How we approach waste management is a large contributing factor the healthfulness of our ecosystems biodiversity. Our Ecosystem’s biodiversity is largely made up of a few components; the ability for life to find a livable environment free from harmful waste, the degradation of waste products, and the environmental impact of their byproducts leeching into soil and air.
Historically, life has organized itself around where people live and where they put their waste. Whether human waste, or the waste of the products they use, life arranged itself around what we used today opposed to what we used yesterday. Widespread knowledge now points to this through the common awareness of floating islands of trash in the Pacific or the growing amount of mega landfills across the United States. While we have laws in place to protect how close we build landfills to our cities the problem in how to manage these sites remains the same.
Plastic, metals, and other materials, that do not breakdown – or will not breakdown in our lifetimes – circulate in one our world’s most precious commodities; our oceans. Slow degradation of waste products, or the inability to breakdown at all, is also becoming widespread knowledge. We are bombarded with images of seagulls with soda can plastics around their necks, or the unlikely presence of a plastic bag in the most obscure of places. Yet, this common knowledge leaves little room for improvement. Consumers are only interested in the quality of the product they’re purchasing and less concerned with the packaging materials let alone where that product will end up once it becomes refuse.
Both organic and inorganic compounds that breakdown have the potential to leech chemicals into the soil or byproducts into the air. Methane is the most widely known and researched gas related to land fills. Neighboring human establishments, as well as the plant and animal life that surround landfill sites are directly affected by oversaturation.
Whether in land fills or waste disposal sites, how we think and manage our waste products impacts our ecosystems either through how they impede natural wildlife, fail to degrade, or by the waste of their degradation. Combating waste has just as much to do with our personal choices in our lives as well as the products or policies we support. Washington State has recently started to use a waste-to-energy program designed to combat the growing amounts of waste in their landfills as well as put methane byproducts to use. The savvy design uses technology to capture the methane gas and transfer it to energy collection sites like Puget Sound Power & Electric, one of Washington’s largest power companies.
This shows us just what thinking outside of the box is all about. Waste reduction is imperative to our overall environment and a major contributing factor to protecting biodiversity. Using the garbage that is present to then power the very places we live, work, and play in is nothing short of genius. In a culture where reduction is often overlooked or regarded as insignificant there will continue to be a struggle in its promotion. Every more a reason to increase awareness of the options available, look at what others are doing, and encourage creativity and futuristic thinking.