Chapter 21: Solid, Toxic and Hazardous Waste. Brita Christensen and Carlye Richter. Case Study: South Africa’s “National Flower”. -Some South Africans began referring to plastic bags as the country’s national flower -Each year shops hand out 8 billion light-weight, single-use bags
Brita Christensen and Carlye Richter
-Some South Africans began referring to plastic bags as the country’s national flower
-Each year shops hand out 8 billion light-weight, single-use bags
-If they were thicker (80 microns) they would be reusable and litter would be reduced
-Trade unions fear that current machines wouldn’t be able to make such bags, causing unemployment
-If the bags were thicker, stores would charge more for them, making customers more likely to reuse
Toxic chemicals are showing up in groundwater supplies that ½ of America depends on for drinking
-Theoretically, one liter of gasoline could make a million liters of water undrinkable
Open Dumps Release Hazardous Materials Into Air and Water
--The Three “R’s”
Open, unregulated dumps are predominant in most developing countries
Mexico City produces 10,000 tons of trash a day
Manila, Philippines –half of their waste collects in “Smoky Mountain” -20,000 people live and work there
Open dumping has been banned in most places, but illegal dumping is still a problem
200 million L of motor oil are illegally dumped a year –5 times the amount spilled from Exxon Valdez, 1989
-25,000 metric tons (55 million lbs.) of packaging a year are dumped at sea.
-Federal legislation prohibits dumping of municipal refuse, industrial waste, sewage and sewage sludge in the ocean
-60-80 million m3 of dredge spoil are disposed of at sea.
-Sanitary landfills are an alternative to open dumps
-This method regulates and controls solid waste disposal
-landfill operators are required to compact the refuse and cover it with a layer of dirt, this controls pollution but also takes up 20% of landfill space
-An impermeable clay and/or plastic lining underlies and encloses the storage area in landfills
-Drainage systems surrounding the liner catch drainage and monitor chemicals that may be leaking
-location is essential to landfills, demonstrating concern for long-term effects associated with this form of disposal
What is an alternative to open dumps!?
-The U.S. spends $10 billion a year to dispose of trash
-1,200 of the 1,500 existing landfills in the U.S. have closed since stricter financial and environmental protection requirements for landfills took effect in 1984
-Cities have begun exporting trash which is expensive
-Methane –an important GHG is important to recover.
-It seeps to the surface of a landfill and escapes, but now it is collected and burned.
-Landfills could provide enough electricity for a city of a million people
How much money does the U.S spend per year on disposing of trash!?
Most industrialized nations have agreed to stop shipping hazardous and toxic waste to less-developed countries
The Taiwan village disaster
Poor neighborhoods and minority populations are much more likely than richer ones to be the recipients of dumps, waste incinerators, and other locally unwanted land uses (LULUs)
One method of disposing of toxic wastes is to recycle them
Manufacturers are now required to report the “active” ingredient content of their product, but much can go unreported as “inert” matter
Burning serves as an alternative to landfills
Incinerators are costly, but can also extend the lifetime of existing landfills
EPA found high levels of toxic substances in incinerator ash –more in the fly ash than others
EPA says the danger is small, and causes 1 death per million people every 70 years, though critics claim it to be 250 per million
To reduce dangers, remove batteries containing heavy metals and plastics containing chlorine before incineration (eliminates majority of dioxins and other by-products)
What is one advantage of incinerators?
Recycling means reusing, but also reprocessing
One problem for recyclers is the fluctuation in market prices for commodities
Another problem is contamination (ex: soda bottles)
Plastic recycling is down 50% due to “on the go” packaging
Recycling is the best alternative because it saves money, energy, raw materials, and land space
Encourages individual awareness and responsibility
Recycling has quadrupled since 1980, right now Japan is the world’s leader, recycling ½ of it’s municipal waste
When waste is well sorted, recycling is most successful
Recycling reduces our need for raw resources
Although public policy favors the use of raw material now, government statutes are working to change that
Composting is the most common form of large-scale recycling
Cities and towns have begun providing compost facilities to save landfill space
Organic debris is 12% of our waste stream, and ½ of organic waste is composted
An increasing number of the thousands of tons of debris sent to landfills is being collected, sorted and resold
Thermal conversion Process (TCP)
Definition: the disassembly and recycling of obsolete products like TV sets, computers, refrigerators and air conditioners. Electronics and appliances are one of the fastest-growing components of the global waste stream
E-waste –computers, cell phones, TVs and printers
A single computer can contain 70 different chemical compounds
40% of lead and 70% of heavy metals come from e-waste
Some nations have taken the initiative in reducing these environmental hazards
What is an example of E-waste?
Which is better: reusing or recycling?
Excess packaging of food and consumer products is one of our greatest sources of unnecessary waste
Paper, plastic, glass and metal packaging material make up 50% of our domestic trash by volume
Most packaging is primarily for marketing purposes
Canada’s National Packaging Protocol (NPP)
1) no packaging 2) minimal packaging 3) reusable packaging 4) recyclable packaging
Both are compostable or degradable
Sometimes materials don’t decompose completely
The most effective way to save energy, materials, and money is to slow the consumption of throwaway products
Hazardous waste –any discarded material, liquid or solid, that contains substances known to be (1) fatal to humans or laboratory animals in low doses (2) toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenicto humans or other life-forms (3) ignitable with a flash point less than 60 degrees Celsius (4) corrosive or (5) explosive or highly reactiveMost hazardous waste is recycled, converted to nonhazardous forms, stored or otherwise disposed of onsite by the generators5 billion metric tons of highly poisonous chemicals were improperly disposed of in the U.S. between 1950 and 1975
The most dangerous aspect of the waste stream is that it often contains highly toxic and hazardous materials that are injurious to both human health and environmental quality
The EPA states that industries in the U.S. generate about 265 million metric tons of officially classified hazardous wastes each year, slightly more than 1 ton for each person in the country
40 million metric tons (22billion lbs.) of toxic and hazardous wastes are released into the air, water, and land in the U.S. a year
Why is the waste stream so dangerous?
The Resource Conservation and Recovery ACT of 2976
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund ACT) of 1980 (modified in 1984 by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA))
The Toxic Release Inventory requires more 20,000 manufacturing facilities to report annually on releases of more than 300 toxic materials
The EPA estimates that there are at least 36,000 seriously contaminated sites in the U.S.
The GAO says it’s higher (400,000 +)
By 1997 1,400 sites were on the NPL (National Priority List) for cleanup financed by the federal Superfund program
Superfund –a revolving pool designed to (1) provide an immediate response to emergency situations that pose imminent hazards and (2) to clean up or remediate abandoned or inactive sites
The chemical build up began when William T. Love left his project of a man-made canal unfinished
Hooker Chemicals Corp. used this as a landfill
The runoff started emerging throughout the community
The seepage caused adverse effects among community members
Some included: birth defects, miscarriages, still births, cancers, heart diseases, nervous system defects and other health related issues
The tragedy was resolved only after many activist efforts
Large areas of contaminated properties that have been abandoned or are not being used up to their potential because of real or suspected pollution
No one wanted to redevelop brownfields because of liability
Why does no one want to redevelop brownfields?
Reusing contaminated properties can rebuild old cities, create jobs, increase the tax base, and prevent needless destruction of open space at urban margins
Programs have been established at the federal and state levels to encourage brownfield recycling
Must pass EPA standards
What is one method of disposing of hazardous wastes?