Sunday, October 26, 2014

Landfills In Developing Countries

Management of solid waste in one way or another is one of the major challenges in the world. Inadequate collection, recycling or treatment processes and uncontrolled disposal of waste in dumps lead to hazards such as health risks and environmental pollution. 

This situation is especially serious in Developing Countries where inadequate waste disposal can be very dangerous for environment and human health. Sanitary landfills are not popular in third world countries even though more than 80% of the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) generated is dumped into open dump yards. In some Third World or Developing countries, as much as half of the MSW generated isn't disposed of properly or collected at all. Instead, it is often left in yards or on streets.

Garbage is also often burned in residential areas and in landfills to reduce volume and uncover metals. Burning creates thick smoke that contains carbon monoxide, soot and nitrogen oxides, all of which are hazardous to human health and degrade urban air quality. Combustion of polyvinyl chlorides (PVCs) generates highly carcinogenic dioxins.

The typical municipal solid waste stream will contain general wastes (organics and recyclables), special wastes (household hazardous, medical, and industrial waste), and construction and demolition debris.

The most adverse environmental impacts from solid waste management are rooted in inadequate or incomplete collection and recovery of recyclable or reusable wastes, as well as disposal of hazardous wastes. Impacts are also due to inappropriate design, operation, or maintenance of dumps and landfills. These makeshift landfills are also usually improperly placed on sites insufficient for a landfill. 

Improper waste management activities can:

Increase disease transmission or otherwise threaten public health. Rotting organic materials pose great public health risks, including serving as breeding grounds for disease vectors. Waste handlers and waste pickers are especially vulnerable and may also become vectors, contracting and transmitting diseases when human or animal excreta or medical wastes are in the waste stream. Risks of poisoning, cancer, birth defects, and other ailments are also very high.

Contaminate ground and surface water. Solid waste streams can bleed toxic materials and pathogenic organisms into the leachate of dumps and landfills. If the landfill is unlined, this runoff can contaminate ground or surface water, depending on the drainage system and the composition of the underlying soils. Many toxic materials, once placed in the general solid waste stream, can only be treated or removed with expensive advanced technologies. Even after organic and biological elements are treated, the final product remains harmful.

Create greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants. When organic wastes are disposed of in deep dumps or landfills, they undergo anaerobic degradation and become significant sources of methane, a gas with 21 times the effect of carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, proper collecting, handling, and processing of MSW in Developing countries will take large amounts of time, education, and training as well as money to fund such endeavors. In the end, however, it will be well worth it to prevent the dangers inherent in it not being done properly.

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