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The Environmental Effects Of Human Waste Disposal Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 5389 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Human activities create waste, and it is the way these wastes are handled, stored, collected and disposed of, which can pose risks to the environment and to public health.

The growing volume of solid wastes generated in Mauritius is having major implications on the

state of our environment. It is estimated that the amount of solid waste generated is about 1200 tonnes per day. Each Mauritian generates around 1 kg of solid waste daily. The composition of waste varied from summer to winter according to (Mohee Romeela). Household products used in our everyday life in the kitchen, living room, bathroom, and garage can cause harm to our health and to the environment during their use or after their disposal. After the usage of these materials, they ends up in the bins as wastes. These hazardous chemicals are available at any retail point or supermarkets. The landfill at Mare Chicose is the only site, which takes in all forms of wastes collected over the whole country, and evidence suggests that it is almost filled to choking point. The environmental degradation caused by inadequate disposal of waste can be expressed by the contamination of surface and ground water through leachate, soil contamination through direct waste contact or leachate, air pollution by burning of wastes, spreading of diseases by different vectors like birds, insects and rodents, or uncontrolled release of methane by anaerobic decomposition of waste. Our country, being committed to ecofreindly global initiative, has to devise the right strategies to keep a proper balance between economic growth and environment control, hence the need for information to consumers.

Literature Review

Approximately 163 million tonnes of municipal solid wastes are generated every year in the

European Union (1997 basis, CEC 1999)( CEC (1967) Council Directive 67/548/EEC of 27 June 1967 on the approximation of laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances. Official Journal L 196, 16/08/1967). The quantities of hazardous wastes arising from households (HHW) represents only a very small percentage of the overall municipal waste stream, estimated to amount to 1% (by weight) of the total quantity of waste generated per household (Poll and Pendle, 1993). However, there are differences per country reported in quantities arising of HouseHoldWaste(HHW) per capita due to different consumption patterns but also to different definitions applied to HHW as mentioned above. The total quantities of HHW arising in the fifteen Member States have been estimated to amount to about 1.5 million tpa(tonne per annum).

The growing concern of waste generated per capita keep on increasing day by day and as Mauritius is a small island we have to take into account the disposal of the wastes generated. There were 372, 434 tons of solid waste land filled at the only sanitary landfill of the country in 2003. (http://www.gov.mu/portal/site/menvsite)

It is estimated that the amount of solid waste generated is about 1200 tonnes per day. Each Mauritian generates around 1 kg of solid waste daily. Domestic waste in Mauritius consists of 60 % – 70 % of biodegradable waste. (http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev)

Sources of Solid Waste Generation

Solid Waste Management

Effective household hazardous waste management cannot be achieved without consumer awareness. To be effective the education must be comprehensive and widespread. If household hazardous waste education is limited to information about collection programs, then consumers will think the HHW problem is solved by collections. Collections minimize part of the problem but also exacerbate other problems associated with hazardous materials disposal. A good education program leads consumers to accept responsibility for products they choose to buy, and to understand the health and environmental impacts of product use, storage and disposal.

Education on household hazardous products and waste can be linked to other community efforts addressing indoor air quality, poison prevention, health, fire safety, non-point source pollution, and recycling. There are several key points that an education program should cover and resources to assist in developing these educational components.

Hazardous product identification-Consumers should be able to recognize hazardous products and identify the main hazards associated with use, storage and disposal.

Health and environmental effects-Consumers should learn to identify the risks involved with choosing products and materials that generate hazardous waste.

Safer alternatives and least toxic products-Consumers need to know alternatives to resolve the issues identified.

Safe handling-Not all hazards can be avoided. Techniques to safely handle hazardous wastes provide consumers with information to protect themselves.

Waste management options-Consumers need to know that the disposal available at HHW collections represents least desirable alternative for waste management, while prevention represents the most favorable option.


