site. They are then burnt in an incinerator to reduce waste volume, or are buried in landfills which are typically distant from residential areas.

Aside the aesthetic importance of proper waste management, there are several important health and environmental consequences. Wastes dumped close to residential areas such as along the streets, roadsides, farm lands and in rivers could easily lead to all forms of pollution, which is another grave problem. Water pollution poisons the water we drink and harms aquatic life while Air pollution results in other environmental health problems like global warming and climate change. Land pollution from wastes and other hazardous wastes can lead to long term devastating effects on the population. Poor waste disposal can also increase vector-borne disease burden. Although nobody still thinks that wastes can suddenly turn into organisms like the 18th century man once thought, improper waste management could still lead to accumulation of disease causing organisms or vectors like mosquitoes, houseflies etc. Health care wastes can harbour potentially lethal infectious organisms like HIV, hepatitis viruses etc. Exposure to radioactive wastes could lead to birth defects, cancer and even death.

Given the vast amount of wastes churned out on a daily basis, the task of waste management is quite a challenging one. This seemingly challenging problem has actually given rise to a fast growing industry- the waste management industry which creates employment for a large number of people. Armed with principles of proper waste management- reduce, reuse and recycle, and seen in policies such as: “don’t waste your waste” and “zero waste campaigns”, these industries focus on recycling and conversion of wastes to energy. Unfortunately, this is not existent in developing countries and is not very effective in some developed nations; indeed only few countries like Sweden have waste industries so effective that they even import wastes. This Swedish success is partly due to government policies like progressive payment with more wastes that discourage waste generation.

Government can help by providing more waste storage and transport facilities to remove wastes from residential areas. Also, placing huge fines and setting up laws against improper waste disposal could help dissuade the public from dumping wastes carelessly. Public health officials can also help to educate the general public on the importance of waste management. If the health risks are effectively communicated and that everyone in their own little way can help, it becomes an easier task. Research into the long term environmental effects of current waste management methods has favoured reduction and recycling to be the most appropriate ways to handle wastes. International bodies like the EU should raise the minimum recycle targets to nudge member states towards this direction.

Comments are closed.