Threats to Biodiversity

Why is solid waste management important in controlling pollution?
Answered by Planet Green
  • Planet Green

    Planet Green

  1. Before we can answer this question, let's define solid waste. Fair warning, it encompasses a lot of stuff. Just look at this definition of solid waste from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation: "Solid waste means any garbage, refuse, sludge from a wastewater treatment plant, water supply treatment plant, or air pollution control facility and other discarded materials including solid, liquid, semi-solid, or contained gaseous material, resulting from industrial, commercial, mining and agricultural operations, and from community activities, but does not include solid or dissolved materials in domestic sewage, or solid or dissolved materials in irrigation return flows or industrial discharges that are point sources subject to permit ... or source, special nuclear or by-product material as defined by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954." Whew! What a mouthful!

    New York state helpfully shortens that definition as follows: "any discarded (abandoned or considered waste-like) materials. Solid wastes can be solid, liquid, semi-solid or containerized gaseous material." Tires, scrap metal, thrown-out appliances and cars, empty aerosol cans and latex paints are just a few examples of solid waste [source: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation].

    Now that we know what it is, we can address why properly managing solid waste is so important in controlling pollution. Consider that the United States consumes roughly 50 percent of our planet's industrial raw materials. Solid waste disposal -- necessary, as it has to go somewhere -- can pollute the air, water and land. Open waste dumps take up precious land and can harm it in the process; dumping solid waste into water can ruin the water source and harm its ecosystem; and garbage incinerators pollute the air. Modern packaging is made to be attractive, convenient and durable, but it uses up natural resources and creates non-biodegradable waste. To help deal with this mountain of a problem, many communities are recycling, or gathering and reusing, glass, plastic, paper and metal.


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