Waste is a material that no longer serves a purpose and so is thrown away. In some cases what one person discards may be re-used by somebody else. All wasters is particularly hazardous: If not carefully disposed of, it will have an impact on the environment, whether it be unsightly litter in urban streets or contaminated air, soil or water. But what is equally important about waste is that it is recyclable. For example, if all human, animal and solid wastes are recycle back to soil, then we do not need inorganic fertilizers to maintain the high yields of crops. Today India produces 180 million tonnes of food grains and consumer 13 million tonnes of inorganic fertilizers at a huge cost. Therefore, time has come when we have to look at the waste not merely as an environment polluter but a recyclable material of great potential and energy saver. In India we produce 300 to 400 gms. of solid waste per person per day in town of normal size. The figure is 500 to 800 gms. per capita per day in cities like Delhi and Bombay. The problem in these cities is how to dispose such large mass of solid waste daily and this poses a massive and expensive problem to the authorities. The composition of average domestic dustbin can be broken down as follows :

10% Glass

30% Paper/Cardboard

9% Metals

3% Textiles

4% Plastics

23% Vegetable Waste

21% Dust, Cinders, Miscellaneous

Some of the waste on the other hand may also contain poisonous substances like mercury’s lead and cadmium from batteries, old medicines, household cleaning and decorating chemicals and garden chemicals. Many of these chemicals are similar to these found in industrial waste, although in low concentration. The problem about waste is two fold

(a) How to dispose it of

(b) How to extract its recycling wealth.

Disposal : The disposal system has four aspects.

(a) Control of waste at source (b) Segragation of waste at source (c) Collection and transportation system (d) Final disposal.

(The Directorate of Environment, S.C.O. 1-2-3, Sector 17-D, Chandigarh Tel.: 541628)

Solid Waste is differentiated by their origin, physical form, detailed composition and risk potential. The quantity and the composition of some types of solid wastes, such as municipal waste, varies from day to day, season to season and from locality to locality.

Types of waste

Waste is any material/liquid that is thrown away as unwanted. As per physical properties, waste can be categorized as:

A: Solid waste: Any waste other than human excreta, urine & waste water, is called solid waste. Solid waste in rural areas generally includes-house sweeping, kitchen waste, garden waste, cattle dung & waste from cattle sheds, agro waste, broken glass, metal, waste paper, plastic, cloths, rubber, waste from markets & shopping areas, hotels, etc. Solid waste can also be defined as the organic and inorganic waste materials produced by households, commercial & industrial establishments that have no economic value to the owner.

As per biodegradability, solid waste can be classified as:

• Biodegradable: Waste that are completely decomposed by biological processes either in presence or in absence of air are called biodegradable. e.g. kitchen waste, animal dung, agricultural waste etc

• Non-biodegradable: Waste which cannot be decomposed by biological processes is called non-biodegradable waste. These are of two types:

• Recyclable: waste having economic values but destined for disposal can be recovered and reused along with their energy value. e.g. plastic, paper, old cloth etc

• Non-recyclable: Waste which do not have economic value of recovery e.g. tetra packs, carbon paper, thermo coal etc.

B: Liquid waste-Used & unwanted water is called waste water

• Black Water: Waste water generated in the toilet is called “Black water”. It contains harmful pathogens

• Greywater: Waster water generated in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry is called “Greywater”. It may also contain pathogens.

Classification of Solid Waste

Solid Waste is classified based on their origin, treatability and risk potential.

Classification based on Origin

a) Food Waste: Food wastes are the animal, fruit and vegetable residues resulting from the handling, preparation and eating of foods. They are putrescible (Solid waste that contains organic matter capable of being decomposed by microorganisms and of such a character and proportion as to cause obnoxious odors and to be capable of attracting or providing food for birds or animals.) and decompose rapidly causing malodour.

b) Rubbish:

This comprises combustible and noncombustible solid wastes of households excluding putrescible materials. The combustible rubbish consists of materials such as paper, cardboard, furniture parts, textiles, rubber, leather, wood and garden trimmings. Non-combustible rubbish consists of items such as glass, broken crockery, plastic, discarded tins, aluminum cans and materials made of ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

c) Ashes and residues:

Materials remaining from the burning of wood, coal, coke and other combustible wastes in

Homes and stores for the purpose of heating and cooking and above all the remains of combustible wastes are categorised as ashes and residues. Ashes and residues are normally composed of fine powdery materials, cinders, clinkers and small amounts of burned and partially burned materials.

d) Demolition and construction wastes:

Waste from demolished buildings and other structures are classified as

demolition wastes. Wastes from the construction, remodeling and repairing of individual residences, housing complexes, etc are classified as construction wastes. The constituents of this waste are stones, concrete, bricks, plaster and plumbings.

