Waste management is one of the most important areas of modern civilisation. In fact, it would not be too amiss to say that waste management is one of the most important factors on which our society functions. However, before we go any further into details, one needs to understand what exactly waste is.
What is Waste?
While waste is defined as anything that is unwanted or left after a productive use, this definition is often left wanting in more specification. For example, what is the limit on which we can define whether something has been used up to its full potential? The definition of what constitutes as waste changes depending on the perspective of the user. As such, one of the most widely accepted definition, provided by the United Nations Statistics Division for waste is:
“materials that are not prime products (that is, products produced for the market) for which the generator has no further use in terms of his/her own purposes of production, transformation or consumption, and of which he/she wants to dispose. Wastes may be generated during the extraction of raw materials, the processing of raw materials into intermediate and final products, the consumption of final products, and other human activities. Residuals recycled or reused at the place of generation are excluded”
Thus, waste may be produced at any state of consumption or creation of a new product. However, just production of waste without the proper means for its handling can lead to a lot of other dangers, including excessive pollution. Which brings us to our next topic.
How is Waste managed?
Waste management does not merely comprise of taking care of generated waste. It is as much about other aspects taking care of waste as it is about waste generation. That is why the core concepts of waste management are often summarised by the “3 R’s” of waste management which are:
Waste generation needs to be reduced in the first place. This is the very basis of tackling waste management. If waste generation is not controlled, there is not scope for tackling waste since no matter how well waste management is, the growing human population will always overtake the waste management efforts.
What is often classified as waste can be reused. The idea of reuse is that before discarding something as waste, the maximum possible benefit from it should be extracted. This is essential to ensure that the next batch of waste produced can be stemmed from the reuse of the previous batch.
This is one of the most tossed about terms on the internet when it comes to waste. In essence, it means that the waste produced at one time should be able to go back into the cycle through material recovery and an efficient waste to energy ratio maintenance. This can be efficiently tackled through composting.
Of course, even after all this, there still remains waste that cannot be efficiently tackled. Actions like disposal, incineration etc. become unavoidable at such cases.
The Scope of Waste
The scope of a waste management program is huge and encompasses much more than what we commonly understand. Some of the major trends that should be introduced in every community in order to enhance a waste management program include (but is not limited to):
• A better participation from the community
• Better safety issue tackling
• Recycling trends
• Increase in the scope of recyclable material collected
• Contractor regulation
• Waste management plans involving the right parties
Waste management is one of the most pressing matters in the modern world, and needs to be tackled early on and in the right fashion for a sustainable development.
What are the new Risks Exposure to Waste Management Workers?
The waste management sector is constantly evolving, and as such, new risks are being identified regularly. Regardless, some of the most common risks associated with the waste management industry are as follows:
• Biological Risks
These include various biological microbes that can be dangerous to humans and include bacteria, viruses which have evolved prions etc. The most important problem in this aspect is the evolutionary traits in these microbes which can cause them to develop previously unseen traits, thus leading to dangerous diseases being unleashed.
• Chemical Reagents
Besides the usual chemicals which can cause a major problem in today’s environment, like arsenic, mercury and cadmium, among various others, there are other chemical reagents that are also equally dangerous to waste management workers. Poisoning in the form of dangerous gases and other man made chemical reagents can also pose a real threat in the waste management sector.
• Particles & Aerosols
From wood dust to particular dust and asbestos, the waste management sector employees face a lot of dangers. Aerosols can form mists and fumes which can be particularly dangerous also if not exposed of correctly.