What Effect Does Waste Have on the Environment?
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but our waste products could be doing more harm than good. As the population continues to grow, and sustainability becomes more of a concern, it’s never been more important to think about what to do with the waste we create. Here are some of the effects waste has on the environment.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Greenhouse gas emissions are generated at every stage of the product lifecycle and are responsible for a variety of problems including global warming, climate change, and destruction of the ozone layer. Carbon dioxide is the main component of greenhouse gas emissions, and the UK government is taking measures to significantly reduce these emissions. A simple step, such as recycling, can play a big part in reducing greenhouse gasses.
Acid rain is a destructive by-product of toxic waste incineration. Burning plastic bottles can release dioxins into the atmosphere, while the ash in incinerators is likely to contain heavy metals and other harmful chemicals. For these reasons, many groups are actively trying to minimise the amount of waste incinerated, while green groups are lobbying the government to stop building incinerators.
Habitats are complex and most can naturally adapt to natural events such as earthquakes or landslides. However, human waste is something habitats can’t compete with and some have been wiped out entirely. Leaching landfills and farm runoff can leave marine habitats with high toxicity levels, while other pollutants can reduce food supply for birds and other animals. Meanwhile, air pollutants from incorrect waste disposal are known to be destroying plants, trees, and the animals and insects that rely on them.
As waste sinks into the earth, it can release chemicals and other toxins that render the land unusable. This effects crops, wildlife, and the economy. In some cases, the negative effects of soil pollution have only become evident when people have grown ill from eating plants grown on polluted soil
Marine Animal Deaths
While the overall impact of waste on our oceans may never be known, some devastating findings have been reported. Plastic bags can be mistaken for squid, and eaten by turtles and whales, while sea birds will often ingest toxic pellets, mistaking them for fish eggs. It’s also common for animals to become entangled in waste products and suffocate, or for animals to eat waste, become full, and starve to death. In coastal areas, coral reefs and shellfish stocks have been depleted by pollution, and there have even been reports of mutated fish in areas of high toxicity.
As the effects of our waste become more apparent, many countries are implementing preventative strategies. Even small shifts in our attitude toward recycling, waste disposal, and the products we buy can make a significant impact. Being responsible with our waste is no longer just the watchword of hippies and liberals, but of anyone who wants a sustainable future.