By Tadeo Vargas Juvera
The problem of waste and its elimination has become a global problem. In most cases, the waste is destined for sanitary landfills that are managed by the municipalities or with a permit for their privatization. The other option is incinerators, which carry a great environmental and health cost.
Landfills are large deposits of methane and their waste contaminates groundwater, generally they are in the open air, filling the atmosphere with dangerous gases and toxins. Incinerators, even the so-called “new generation”, which have pollution control devices, emit greenhouse gases and are sources of heavy metals, particles and the carcinogenic dioxins, these facilities, landfills and incinerators poison the air, water and soil.
Not only do these options carry an environmental cost, but they are extremely expensive and the benefit locally is very small. In highly developed countries such as the United States, the cost of urban waste collection exceeds 4,000 million dollars a year, in Asia it is 25,000 million and it is estimated that this figure will double in one generation, in Latin America the cost is very similar To the Asian and the health problems that the bad facilities entail, the little regulation and its effective application, make the figure even higher than in developed countries.
We continue to use expensive and unhealthy waste treatment systems that do not solve the garbage problem and continue to perpetuate the mentality of consumption and waste, based on an old formula that already needs to update techniques and visions, such as recycling and reuse. and begin to consider garbage as a resource, not as a problem to be buried or burned, see the issue of waste locally and globally as an opportunity to recover valuable resources, to create awareness of sustainability and reduce pollution by solid waste.
What is Zero Waste?
The approach of the Zero Waste project is based on a new form of solid waste management at the local level, involving municipal governments, companies and civil society. It focuses on addressing the problem of waste from its origin, focusing not only on the treatment of garbage to be recycled, but also recovering organic material and a better design of products to improve their useful life, implies a change of awareness on many levels of what junk means and the usefulness of it.
This idea stems from the fact that the excessive growth of waste in our industrial society, increasingly consumerist and increasingly wasteful and producing waste, is endangering the ability of natural resources to supply our needs and generations. immediate future, as are our children and grandchildren. ZERO WASTE is an approach to a new philosophy that requires root changes in the way waste flows in our society, the main objective of this idea is an industrial system that directs the recovery of waste instead of its elimination, involving all the actors in the problem.
Delete or Recycle?
Every day we are burning, burying paper, metals and plastics that if recycled we could reduce the destruction of forests, the wear and tear of the soil (erosion) and the depletion of mineral resources -which entails another problem that is the mining industry. Which we will talk about in another moment - there are many examples, if we used the cell phone for what was conceived as cell phone communication, we could thus double its useful life and save a lot on highly polluting materials that are used for the construction of these devices , The same with automobiles, if we double their useful life, we would save approximately 15 tons of the material used for construction, recycling paper would reduce the use of wood, it would save energy and with this the ZERO WASTE project would play an important role in the reduction of CO2 and the permanence of carbon in the soil.
Redesigning production, using new packaging models that allow a longer useful life, using recycled products and stimulating it at different levels of participation, ZERO WASTE, could become a project that will bring economic dividends. Effective separation programs at the neighborhood, municipality and state levels, organic composting systems - organic matter is at least 50% of the waste in most countries - would also generate local income.
ZERO WASTE does not depend only on recycling, the growth of solid waste, the high volume of garbage, it is the result of industrial and media processes that lead us to waste and consume merchandise that many of the times we do not need or because of the same social pressure we do not look for alternatives that are environmentally responsible. The steps to be taken to end the solid waste problem are mainly based on the reduction of garbage generated by the industry and disposed of by consumers. Reduction at source is the only solution and the only possible approach to solve the waste problem in a clean and responsible way.
A global solution to the problem of solid waste is proposed, a solution from the beginning that is involved from the beginning to the end of the production process, also incorporating the principle of Extension of Producer Responsibility (ERP), which ensures that manufacturers are responsible for the product, its packaging and packaging throughout its life cycle, this means that if a product and its packaging cannot be reused, recycled or composted, the producer must bear the cost collection and safe disposal, this can only be achieved with changes in public policies that not only oblige producers to take responsibility for their product and its process, but go further and oblige producers to use only products that they can be recycled, reused or composted and thus avoid reaching the burial or burning solid waste again. Ban the use of products that contain toxic waste, such as batteries, insecticides, lacquers, etc., which pose serious health problems and complicate the effective treatment of non-toxic or less dangerous waste. Governments must ensure that the manufacturers of these products are stopped and banned.
The key to achieving ZERO WASTE is prevention; it is to prevent waste from becoming a problem and turn it into resources, minimize the consumption of packaged products and regulate the practice of producers through public policies.
How to get to BASURA CERO from a community and social level?
Traditionally, governments have opted for waste treatment systems that simply hide the problem, burn it or bury it, but with this the problem, instead of being solved, aggravates it. The blame for this is partly on the authorities, but society also bears an important part of this guilt, we consume, waste, throw away and then forget, we rarely wonder what happens with the garbage, we do not know how the landfills work. or incinerators and the costs of maintaining these costly and ineffective systems. We demand more and more unnecessary products and the media introduce us to an increasingly voracious consumer policy.
Assuming that only with well-organized and projected disposal, recycling and composting systems, based on reduction at source, we will achieve a new way of managing waste that is more sustainable and responsible, and recognizing the role of authorities and producers in this new way of managing. waste, it is also the responsibility of us as a civil society, to make more responsible choices in consumption, to return to the small to the local market or unprocessed products, they will be the part in which we can support an idea of this size, consumption and the lack of responsibility with which we do it are a good measure the cause of waste.