We often talk about waste disposal, but disposal is really the wrong word, because you cannot really dispose of waste. Suppose that you put your waste on a rubbish dump. You have clumped it, but you have not disposed of it.
If you want to do something better than dumping, you can change waste into something different. For example, you can burn it. This will produce heat, which may be useful, but it may also produce poisonous smoke and gases, which are another kind of waste.
Better still, you can change waste into something useful. This is called recycling. For example, old newspapers can be made into new paper.
Industry - making things for people to use - produces a lot of waste. Some industrial waste is just dirty, but some is actually dangerous. Some factories, for example, produce poisonous gases which go up into the air and then make acid rain which kills trees and pollutes water.
Oil drums on a rubbish dump
Oil drums on a rubbish dump
Sometimes toxic chemicals leak into rivers, polluting the water and killing fish and other animals. Toxic chemicals can also pollute the ground. In the USA in the 1930s, a chemical factory dumped a large number of big metal drums of waste chemicals in a hole in the ground. Later a builder covcrcd the place with earth and built a small town called Love Canal there. In the 1970s the drums began to leak into the earth. The trees died. The ground was covered with a horrible, smelly, black slime which burned holes in people's shoes. Everybody had to leave Love Canal. Later eighty-two different toxic chemicals were found in the earth.
There are billions of old tyres on dumps all over the world. Some years ago, fourteen million tyres on a dump in Canada caught fire. The fire burned for two weeks. The burning tyres produced a black, oily smoke and toxic gases, and left behind a poisonous black slime.
Power stations produce electricity for homes and shops, schools and factories. Many power stations also produce smoke, toxic gases, mountains of dirty black waste and
acid rain. When nuclear power stations were first built, many people were pleased because they did not pollute like the old power stations. But nuclear power stations produce nuclear waste, which produces radiation. You cannot see or smell radiation, but it is very toxic - and it stays like that for thousands of years. You cannot easily dispose of nuclear waste. Until we discover a good way of disposing of nuclear waste we will have to live with this dangerous problem.
Waste from farms is a serious problem too. Farm animals produce a lot of dung. The chemicals from the dung can leak into the earth and poison it. They can also leak into rivers and poison the water.
Aeroplanes and cars, boats and buses produce poisonous gases which pollute the air. They also make a lot of noise, which is another kind of pollution. Perhaps the best answer to this problem is a quiet, clean bicycle!
Gases polluting the air, Siberia
People at home produce waste too, and rich countries are more wasteful than poor ones. Every day New York produces more than 24,000 tonnes of waste and a lot of it is sent by sea to dumps thousands of miles away.
Waste from toilets is called sewage. Millions of tonnes of sewage are dumped in the sea every year. The sewage pollutes the water, poisons fish and covers the beaches with brown slime.
Some rich countries dispose of their waste in other countries - they use poor countries as rubbish dumps. That is not really an answer; it is just another problem. Recycling waste is sometimes more expensive than dumping it. Bur if we do not do something soon, our waste will poison our world.
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