What can we recycle?


Bottle banks can be found in various local council regions and are divided into those accepting clear, green and brown glass. Blue wineglass can be deposited into the green bank, and clear glass with coloured coatings can be put into the clear bank as the coating will burn off. The makes on bottles and jars will be removed during the recycling process; yet eliminate as many plastic or metal rings and tops as possible. Only recycle bottles and jars- never light bulbs, sheet glass or Pyrex type dishes as these are made from a different type of glass.


Most local societies have recycling banks for newspapers and magazines, as this is the most plentiful type of paper in household waste. Make sure that you do not put other types of paper in, such as cardboard or junk mail, as this will pollute the load and the reprocessors will not allow it. Wrapping such as milk and juice cartons cannot be recycled as paper as they have a plastic lining which would contaminate the process.

Aluminium and steel cans

Many local authorities have mixed can banks accepting both aluminium and steel cans, although some have aluminium only banks as uncontaminated aluminium has a higher value. Aluminium can be recognised by the fact that it does not stick to a magnet, has a very shiny silver base and is very light in weight. Steel cans are also called “tins” as they contain a very thin layer of tin. Try to crush drinks cans before recycling, either with a can crusher or by squashing them underfoot. Aerosol cans made from steel or aluminium can be recycled in Save-a-can banks (check the front of the banks for guidance), but they must be empty and should not be crushed.


Plastic is a difficult material to recycle as there are many different types of plastic (often indicated by a number, or letters such as PP, PET or PVC). The difference in plastic means that different reprocessing techniques are required. The different types of plastic therefore need to be collected separately, or sorted after collection, as reprocessors will specify which type of plastic they will accept. Plastic in household waste is often food packaging and therefore too contaminated to be recycled effectively.

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Plastic is a light, bulky part of household waste, and consequently it is difficult for councils to store and transport ample quantities of plastic to make recycling economically viable. Many councils have found it to be too expensive and do not have facilities for plastic at all, while others recycle only plastic bottles which are worth more money. If your council does recycle plastic, make sure that you are recycling the right type of plastic, and always remove the tops of plastic containers so that they can be crushed.

Organic waste

Organic household waste is food and garden waste. Organic waste is a problem if sent to landfill, because it is impossible to separate out from other waste once mingled, and will rot, producing methane, a greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. The best use of organic waste is to either compost it through a centralised composting scheme run by your council, or to compost it at home. Find out if your council has facilities for taking garden waste for composting, or you may be able to separate kitchen waste for a kerbside collection scheme if one exists in your area. Alternatively, build or invest in a home composter for the garden, or try a worm bin for indoor use! Check to see if your council supplies reduced cost recycling bins.

Hazardous waste

Household hazardous waste such as paint, solvents and garden chemicals comes under the jurisdiction of your local council. Take them to a civic amenity site if facilities exist, or contact your council. Some association also provide facilities for de-gassing fridges and for recycling fluorescent tubes.

Mixed packaging

Packaging is often made up of a combination of materials, such as ‘tetra paks’ which can be made up of paper, plastic and metal, making recycling difficult. There is a lack of facilities and expertise for recycling mixed packaging, meaning that the materials are difficult to separate out without contamination.

Packaging is a very visible form of waste, making up around one third of the average household dustbin. Packaging is often necessary to protect the product, to prolong its lifespan and to provide essential information. However, over-packaging does occur, especially for marketing purposes. Basic foods such as bread and rice are rarely over packaged, while convenience foods often have two or three layers of packaging. Try to avoid over covering where possible, and when choosing a product, pick the packaging material which is easiest for you to recycle locally.

