You need not be an environmental scientist to see for yourself that most of the United States’ biggest and grandest cities are slowly turning into dumping grounds. This is of serious concern to the average citizen and to the government. Sustainable waste management is hardly a new word in our collective lexicon, but it is certainly something that deserves a lot more attention.
The former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, had announced 4 decades ago that waste management sustainability was one of the biggest challenges that America faced. That was in 1980.
Yet, we are still apparently not too serious about the issue of great gravity and treat sustainable solutions as a set of boring ideas which theorists discuss in High Government!
Unless we take steps – decisive and timely – our cities and towns will cease to be inhabitable.
This is the scary truth.
The state of waste management sustainability
The latest studies from the UNEP portray a dismal picture. It states that the total waste material generated across the world stands at just over 3 billion tons.
The 3 major countries that must bear the burden are the USA, China, the EU, and India.
There is one positive note in the same study, however. The United States fares a lot better in at-source solid waste segregation (SWM) and there is almost no illegal dumping. On the contrary, the country leads the world in the total number of waste management dumpster rentals.
It is not that the Federal and State governments have been sitting idle; waste management solutions are being developed across laboratories, talked-about across think-tanks, taught in universities, and there is a lot of general awareness.
On the flip side, the ominous rise in electronic waste is a threat that seems to grow every passing day. Most e-waste is not recyclable – they are used as landfill and leaches into the soil making it even more polluted. This is one of the banes of high-income countries like the United States.
While the EU has taken sweeping measures to counter the rising tide of waste and other detritus, they have also put into motion a formidable new plan which will make the management of SWM somewhat easier while they formulate how to increase awareness about sustainability.
Sustainable waste management solutions: a roadmap
Several scholars in this discipline have written a number of textbooks and research papers to better understand how to achieve that much-desired sustainability.
A few of the most critical points are the following.
1. Lower financing of solid waste disposal
Several plans on the table propose a general lowering of the sums spent on solid waste management (SWM) year by year so that they do not become too expensive for the economy. This can be achieved by the collective action of the citizenry who can produce less waste materials every year so that the problem is rooted out at the grassroots.
2. Individual actions
Whether it is waste generated from construction or from any other means, it is expected that the citizen will discharge his or her duties and will participate in sustainable waste management schedules as laid down by the governments at both the State and Federal levels. One simple example of model behavior is waste management roll off dumpster rental.
This small but effective and affirmative step will help all local municipal corporations better use their resources so that any waste (commercial or domestic) can be taken either to the recycling plant or landfills by simply towing away the roll off dumpsters. They are portable and have several options for hiring.
3. Renewed focus on paper to replace plastic
The main reason why plastic has to go is because they are not biodegradable. Paper products are. This has also become a politically charged situation across several countries because the plastic lobbies are enormously powerful. Only governmental intervention can help level the playing field.
Many countries in the Indian Subcontinent are slowly realizing the dangers of long-term plastic use and are gradually moving towards paper carry bags and other similar items. It is certainly a step in the right direction.
To ensure waste management sustainability in the United States, Congress has to pass bipartisan bills which will prevent the blatant misuse of existing environmental protection laws and give more power to the EPA.