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Lecture 23

11:375:101 Lecture Notes - Lecture 23: Natural Capital, Phytoremediation, Radioactive Waste

Environmental Sciences
Course Code
Craig Phelps

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Solid and Hazardous Waste
Chapter 21: Solid and Hazardous Waste
21-1: What Are Solid Waste and Hazardous Waste, and Why Are They Problems?
Solid waste contributes to pollution and includes valuable resources that could be
reused or recycled
Hazardous waste contributes to pollution, as well as to natural capital degradation,
health problems, and premature deaths
We Throw Away Huge Amounts of Useful Things
Solid waste
Industrial solid waste
Mines, farms, industries
Municipal solid waste (MSW)
Waste ends up in:
Rivers, lakes, the ocean and natural landscapes
Hazardous Waste Is a Serious and Growing Problem
Hazardous waste (toxic waste)
Threatens human health and the environment
Classes of hazardous waste
Organic compounds
Toxic heavy metals
Radioactive waste
Case Study: Solid Waste in the US
Leader in solid waste problem
In trash production, by weight, per person
98.5% of all solid waste is industrial waste
Most wastes break down very slowly
If at all
Case Study: E-Waste - An Exploding Problem
Electronic waste (e-waste) is the fastest growing solid waste problem
Most ends up in landfills and incinerators
Composition includes:
High-quality plastics
Valuable metals
Toxic and hazardous pollutants
Shipped to other countries
International Basel Convention
Bans transferring hazardous wastes from developed countries to
developing countries

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European Union
Cradle-to-grave approach
21-2: How Should We Deal with Solid Waste
A sustainable approach to solid waste is:
First to reduce it
Then to reuse or recycle it
Finally, to safely dispose of what is left
We Can Burn, Bury, or Recycle Solid Waste or Produce Less of It
Waste management
Reduce harm, but not amounts
Waste reduction
Use less and focus on reuse, recycle, compost
Integrated waste management
Uses a variety of strategies
We Can Cut Solid Wastes by Refusing, Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling
Waste reduction is based on:
Refuse - don’t use it
Reduce - use less
Reuse - use it over and over
Using bacteria to decompose biodegradable waste
Six strategies
Change industrial processes to eliminate harmful chemicals
Redesign manufacturing process to use less material and energy
Develop products that are easy to recycle
Eliminate unnecessary packaging
Use fee-per-bag waste collection systems
Establish cradle-to grave responsibility
21-3: Why Are Refusing, Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling So Important?
By refusing and reducing resource use and by reusing and recycling what we use,
Decrease our consumption of matter and energy resources
Reduce pollution and natural capital degradation
Save money
There Are Alternatives to the Throwaway Economy
We increasingly substitute throwaway items for reusable ones
In general, reuse is on the rise
One solution: taxing plastic shopping bags
Ireland, Taiwan, the Netherlands
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