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With climate change and environmental degradation providing an ever-looming threat, it’s more important than ever to make sure that you’re disposing of your junk in the most environmentally respectful manner possible. Each year the world generates 1.3 billion tons of waste, and that number is expected to reach 4 billion tons per year by 2100.
And unfortunately, Canadians aren’t just a part of the problem; we’re among the worst offenders. A recent study states that Canadians produce more garbage per capita than any other country in the world.
It’s easy to think that throwing out small bits of garbage doesn’t matter, the truth is that small bits of waste add up to have a big impact: Canadians throw away approximately 57 million single-use plastic straws every day. That’s more than 20 billion each year.
While no Canadian would take pride in being the world’s per-capita leaders in garbage production, the silver lining is that there are a lot of ways we can get better:
Failing to dispose of garbage and junk properly can cause toxic gasses and chemicals to be released into the air when waste evaporates. This leads to an increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, all of which get trapped by our ozone layer and contribute to climate change.
In addition to harming the air, this garbage can also cause damage to both the land and sea. When hazardous chemicals are not properly disposed of, they can seep into the soil, which damages plant life in the area. Other materials that break down slowly remain in a landfill for generations, continuing to cause problems for decades. In the oceans, 14 billion pounds of garbage pollutes the water each year, most of which is composed of plastic.
In addition to harming the planet, poor waste disposal practices can cause serious harm directly to human beings.
Studies suggest that living around waste sites can put people at greater risk of cancer, create a higher risk of congenital defects in babies, make people more likely to contract a skin infection, and produce airborne pollution that can contribute to asthma and other health problems.
There are several ways that waste can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way, and potentially even a net positive for the planet, including:
Jurisdictions all over the world have come up with various approaches for removing waste in a way that’s responsible and environmentally respectful.
In Indonesia, trash is actually used as currency; garbage bags are traded for medical services and medicines. The “trash cash” collected is converted into money, which is then pumped back into the country’s healthcare network.
Sweden’s waste-to-energy system efficiently provides direct heating to 950,000 households, and electricity to 260,000 homes. Sweden imports trash from other European countries to fuel its power needs; 700 kg of rubbish can create up to 250 kg of energy and fuel.
Eco-Art Uganda, an artists’ collective dedicated to promoting environmental awareness, created an amusement park for children from discarded materials. Recycled swings and life-size board games made from plastic bottles are just some of the attractions at the Eco-Art amusement park.
After being closed and sealed off with soil in 1981, Hong Kong turned a former landfill into a multipurpose playground in 2004. It’s powered by wind turbines, solar cells and energy derived from methane, which is generated from the decomposed trash.
Eco-friendly junk removal is not just safer than other forms of junk disposal; it sets off a chain reaction that makes the entire environment cleaner and healthier.
For instance, recycling newspapers can save about 250,000,000 trees each year. These trees suck CO2 out of the atmosphere, decreasing the number of airborne toxins and pollution and leading to cleaner air.
That cleaner air is absorbed by both animals and plants, including the ones we eat in the form of meat and vegetables. And because they’re absorbing cleaner air, the food they produce is ultimately healthier and of a higher quality.
Removing junk in an eco-friendly way is one of the best, most responsible ways to help fight climate change, making our air cleaner, our plants and animals healthier, and our way of life more sustainable for future generations.