Waste management has recently become a big challenge to many countries in the world. There is no doubt that developed nations have continued to deal with increased piles of waste every year, possibly owing to the impacts of heightening urbanisation and economic growth.
Obviously, the levels of waste material will tend to go up with increase in the population of people in a particular region. In this regard, high populations would mean high levels of waste thus resulting to poor management of the waste, owing to limited management systems and resources. These, actually, are some of the problems experienced by Australia when it comes to waste management.
Australia is said to be among the countries that have to deal with the highest quantities of waste in the world. However, most of this waste is disposed in landfills that have been established in different parts of the country to reduce littering. Even though this system has its own benefits that would make it more preferable, it does not fit in the standards of the global policies advocating for a clean environment.
The reasons for that are deeply discussed in this paper, where the need for better alternatives is also emphasized. This paper proposes that Australia should try to recover energy from waste rather than dispose of to landfills.
Waste management has become a matter of concern in the contemporary world, considering the many effects that can arise from poor management of waste material. For instance, doctors and researchers have constantly associated poor waste management with numerous health problems affecting humans today.
This, however, does not seem to be a big deal to some countries in the world who have gone to the extent of allowing the status of their economies compromise the plans for the health of their populations. In other words, countries have become more reluctant in allocating enough funds to municipal bodies associated with management of waste, to enable them handle this role more effectively.
As a matter of fact, countries have always appeared to be too economical in matters to do with waste management. This aspect can be observed in the case of Australia, where the use of landfills has been a common practice for many years. Landfills are said to be the cheapest option financially compared with other systems and for that reason, they have remained a better choice for the Australians.
Even though landfills have been the most suitable option in Australia when it comes to waste management, their use over the years has continued to raise many environmental and health concerns.
Based on the findings of some recent studies conducted with the aim of determining problems that may arise from various ways used in the management of waste in the country, landfills alone have contributed to numerous environmental and health related issues (Ximenes & Gardner 2008).
These would include issues like contaminated soils and ground water, possibility of fire risks arising from the waste material, risk of diseases, and emission of methane and other greenhouse gasses that have been major contributors to the pressing issue of global warming. Moreover, some landfills in Australia have become a terrible sight, and this raises more environmental and health concerns.
As a matter of fact, these increasing concerns about landfills are among the factors that have attracted the full attention of the National Waste Policy, forcing it to come up with new approaches geared at addressing the issue of waste disposal more appropriately.
Even though the government has had a significant role to play in this matter, the most desirable outcomes towards a clean Australia have been realised through the efforts of private companies offering waste management services in the country.
Some of these companies are J.J. Richards & Sons Pty Ltd and Corio Waste Management (Warland & Ridley 2005). The main reason why firms in the private sector would be more active in this role compared to government-affiliated organisations is because they are well equipped to provide quality waste management services at a reasonable cost.
One of the key goals of the Australian National Waste Policy is to campaign seriously for reduced waste in the country. In order to achieve this objective within the shortest time possible, the policy has unveiled a comprehensive initiative on waste management.
This program has featured a number of key areas of concern that would include pursuing sustainability, getting commitment to full responsibility, introduction of new and better solutions, showing evidence, shaping the market, and reduction of hazard associated with waste material.
There can’t be any doubt that this program would set the pace for a well-organised approach towards the management of solid waste material in the country. Through this program, Australia will be on the right track towards the achievement of a sustainable waste management program.
However, there is no way this can be realised in the near future if the right interventions are not applied. Australia will have to focus more on effective initiatives that will not only help to clean the environment, but ones that will be beneficial to the citizens in other ways. In this regard, a program whereby waste is turned into energy will be a better alternative here.
Waste material can easily be converted into useful energy in the society through gasification systems. Incineration is the most common waste-to-energy system that can be used to produce energy in form of heat and electricity.
Even though the idea of waste-to-energy has never attracted much attention from the world, it has been a reliable source of energy for countries such as Japan and USA, where it has dramatically helped to improve problems associated with waste disposal. Waste-to-energy can do well in highly populated areas where there is constant supply of waste material.
Australia alone produces about twenty million tonnes of solid waste on an annual basis, and this means there can be enough residual waste that can be used to generate energy for the Australians after recyclable material has been removed (Morton & Hoegh-Guldberg 2009). This way, the country can benefit a lot from its waste matter rather than putting it in landfills, where it is eventually burned to reduce the volumes.
The other reason why Australia should see waste-to-energy as a better alternative to landfills is that, landfills usually consume a lot of space. In this regard, more land will be required to ensure that waste management is effectively undertaken across the country using this particular approach.
This will eventually lead to a serious shortage of space thus posing significant land problems to Australia, which is no doubt among the rapidly developing countries in the world. However, construction of incinerators will require less land, and this way, Australia will end up saving enough land that will efficiently cater for the increasing demands of its huge population.
More importantly, this will be a better way for Australia to utilise its huge amounts of waste resulting from the extravagant habits of its high population. In fact, most landfills in the country are overfilled, thus forcing the government to export millions of tonnes of waste material to other developed countries for either disposal or recycling purposes.
Apart from being too costly, this results into serious impacts on humans and ecosystems in the receiving countries. However, by adopting a program where different technologies can be used to convert waste into energy, Australia can largely benefit from its waste.
As it would be observed, one of the biggest concerns of the global community is to minimise the effects of global warming through all possible ways. This initiative is already been undertaken in some developed countries where the use of green fuels and other renewable forms of energy has become a common practice.
Australia should try to follow the same pattern by turning most of its waste material into energy, rather than disposing it in landfills. Waste on landfills would just end up releasing more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, thus multiplying the effects of global warming.
Evidence from other developed countries has shown waste-to-energy facilities to have less effect on environment, compared with other ways used to manage waste in those countries.
This will also help to diminish Australia’s dependence on fossil fuels that are usually expensive, and which also contribute highly to the issue of global warming. More importantly, this will be a better way to address the various health and environmental issues associated with landfills as it is shown in this paper.
Even though there has been a claim from some organisations that incinerators could be a big threat to recycling, this is nothing but a fallacy spread by some ardent opponents of the plan (Bambrook & Sproul 2011). However, the truth of the matter is that, conversion of waste-to-energy is based on specific circumstances whereby priority is given to recycling, and anything else can come later.
In this regard, people are advised to recycle all they can before turning up the rest for energy purposes. Besides, both recycling and waste-to-energy can coexist in a country like Australia where there is more waste than the country can manage.
More importantly, the two options are complementary in helping the country minimise the growing rate of landfills within its borders. Obviously, incinerators would need a guaranteed supply of waste material for an extended period of time, and this is a requirement that Australian waste resources can fulfill.
As it is observed in this paper, it is time Australia focuses on recovering energy from waste, rather than disposing of to landfills. Converting waste into energy comes with a lot of benefits as it is shown in the paper, and this can save the country from the diverse problems associated with landfills and other approaches used in waste management.
This way, Australians will end up having double benefits since their efforts to achieve a clean environment will be paying off in terms of energy. More importantly, this will also serve as a good idea in the country’s plan to unveil a sustainable waste management program.
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Ximenes, F & Gardner, W 2008, ‘The decomposition of wood products in landfills in Sydney, Australia’, Waste Management, vol. 28, no. 11, pp. 234-235.