Did you know solid waste management was more than just garbage dumping in the landfills or being incinerated? While they are undoubtedly the most critical aspects of the waste management process, a variety of elements are incorporated for an optimal integrated solid waste management system. To simply explain it through an example, the treatments techniques implemented to reduce the volume and toxicity of solid waste.
It is important to understand, waste treatment and disposal methods are carefully selected and acted upon based on the form, quantity and composition of the waste material.
Let’s delve right into understanding the primary waste treatment and disposal methods.
The process of using heat to treat waste is called thermal treatment and it can be further classified into three categories—
Incineration involves the presence of oxygen to combust the waste material. It is one of the most common methodologies to treat waste. The process is selected when the waste is being treated as a means to recover energy for heating or electricity.
Gasification and Pyrolysis are two methods of similar nature, both of which are used to decompose organic waste by the waste to a low amount of oxygen and high temperature. Whilst Pyrolysis uses nil oxygen; gasification uses a meagre amount of oxygen.
Open Burning is the most ancient yet the most environmentally hazardous methodology of treating waste. Open burning uses no pollution control method leading to the emission of harmful gases in the environment. While the technique has become less popular, it is still practised by local authorities.
Dumps and Landfills
Sanitary Landfill is the most popular method of waste disposal solution. These landfills are created with the ideology of reducing the risk of environmental or public health hazards borne due to unethical waste disposal. Sanitary landfills are usually created in the areas that can act as natural waste treatment. For instance, a landfill situated in an area that is naturally high in clay soil which is resistant to hazardous waste and can help reduce water pollution.
Controlled Dumps are mostly like the sanitary landfills, but may lack one or two feature as that of a sanitary landfill. These dumps usually have a planned capacity but no cell-planning involved.
Bioreactor Landfills are the result of recent technology research with a superior form of microbiological process to speed up the waste decomposition. The controlling feature of this landfill is the continuous addition of liquid to sustain optimal moisture for microbial digestion.
Biological Waste Treatment
As the term suggests, this waste management method is pure organic in nature and can also be easily used to manage waste at home.
Composting is the most commonly used waste disposal treatment. It is a controlled methodology to aerobically decompose the organic waste materials by the action of tiny invertebrates and microorganisms. The most widely used methods of composting include static pile composting, vermin-composting, windrow composting and in-vessel composting.
Anaerobic Digestion is also one of the most popular biological technique to decompose waste. While composting requires air to enable the growth of microbes for decomposition purpose, Anaerobic digestion uses oxygen and bacteria free environment decomposition of waste materials.
Recycling and waste management system should be rather implemented as the resource management system and not merely a waste management system. The approach that can be considered as the best practice treats recyclables as commodities. This includes managing recyclables and organic waste as sustainable materials management and zero waste.
What can lead to a better waste management system that can also considerably help reduce the pressure on the environment— Prevention; Reuse; Resource Segregation (waste segregation); Recycling; Treatment; Disposal, so forth and so on. To sum it up, it is best to practice the three R’s—Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.