When you think of our average day, think of the many ways in which we produce waste: the waste water that we produce from our bathing and cleaning, fecal waste, rubbish and garbage from the kitchen and the rest of the home, etc.

Do you ever give a thought to what happens to the waste that we all produce on a daily basis?

There is the waste that we create when we drive our cars. And then there is the wastage that we contribute to by buying various products that we use and eat each day. This is where industrial waste comes in. For this as well, it is you and I who are directly or indirectly responsible.

The waste that you and I produce directly may be meager compared to industrial and other forms of waste but we need to have Waste Management Systems in place to manage the solid, liquid, gaseous and radioactive waste that is produced each day.

Methods of Waste Disposal

The two main methods of waste disposal are landfills and incineration. Landfills are the use of pits, quarries, etc. to bury waste. The other main method is incineration where the waste is burnt or treated at high temperatures to reduce waste into other more compact forms.

Landfills have obvious problems of land utilization and pollution. Improperly constructed landfills mean pollution due to leaching of rotting material into the soil, odor, airborne litter and the production of toxic gases due to the process of degradation. This can also stifle growth of vegetation in the surrounding areas and attract vermin.

Incineration has the usual drawbacks of combustion: utilization of energy, creation of pollution, and so on. Then there is the fact that incineration reduces the waste to about 20 to 30% of its original volume rather than eliminating it – it produces ash, gas, steam, smoke, etc. which also has to be dealt with.

Problems of Waste Management

Biodegradable waste will get disposed of but that which is neither biodegradable nor recycled simply remains there.

So basically waste is partly converted or conveniently placed out of sight but is still there; not really eliminated. You can then imagine the sheer volume of waste… it simply continues to increase and there is a very real threat of this choking our planet; of us literally drowning in our own waste!

It is a dreadful but not altogether improbable thought and the importance of resource recovery and other methods of reducing and avoiding waste therefore become rather obvious.

Resource recovery and waste minimization are 2 of the concepts that can help us in waste management.

What is Resource Recovery?

Resource recovery is a desirable alternative to landfills that clog the earth. Innovative use can be made of waste: it can be recycled, it can be used to make compost, and it can even be used to generate energy. This way you are making best use of available resources and also delaying use of fresh resources in the future.

What is Waste Minimization?

Simply put, this concept covers various means and methods that we as individuals and as communities can use to reduce the amount of waste that we produce.

Industries can lessen the amount of waste they produce by using more efficient processes of manufacturing, sustainable means of energy, more earth friendly raw materials and more ethical and responsible policies. Reuse of scrap material is another way that industry can help to reduce waste.

Designing products and processes in a way that utilizes the least resources and creates the least waste is another way industry can make a difference. They can be designed so as to minimize the components, raw materials, energy and processes used to manufacture the product.

Improving product durability to increase its useful life can also help to reduce waste. For instance if consumer durables like washing machines are made in a way that extends their life, they can be used for a longer time and fewer will find their way to the scrap yard and ultimately the landfill.

Using less amounts of packaging material in which products are packaged is another way that waste can be minimized. For instance the kind of packing material used (whether or not it is biodegradable), the number of layers used, etc. can have a considerable impact on waste minimization.