People around the world are beginning to recognize that we have a growing problem with waste. Hazardous waste has always been a problem, but we are seeing more plastics in the ocean and more heavy metals leaching into the soil. Environmental groups have been pushing for measures to see that all types of waste are better managed. Here are some of the measures being taken that indicate a green approach to waste management is taking hold.
This is essentially a giant metallic stomach which uses special microbes to break down organic waste into a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide, known as biogas. This flammable gas can be used as a source of energy to power turbines. While the technology isn’t new, the industrial version was developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). While there are logistics problems to be worked out (economically collecting and delivering the waste), large models are capable of transforming 100 tons of waste per day into useable energy.
Forests are disappearing at an alarming rate to make room for civilization and provide lumber. But millions of trees still go into paper production. In 2012 President Obama signed a law requiring the EPA to stop paper use and go to digital records. Many companies are following the example and more government departments are likely to in the future.
As a result of the constantly changing electronics industry, we see tons of e-waste such as computers and smartphones. Each contains small amounts of toxins such as lead, mercury, and lithium, among others. Millions of tons of unwanted gadgets are simply shipped off to third-world nations to lie on remote strips of land, polluting but neglected. The United Nations’ Global Partnership on Waste Management has taken a leading role in working with the international community to stop this practice, encourage recycling programs, and find greener methods of manufacturing.
Plastic shopping bags are made from polyethylene terephthalate, a compound that may remain in the environment for as long 500 years. These are petroleum-based products that aren’t destroyed by bacteria the way organic compounds are. However, new alternatives are made from plant-based oils, such as polylactic plastics made from corn. This will decay naturally within 90 days. Similarly, farmers and homesteaders are often turning to organic fertilizers from places like Nature Safe to reduce the negative impact of chemical fertilizers.
There are other developments taking place in waste management. As people become more concerned with the effects of waste on the environment, we can expect to see a growing trend toward recycling and development of eco-friendly materials.