Any waste that isn’t recycled or reused usually ends up at a landfill site, which is essentially a large location designed to be filled with rubbish. Some landfill sites fill a hole in the ground with waste whereas others pile the waste directly onto the ground.
Burying waste at landfill sites, however, should be a last resort as this approach is known to cause a wide range of environmental and health issues. In addition to creating an eye sore, they are a significant source of pollution (producing methane, an extremely hazardous greenhouse gas) and the rubbish breaks down at a very slow rate. Chemicals and harmful substances can also leak into the surrounding soil.
Also known as combustion, incineration is a waste management method that involves burning solid wastes at incredibly high temperatures in order to convert them into heat, gas, steam and ash. Although this solution produces energy to generate heat/electricity and it reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill sites, it is far from ideal because incinerators produce greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
Which is the Best Waste Management Method?
The waste hierarchy ranks waste management methods according to which is best for the environment. It highlights the various solutions for waste before it is sent to landfill.
It prioritises preventing waste in the first place, using less materials and keeping products for longer. But when waste is created, ideally it will be either re-used, recycled or recovered. The last and most undesirable option is to dispose of the waste via landfill or incineration.