Classification based on Characteristics

Based on characteristics, solid wastes can be classified as biodegradable and non-biodegradable. This classification is based on the quality of solid waste generated from different sources. The biodegradable waste consists of all carbonaceous wastes that can be biodegraded into useful or less polluting products by the action of microorganisms and such animals like Annelids and Insects. Non-bio degradable wastes include inorganic wastes, and non-degradable polymeric organics like certain type of plastics.

Classification based on Risk Potential

Wastes that pose a substantial danger immediately or over a period of time to human, plant or animal life are classified as hazardous wastes. A hazardous waste exhibits the characteristics like ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity or toxicity. They are classified into following categories as radioactive substances, chemicals, biological wastes containing radioactive materials, flammable wastes and explosives. The chemical category includes wastes that are corrosive, reactive or tonic. The biological waste category is represented by dangerous wastes emanating from hospitals and biological research facilities.

Sources of Solid Waste(Waste from Residential areas)

The wastes generated from residential areas are generally classified as domestic waste. Waste generated from residential areas varies a lot based on the socio-economic and cultural situations. In high-income residential areas where gas or electricity is used for cooking, the waste generated will be less compared to the houses using wood and charcoal as fuel. Paper, cardboard, tin and bottles are found to be more in prosperous settlements and in commercial areas.

Characteristics of Solid Waste

Physical characteristics

The physical characteristics of solid wastes vary widely based on socio-economic, cultural and climatic conditions. The physical qualities of solid waste like bulk density, its moisture content etc., are very important and to be considered for the selection of disposal, recycling and other processing methods.

Chemical characteristics

Information on the chemical composition of solid wastes is important in evaluating processing and recovery options. In addition, the analysis helps in adopting and utilising proper equipment and techniques for collection and transportation. The chemical characteristics like pH, chemical constituents like carbon content, N, P, K micronutrients etc are to be analysed for the selection of proper waste management technology. But this cannot be readily and accurately measured nor can they be standardised due to its wide range in composition. Each and every category of waste varies with locations and local conditions. However the percentage of Carbon, Hydrogen,

Nitrogen and non-combustibles are determined. Higher organic content of Carbon in refuse activates the process of putrefaction.

Thus both physical and chemical characteristics of the solid waste determine the selection of the final method of waste disposal.

1.4 Environmental and health problems associated with solid waste mismanagement

A variety of environmental hazards are associated with the mishandling or mismanagement of refuse. The solid waste which is not properly stored, collected, transported and disposed off will lead to short-term as well as long term health risks. In the long term, there may be dangers arising from waste dumps particularly from it to the pollution of our drinking water sources.

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Fly breeding will be encouraged by uncovered piles of rotting refuse and the flies may play a role in the mechanical transmission of faecal-oral diseases. Piles of refuse will also contain mosquito-breeding sites where pools of rain water form in discarded cans, tyres etc. The mosquito Aedes aegypti will survive in these conditions and may transmit dengue, yellow fever, and other arboviral infections. Rats will also based and live in and around refuse. The main source of food for rats and other small rodents is refuse, and in dump yards they quickly proliferate and spread to neighbouring houses. They may promote and transmit a variety of diseases, including plague, leptospirosis, rat bite fever etc. Piles of refuse present a fire risk. Flammable waste materials when dumped together at dump yards are a great danger at source. Hot ashes added to the dumped wastes are also a reason for the fire at dump yards. Usually the fire starts with the practice of open burning of refuse. Sometimes this becomes uncontrollable. When the open dumps are fired, toxic gases will be released to the atmosphere. The dump yards may contain rubber tires, PVC, plastic materials etc and while they burn toxic gases like dioxin, furan etc., are released into the atmosphere, which are deadly poisonous. An additional danger that occurs due to fire at dump yards is that large quantities of water will be used for stopping the fire which may result in leaching of toxic materials to ground water. Badly managed refuse can promote water pollution by rain washing debris out of piles of refuse and into surface water. Ground water pollution may also occur. Piles of refuse rot and smell, which is a nuisance and is aesthetically unpleasing in the urban environment. Where refuse disposal services are lacking much refuse is deposited in open street drains and urban waterways. This causes them to block and can cause flooding. Apart from diseases for which insects and rats are carriers, the handling of refuse can cause illness to workers who work in collection and transportation process. Infection of roundworm and whipworm are common among people who work with solid waste disposal activities without proper protective measures.

