Household waste products lie in the category of the non-hazardous waste, which includes food products, product containers, fruit peels, wrapping papers, plastic shopping bags, and other wastes that can be recycled.
The term non-hazardous refers to the household wastes that do not meet certain set measures and levels of causing harm to the environment, health and life in the surroundings.
However, these household wastes have negative effects on the environment, health, and cause negative impacts to any living organisms in the surrounding.
Since these organic wastes will nevertheless, decay and decompose, the decomposing mass becomes good breeding grounds for most bacteria and fungi, which poses a serious health threat to human life. Environmentally, rotting food products changes the ecosystem by affecting the eating habits of the surrounding animals.
Problems associated with large amount of household waste
Large amounts of household wastes pose major problems especially when they have accumulated to high levels and the systems of waste management are poor.
The type of waste disposal adapted for the household waste disposal determines whether the problems occurring from the accumulation of the waste continues or not. According to Lewis, “…poorly designed or poorly managed landfills create a number of adverse environmental impacts including windblown litter and attraction of vermin” (2007, p.36).
This problem is mainly experienced in the urban settings especially in developing countries where plastic shopping bags and wrapping papers are highly used.
Winds blowing normally carry the light papers from the dump pits and litter the surrounding. On the other hand, the attraction of vermin such as mice and rats becomes evident in the dumpsites from where they get food and shelter consequently becoming their breeding grounds.
With organic wastes especially from the kitchen, decaying is inevitable and the decay results from anaerobic breakdown of the organic waste releasing methane and carbon dioxide.
Knox observes that, “…common by-product of landfills is a gas composed of methane and carbon dioxide produced by organic waste break down an aerobically” (2005, p.112).
These gases cause a major odour problem, air pollution, health problems and can destroy surface vegetation. Health wise, these gases cause respiratory problems, which are expensive to treat.
Large amounts of garbage also cause damage to the infrastructure especially roads in areas where heavy trucks are used to collect and transport the waste to the dumpsites.
According to, Vesiland and Worrell, “fatal accidents and infrastructure damage on the access roads leading to the landfill are common in developing countries” (2002, p.234).
The fatal accidents here involve scavengers buried in the waste piles. Damage to these infrastructures together with the landfill operations poses environmental noise pollution to both animals and human beings living in the surroundings. Moreover, due to the decay and decomposition of the organic waste in these landfills there is a problem of contamination of the underground water and aquifer through leeching.
Even though landfill remains the most common and affordable household waste disposal method, it has adverse health implications. Watts observes that, “decaying organic waste harbours bacteria and fungi and other disease causing vectors, e.g. rat, flies and cockroaches…” (1998, p.345).
For people living close to these dumpsites, they frequently suffer from diseases such as cholera due to contamination of both water and food by dirt from the rotting garbage.
Burning of plastics in the dump sites also contribute to health problems in that, smoke causes respiratory problems especially to small children.
Large household waste being a major problem in most developing countries on both the environment and health of the people, proper waste management policies and mitigation procedures have been set in place to curb these problems.
Solutions to reduce large household waste problems
Effective household waste management will involve reducing the amount of waste generated in a single house, reusing the reusable materials and recycling. As Karlberg and Norin say, “…the 3R’s, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle refers to waste hierarchy as a strategy in waste minimization” (1999 p.567).
The application of these 3R’s strategy can minimize the amount of waste by half, which on the other hand would reduce the problems significantly. Reusing shopping bags instead of buying new ones every time one goes shopping, item repairing other than buying new ones, and removing food and liquid remaining in cans, are some of the ways to reduce to minimum levels household wastes.
Application of penalties also applies in waste management and as LaGrega and Buckingham puts it, “the polluter pays principle is a principle where the polluting party pays for the impact caused in the environment” (2001, p.69).
Instead of generating waste disposed on the environment to cause problems, every household pays fees equivalent to the waste generated, which caters for proper and descent disposal of that waste. In this case, the fees levied on this waste help to regulate the amount of waste generated per household because the higher the waste the higher the fees.
Educational awareness of the waste implication on the environment and the intensive campaign on environmental conservation and proper waste disposal have also helped largely to reduce on garbage generation and consequently reduced the problems caused by large household waste accumulation.
Large household wastes involve wastes from the kitchen in most cases package in plastic bags. Accumulation of these waste pose a series of problems to the environment, health, and life of many living organisms in the affected areas.
To the environment, the wastes cause pollution of the air due to emission of gases such as methane, causes pollution of the soil and contamination of the underground water coupled with noise pollution especially the operations in the dumpsites.
Moreover, decomposition of the organic waste generates greenhouse gases like methane, which cause respiratory problems when inhaled on top of being a contributor of global warming. Moreover, dumpsites harbour bacteria and fungi, which cause diseases. Minimizing these problems involves the application of the 3R’s principle, which advocates for reducing garbage generation, reuse and recycling.
Karlberg, T., & Norin, E., 1999. Food Waste Disposers – Effects on Wastewater Treatment Plants. A Study from the Town of Surahammar. VA: Forsk Rapport.
Knox, A., 2005. An overview of incineration and EFW technology as applied to the Management of municipal solid waste. Canada: University of Ontario.
LaGrega, M., & Buckingham, P., 2001. Environmental resources management Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Lewis, H., 2007. Centenary history waste and waste management in London. New York: Wiley & sons.
Vesiland, A., & Worrell, W., 2002. Solid waste engineering. Australia: Brooks/Cole.
Watts, R., 1998. Non-hazardous waste: source, pathway, Receptors. New York: John Wiley &sons