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Sustainability and Waste Management Essay

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Updated: Dec 13th, 2019


The rapid economic development of Australia has underlined the necessity to minimize the impact of human activities on the environment. Scientists and public administrators pay close attention to waste management. One can say that the increasing dependence on landfills is one of the problems that should be addressed by policy-makers.

This paper is aimed at showing that people recover energy from waste, rather than deposit it in landfills. This is the main thesis that should be elaborated. Overall, this strategy has several important advantages that can be of great value to Australian community.

In particular, it can reduce water, air and soil pollution caused by disposing of refuse in landfills. Secondly, this approach can decrease the cost of energy, and this opportunity is important for the economic sustainability of the country. Finally, in the future, this approach can improve the use of land in various urban areas. These are the main aspects that can be singled out.

The challenges associated with landfills

In order to examine this topic, one should first illustrate the problems that are associated with landfills in Australia. It should be mentioned that during the period between 2001 and 2007, the amount of waste, which was deposited in landfills, grew by approximately 12 percent (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013). In 2001, there were 19 million tons, while in 2007 there were 21.3 million tons (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013).

Overall, one can speak about commercial, industrial, and municipal waste that is not recycled in any away (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013). This trend is likely to continue in the future. It should be noted that the dependence on landfills can increase in the future due to the rapid demographic growth of the Australian society.

This argument is particularly relevant, if one speaks about large urban areas such as Sydney or Melbourne that attract people from different parts of the world. There are several challenges that are associated with the growth of landfills, for example, leachates or emissions to water, visual disamenities, or the release of greenhouse gases (BDA Group 2009, p. 4).

Moreover, one should bear in mind that approximately 30 percent of Australian landfills do not have the technologies that can enable them to capture methane and other chemicals that can produce an adverse on the environment (Lancaster 2012, p. 133). Thus, the increasing reliance on landfills can contribute to greenhouse effect (BDA Group 2009).

Furthermore, one should not forget that the decomposition of waste is a very time-consuming process (Lancaster 2012, p. 133). In some cases, the decomposition can take from 50 to 450 years (Lancaster 2012, p. 133).

This is why this trend should not be overlooked by policy-makers who must ensure the environmental sustainability of the country. In particular, they need to find some viable alternatives to landfills that cannot remain the only approach to waste management.

The benefits of waste-to-energy technologies

There are several solutions to this problem, and one of them is the recovery of energy from waste. The most widespread method of achieving this goal is the incineration of refuse. In the past, policy-makers did not favor this approach because the incineration of waste could result in the emissions of various toxic materials such as dioxins and fly ash that can pose a threat to the health of a person (Afgan & Carvalho 2002).

However, in the course of the last two decades, waste-to-energy (WtE) technologies have considerably evolved and their negative impacts have been minimized (Worrell & Vesilind 2011). For example, modern incineration facilities emit a smaller amount of CO2 in comparison with landfills (Letcher 2008, p. 151).

This is one of issues that should be considered by public administrators. Additionally, there are other methods of deriving energy from waste. For example, one can mention pyrolysis, thermal depolymerization, or plasma arc classification (Letcher 2008, p. 151).

These processes can produce fuel-cell hydrogen, biodiesel, bioethanal, or crude oil that are necessary for the generation of energy (Letcher 2008, p. 151). These techniques can be useful for processing different types of waste. Furthermore, such processes can minimize the emission of toxic substances into air.

Thus, one should not suppose that incineration is the only technique that can be used. To a great extent, these examples suggest that technological developments can help people generate from waste. This is one of the points that can be made.

There are several examples that can illustrate the usefulness of WtE technologies. For instance, this approach minimizes the release of various greenhouse gases as carbon dioxide, methane, or nitrogen oxides (Afgan & Carvalho 2002, p. 445). These substances can be used for the generation of energy.

More importantly, this approach can be a valuable tool for decreasing the greenhouse effect which is caused by methane or carbon dioxide (Worrell & Vesilind 2011). This is the main environmental benefits of transforming refuse into a source of energy. Furthermore, these technologies can decrease the overall quantity of waste by more than 80 percent (Worrell & Vesilind 2011).

This benefit should not be overlooked by public administrators because in the future, the increasing amount of refuse can prevent the community from making an effective use of land in various urban areas of Australia which become much more populated (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013). Furthermore, the growth of landfills can be attributed to intensifying economic activities.

Thus, one should find ways of addressing this problem in the following years. To a great extent, the adoption of WtE technologies can be important for improving the environmental sustainability of the country and overall quality of life. These are some of the main examples that can be distinguished.

Additionally, this strategy can help the national economy overcome its dependence on natural resources such as oil, natural gas, or coal that may eventually become depleted (Afgan & Carvalho 2002, p. 445). It should be kept in mind, waste can be used to generate approximately 20 percent of electric power that urban areas need (Worrell & Vesilind 2011, p. 23).

Overall, the investment in these technologies can enable the country to save the cost of generating energy and use it for other purposes such as healthcare or education. Yet, this opportunity is often lost nowadays. For example, a signification fraction of municipal waste combustible; furthermore, it can be used for the generation of energy (Worrell & Vesilind 2011, p. 23).

However, in many cases, it is not processed at all because there are not many facilities that can recover energy from this type of waste. The need to find alternative sources of energy can become even more urgent at the time when the price of fossil fuels increases.

This is why the community should consider the benefits of WtE technologies because they can make Australia more self-sufficient. This is one of the issues that should be singled out because it is important for understanding the economic aspects of waste management.

Admittedly, the recovery of energy from waste is not the only approach that policy-makers can consider. In particular, one should not forget about such a strategy as recycling which can also be viewed as a good alternative to landfills. In many cases, it can be a valid solution to environmental and economic problems.

Nevertheless, this method is not always sufficient for reducing the volume of refuse. The problem is that some materials such as polymers cannot be effectively recycled. However, they can be used for the generation of energy. Therefore, one should not disregard the use of WtE technologies since these tools can decrease the amount of waste produced by various human activities.


Overall, this discussion shows that by recovering energy from waste, one can derive considerable environmental and economic benefits. At present, the Australian community should find some alternative to landfills because the volume of refuse increases significantly due to demographic growth and intensifying economic activities.

The use of various WtE technologies is helpful for reducing the volume of waste that can originate from households or commercial enterprises. Secondly, this type of processing minimizes the emissions of substances that contribute to greenhouse effects. Apart from that, this approach is critical for reducing the dependence on fossil fuels that can eventually become depleted. These are the main issues that can be identified.


Afgan, N & Carvalho, M 2002, New and Renewable Technologies for Sustainable Development, Springer, New York.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013, . Web.

BDA Group 2009, . Web.

Lancaster, S 2012, Green Australia, Wakefield Press, Melbourne.

Letcher, T 2008, Future Energy: Improved, Sustainable and Clean Options for our Planet, Elsevier, Boston.

Worrell, W, & Vesilind, P 2011, Solid Waste Engineering, SI Edition, Cengage Learning, New York.

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