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The nature of waste

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Published on Jun 9, 2010

Waste is directly linked to human development, both technologically and socially. The composition of different waste has varied over time and location with the connection between waste materials and industrial development and innovation. Examples of this include plastics and nuclear technology. Some components of waste have economical value and can be recycled once correctly recovered.
Our society is a wasteful one based on disposal culture. According to the European Commission, each year in the European Union alone, 3 billion tonnes of waste is thrown away and some 90 million tonnes of this is hazardous. South Africa is not as dominant in the waste sector but is quickly catching up. This wasteful culture has arisen through the mechanisms of consumerism. Mass consumerism has become a societal norm thanks to rampant capitalism, indivdualisation, westernisation and globalization but there are ways of living in a global community without waste.


The economic costs of managing waste are high and are often paid for by municipal governments. Money can often be saved with more efficiently designed collection routes, modifying vehicles and through public education. Environmental policies such as 'pay as you throw' can reduce the cost of management and waste quantities. Waste recovery can curb economic costs because it avoids extracting raw materials and often cuts transportation costs. Litter can harm the environment in a number of different ways. It is a breeding ground for disease-attracting insects and rodents. Its "ugliness" damages the appearance of scenic environments. Open containers such as paper cups or beverage cans hold rainwater, providing breeding locations for mosquitos which have been known to cause diseases such as West Nile virus and Malaria.
Uncollected litter can flow into streams and storm water drainage systems, local bays and estuaries. About 18% of litter, usually traveling through storm water systems, ends up in local streams, rivers, and waterways. About 80% of marine debris originated from land-based sources. Animals may get trapped or poisoned by litter in their habitats.

Cigarette butts and filters are a threat to wildlife and have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds and whales who have mistaken them for food. Debris falling from vehicles is an increasing cause of car accidents. Our litter and waste is not only harming the world's ecosystems but it is detrimental to our own survival and health. Most of our waste lands up in the ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one such example, comprising of a vast region of the North Pacific Ocean infiltrated with anthropogenic wastes. Estimated to be double the size of Texas, the area contains more than 3 million tons of plastic. The mass of plastic in our oceans may be as high as one hundred million tons. Watch ChangeTV, Subscribe to our channel or visit www.changetv.co.za

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