Landfill sites are filling up, the UK is struggling to work towards a 50% recycling rate goal set by the last government and in other countries around the world the waste rates are so high that piles of rubbish are simply left by the roadsides, causing grave potential health risks for humans, animals and the environment. This doesn’t just affect them, it affects us all.
Incineration is a controversial idea and when you consider that before modern technologies and new methods came along, toxins and dangerous chemicals were pumped into the air from unregulated incinerators simply burning waste without controls, it’s no wonder. That said, these days the controls and regulations are much better and incineration is mostly about turning waste to energy, creating energy which then doesn’t have to be sourced in other ways whilst also preventing waste from going to landfill.
As with any potentially controversial subjects, there are many who don’t like the method of burning waste. Some people are concerned about whether dangerous chemicals will still be released into the environment and many environmentalists fear that if burning is an easy option, then people will stop putting the effort into recycling, which is still a far more preferred option in the hierarchy of waste. In China this year, protests became violent at the site of a proposed incinerator, with police cars rather ironically being burned and general aggression towards law enforcers. The build did still begin a few days later and with unregulated heaps of rubbish on China’s streets contaminating the ground and water as well as releasing methane into the air, until recycling rates can be boosted incineration is their best option, in China and around the world.
It is so important for us all – governments, businesses and households – to take the issue of waste seriously and to do what we can to reuse and recycle more. Polluted air in China from piles of waste on the streets will affect the atmosphere, the very same one that surrounds our air as much as it does theirs. So next time you have some cardboard, plastic or other recyclable product in your hand, make sure it goes in the correct bin, if it even needs binning at all.