The risks to health and environment during disposal of these products depend very much on the compliance by consumers with instructions for disposal and on the relevance of these instructions themselves as well as types of disposal treatment. For most hazardous household products, the quantities of waste produced are very small. However, for some categories of hazardous household chemicals e.g. pesticides and paints, quantities can be larger and present a real threat to the environment. For example consumers tend to stockpile paints and pesticides for a considerable number of years (up to 30 years) and in large quantities, and may discard large numbers of obsolete products as a single consignment. The one-off release of these obsolete or expired products into the waste streams can create high risks to health (during waste collection and treatment) and to the environment if not properly treated. The obsolete or expired products are often more hazardous than newer formulations and packaging may not be robust enough to satisfactorily contain the products. In addition, printed labels on the packaging may no longer be readable, preventing the identification of the active ingredient and the instructions for appropriate disposal.

Health hazards of Incineration or waste burning

Dioxins and Furans:

Dioxins and Furans are extremely persistent toxic substances that produce a remarkable variety of adverse effects in humans and animals at extremely low doses. They are a family of 210 compounds and are produced when burning halogenated substances. They are persistent in the environment and accumulate in magnified concentrations as they move up the food chain, concentrating in fat, notably breast milk. Dioxins can cause cancer and act as an endocrine disruptor with adverse effects on reproduction, development and the immune system.

Heavy Metals :

These are present in many waste streams and cannot be destroyed by incineration. They end up in ash or are released as air emissions. Typical heavy metals emitted by incinerators include mercury, which causes birth defects, immune system damage, and nervous disorders; lead, which is known to cause nervous disorders; and cadmium, which causes kidney failure, hypertension, and genetic damage. Other heavy metals include arsenic which damages many tissues including nerves, stomach, intestines and skin, causes decreased production of red and white blood cells and abnormal heart rhythm. Chromium damages nose, lungs and stomach and beryllium causes chronic lung problems. Incinerators are significant sources of these forms of air pollutants. Worldwide, incinerators are the source of 21 percent of air emissions of manganese and lead, 19 percent of antimony, 15 percent of tin, and 11 percent of selenium.

1. (Total Sanitation Campaign, 2007, ‘Malinya Muktha Keralam – Action Plan’, Local Self Government

Department, Government of Kerala.

2. Total Sanitation Campaign, 2008, ‘Zero Waste Kasargod – Project Report” Kasargod District Panchayath,

Government of Kerala

3. Dr. K.N. Nair and Sridhar R., 2005, ‘Cleaning up Kerala – Studies in Self help in dealing with solid waste’,

Centre for Development Studies.

4. Jeff Conant and Pam Fadem, 2008, ‘A Community guide to Environmental Health’,

Hesperian Foundation, CA, USA

5. Brenda Platt, David Ciplet, Kate M. Bailey and Eric Lombardi, 2008 June, Stop Trashing the Climate,

ILSR, Eco-cycle and GAIA

6. GAIA, ‘Aiming for Zero Waste 10 steps to get started at the local level’

Education and Publicity

A household waste (hhw) collection program cannot succeed without a strong public education effort that provides general information about HHW and specific instructions about how to participate on collection day. This education also might benefit the community by reducing the quantity of HHW collected in subsequent programs. It is still too early to know, however, just how effective educational efforts will be in reducing the generation of HHW. At current collection program participation rates, it will be some time before the stored waste is cleaned out of a community. It is likely, though, that the amount of waste per participant will decrease in communities with regular or permanent collection programs. Many examples of well-planned education programs are available.

