By Aneeqa Tariq
Our planet is precious, don’t you agree? Not only for us human beings, but for all the flora and fauna that inhabit our biosphere. It is more than just a home. Our planet is our embodied space which transforms our living experiences. For years people have dismissed warnings and cautions issued by experts alerting us to the damage and harm we were causing our environment. Even now many remain aloof and indifferent despite the visible signs of destruction. However, it is essential that people come to realise the severity of their actions and locate ways to counter the spread and growth of toxic habits and materials to save the planet from any further harm. In fact, the goal should now be to rehabilitate the planet to create a more inhabitable and friendly space. The only way of truly achieving this goal is to recognise the impact human waste materials have on the environment. After all, it is these waste materials which travel through air, land, and water to contaminate the core elements of our environment and injure the balance of our ecosystem. Through the introduction of its latest course on Sustainable Waste Management, FAOU calls attention to various strategies and practices which can help us in efficiently warding off the disasters of environmental change through waste.
Learn from example: The side-effects of non-degradable materials!
Back in 2019, Karen Catbird had heads turning when she struck upon an odd scene at a beach. She photographed a parent bird handing a cigarette butt to its infant youngling. The youngling was then pictured strolling across the beach with the used cigarette butt still clasped tightly in its beak. Catbird explained that birds often fetch food by trailing the surface of the waterbody and picking out whatever they find. They cannot perceive whether what they have selected out as a quick source of nutrition is actually edible or not, rather they instinctively trust that the environment is providing replenishment. By dislodging wasteful material onto land or into water, we are putting the lives of marine and land animals and plants at risk. Since cigarette butts are part of the toxic non-degradable materials which do not decompose biologically, much like plastic, they always pose a threat to the environment unless properly disposed of.
There is more than one type of waste!
We can probably list off a number of various sources to which we associate the large inrush of toxic waste. Large industry compounds like factories and warehouses, large residential compounds like prisons, hospitals and boarding institutes, and the busy commercial areas are a few that come to mind almost instantly. However, just as there are different sources of waste materials, there are also different kinds of produced waste. To successfully establish ways and strategies of sustaining our environment, it is key to register the kinds of waste we need to tackle.
As the name implies, organic waste is the by-product of organic material once it has been decomposed. It is generated most commonly in households where leftover or unused food turns to waste. It includes garden waste which includes fertilisers for the growth of organic food. These materials do decompose over time to generate manure by microorganisms which in turn nourishes the soil. However, despite their unique properties, they must not be left around unattended since landfilling organic waste may lead to the emission of methane which injures the environment.
Solid and Liquid Waste
Solid and liquid waste is found in both commercial industries and common households. Solid waste includes tangible materials like plastic, paper, tin, metal, and ceramics which are a part of our daily lives. In industries, these basic supplies are the core ingredients which help in the production and preservation of other products. The excess material which is not needed for production is dislodged into the environment. The same applies for liquids like water, detergents, rainwater, and chemicals which contribute to manufacturing. In households, these same industrial products are put to use, and the excess is dislodged into landfills.
Hazardous Waste vs Recyclable Waste
Hazardous waste material consists of waste that is toxic, corrosive, flammable, and reactive. It usually consists of harmful chemicals and susceptible packaging which needs to be disposed of correctly by specialists and companies. Recyclable waste, on the other hand, is far less toxic to the environment and much easier to dispose of. These materials include rubbish, including solid and liquid waste, which can be converted and reassembled into products that can be used again.
Learn Waste Management: Sustaining the Environment
After learning the kinds of wastes polluting the environment, our main goal shifts to devising strategies to manage and sustain our environment. Generally, humans generate a ton of waste which impacts the air we breathe, our water, and our living space. The United Nations has issued warnings that about 11.2 billion tonnes of solid waste alone has accumulated worldwide which all results from human negligence and behaviour. Thus, nowadays there is a pressing need to strategize efficient tactics to maintain waste sustainability. Practices of sustainability often include a number of key actions such as collecting waste, processing it in facilities or disposing it of efficiently, and also monitoring the production and consumption of waste generating products. Keeping this action plan in mind, much of the waste produced regularly through human intervention can be reduced significantly.
Donate, Donate, and Donate!
One efficient solution to tackle excess and unnecessary waste is to donate whatsoever is not needed. Rather than accumulating trash in landfills and encouraging more production at the expense of resources, these old materials will be utilised by new owners. Donations are a source of profit to the poor or the underprivileged as well as the giver who receives tax incentives and a positive repute in society. Hotels and departmental stores can donate their unused groceries and toiletries rather than simply discarding them. Similarly, restaurants can hand out extra food to shelter homes and the homeless instead of chucking it in a bin.
Cut Down on Paper and Plastic!
The war against plastic was a recent event which took the world by storm and resulted in the mass refusal to purchase and consume plastic materials. Plastic is a non-biodegradable material, such that if it is tossed carelessly into the environment, it will clog the movement of water, pollute landscapes, and possibly become a dangerous food source for the unsuspecting animal life. Paper is no better. Along with plastic, paper is one of the biggest wastes being mass produced for businesses, administrations, and governments. Cutting down on paper may consist of changing hand-drying paper towels to electronic hand-dryers or going paperless in corporations that can afford online gear.
Your Home, Your Stage!
The digital world has opened a wealth of knowledge for us to consume. One of the internet’s most innovative services includes lengthy and comprehensive tutorials that serve as guides in our daily activities. Do-It-Yourself (DIY) is a common topic among such tutorials in which people demonstrate how to prepare and create stuff by one’s own self from the comfort of our homes. These projects are not only instructive but also allow us to live a more independent and organic lifestyle. These DIY tutorials can help us in making our own non-toxic soaps and detergents, maintaining our own fresh kitchen gardens, and creating more homely storage spaces to minimise the use of non-degradable packaging. By making stuff at home, we are not only ensuring a healthy lifestyle for ourselves, but we also manage to cut down significantly on waste.
FAOU urges you to take matters into your own hands and learn about the harm we continually inflict upon our environment through our actions. Our behaviours and our practices result in the production of toxic waste, which is not only disrupting our living space, but may consume the liveliness of our planet entirely unless monitored and stopped. Help FAOU raise awareness against pollution by championing a sustainable and healthier tomorrow!