Bearing the Burden: The Environmental Impact of Waste

Weight of on the environment

Waste has, of course, disastrous consequences for all biodiversity. As a reminder, a simple paper handkerchief thrown away in nature takes about 3 months to degrade, while chewing gum takes an average of 5 years. Other waste such as batteries contain highly toxic products that infiltrate the soil to the groundwater from which we draw our water. Human waste is the leading cause of freshwater pollution.

And if 80% of the current pollution of the oceans comes from land, it is because many of our waste, poorly managed or abandoned in the middle of nature, will end up in the waters of the planet. Transported by the winds, carried by the rivers, it is the long road that will lead our everyday objects to leave the treatment system.

As for plastic, today it represents 90% of marine litter and its production could tomorrow represent 15% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Unmanaged or poorly managed waste thus contributes to soil erosion, air and water pollution. They poison the fauna that inhabit the habitat in which they are found and they constitute a real brake on economic growth for countries since it is necessary to depollute, improve the potability of water and reboost the attractiveness of degraded areas. Which necessarily has a cost. And yet, it is not the means of waste management that are lacking.

Conventional waste management methods

Waste management encompasses both their collection, their transport and the treatment stages up to their disposal or recovery.

Once thrown in the trash and then collected by waste management services, 26% of our waste will be sent to storage centers, or landfills. There they will be compacted and then buried or left in the open to gradually decompose over time. In other words, the solution is not sustainable since the amount of waste is absolutely not reduced. Their degradation, on the other hand, releases methane into the air, considered highly toxic and known to be an important greenhouse gas.

32% of the waste in Kansas will instead be incinerated at very high temperatures. There is already something better here since the waste disappears and the energy generated during the process is often reused for district heating, or to produce electricity. The solid residues obtained after incineration also make it possible to obtain what is called clinker, a kind of concrete used as a construction material. This is the recovery of waste. Unfortunately, this method releases toxic fumes which must then be treated or risk further polluting the soil, air and water.

Waste recycling in Kansas

Waste recycling in Kansas only comes in third place with only 27% of waste recycled. However, our bins contain a large proportion of recyclable products that deserve to be reintroduced into new production chains. This would both reduce the amount of waste produced but also save raw materials and avoid the emission of nearly 3 million tons of CO2 per year.

More concretely, once deposited in the recycling bin, the waste is transported to the sorting centers where it will be separated and then treated individually. Once washed, crushed and dried, the waste is ready to give life to new products. For example, bicycles are made from aluminum cans, recycled paper from old cardboard and even fleece clothing from a certain type of plastic.

As for glass, it is one of the only materials to be recycled endlessly, and 100%. The others will only be able to recycle a limited number of times before reaching the end of their life. And then in most cases, even products made from recycled materials will also require some input of new materials. Recycled paper, for example, includes 46% new fibres.

Other negative aspects, the process is expensive, nearly 74 million euros per year, and Kansas is still under-equipped with recycling units. Added to this is the fact that too few households practice selective sorting in a systematic way, or use dumpster rental services. A large part of the waste that could be recycled thus increases the proportion of waste incinerated or placed in landfill.

Waste separation

According to this website, only 48% of KS households today take the trouble to carry out selective sorting, which is still encouraging because the figure is on the rise. It must nevertheless be recognized that the sorting instructions indicated on the packaging are not always obvious. In general, four different bins are used to accommodate our waste.

The yellow bin first of all, dedicated to recycling, in which we will put, among other things, our plastic bottles and flasks, food bricks, cardboard boxes, tin cans, cardboard packaging, papers, cans , empty aerosol cans and aluminum trays. We can possibly remove the corks from the bottles to give them to associations.

The green bin is dedicated to glass. Bottles of alcohol, fruit juice, jars of jam, small baby jars, everything must be as clean as possible and without lids.

The blue bin comes across a little less frequently but is meant to hold newspapers and magazines. Most municipalities make them available to their inhabitants, as do glass bins.

Finally, the classic trash can, with its dark green lid most often, will accommodate anything that cannot be recycled. Yoghurt pots, leftover meals, nappies but also wet paper and cardboard.

At home, all you have to do is place bags next to your ordinary trash can so that each piece of waste can go to the right destination. For optimal management, certain special objects such as electrical equipment, toxic products, bulky items can be transported directly to the recycling center. Batteries and bulbs will be deposited in supermarkets, drugs will be reported to the pharmacist.

As for green waste, we will use it to make our compost and many other things.