Target the Audience

Residents are the most important target of a HHW education program. Information about HHW also should reach public officials, civic groups, solid waste personnel, and the business community to encourage financial support, donations of in-kind services, or other assistance. The media is an especially important vehicle; media understanding of HHW issues helps ensure accurate and responsible reporting. Educators need resources to develop and communicate a strong understanding of the issue to the people they teach. Manufacturers, retail stores, school chemistry departments, hospitals, agricultural extension services, and farmers also can benefit from education about HHW.

Determine the Message and Select Educational Methods

Public education about HHW is a good idea even if a HHW collection event is not yet planned. The scope of this effort will depend on the finds and personnel available. Early education can focus on:

Qu1. What products contain hazardous constituents.

Qu2. How household generation of hazardous waste can contribute to pollution.

Qu3.Why source reduction is a major goal of a HHW management program. (Source reduction is defined as the design, manufacture, purchase, or use of materials or products to reduce their amount or toxicity before they enter the solid waste stream.)

Qu4.What products contain fewer or no hazardous constituents.

Qu5.How to shop “smart” (e.g., buying only what is needed).

Qu6.How to reduce the amount of HHW generated (e.g., using up household products or giving away what cannot be used).

Qu7. How to use products in a way that minimizes harm to the environment.

Qu8. How to properly store and handle products containing hazardous constituents in the home.

Public education before a planned collection day should not only focus on identifying HHW and helping people understand the hazards associated with HHW, but also should present the sponsor’s plans for addressing HHW management. Public education efforts also should communicate the individual’s role in the HHW management program, including what to bring to a collection and how to transport it safely. This phase of the education program should begin

at least six months before the collection day. Intensified education in the final two weeks before a collection day can have a major impact on participation rates. Publicity, a component of public education, focuses on a single goal-bringing the

Public Education Methods and Techniques

Education through the media. Well-prepared media handouts-feature articles, public service announcements, and other materials for the press-m inexpensive options and require less staff time than many other educational methods. Information about HHW can be presented in a variety of ways. For example, a radio broadcast might feature a hazardous waste expert who can answer phone-in questions on HHW. A local television station can cover a tour through a home with an environmental expert, who can discuss the products that can become HHW and how to manage them safely.

Information and referral services. A publicly advertised local telephone hotline can encourage people to call for information about managing HHW, and also can facilitate a waste exchange/referral service. These services can be effective but require telephones, office space, training, and personnel. Mailings and mailing inserts. Utilities, banks, billers,

and advertisers may be willing to include HHW announcements and informational literature in their regular mailings. Inserts mailed with water bills, garbage bills, or tax bills not only provide information about HHW, but also can educate the public about the links between HHW generation, waste management ground-water protection, and water/garbage rates. Community groups can include educational information about HHW management in their mailings or newsletters. HHW program sponsors can send direct mailings to people who participated in previous HHW collections.

Posters, handouts, and brochures.

Flyers and posters often are displayed or handed out at schools, libraries, community centers, and senior citizen centers. Businesses can post signs and notices for shoppers and customers on how to safely manage household products that might become HHW. Real estate agents can offer their clients information about HHW with their other community resource materials. Solid waste facility personnel at drop-off landfills, transfer stations, and recycling centers can discuss HHW and provide written information when residents drop off waste or recyclable. Handouts can include HHW “wheels” that highlight the potential hazards of household products and suggest less hazardous substitutes.


This project aims to identify the types of wastes generated by the consumers, classify the wastes produced by daily activities at home according to it being environmentally friendly or not, plastics, papers, food waste, metal and glass. Then according to the results obtained from the questionnaire survey, a chart will represent each aspect of the waste produced and its percentage. An evaluation of the health hazard that the household wastes can represent if not properly disposed will be carried out.


Hazardous product identification-Consumers should be able to recognize hazardous products and identify the main hazards associated with use, storage and disposal.

Health and environmental effects-Consumers should learn to identify the risks involved with choosing products and materials that generate hazardous waste.

Safer alternatives and least toxic products-Consumers need to know alternatives to resolve the issues identified.

Safe handling-Not a


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