Do you ever think about the impact of your garbage on the environment and the associated health risks? If you care about climate change and reducing environmental pollution, knowing how garbage and landfill sites contaminate soil, water and the air with dangerous toxic chemicals is an essential step towards leading a more sustainable lifestyle.
If you follow the information provided below, you will be well on your way to understanding how improper disposal of waste and household trash creates hazardous toxic chemicals such as carbon dioxide and methane.
Table of contents
Before we dive into the effects of pollution, let's explore the various types of toxic substances that municipal solid waste processes create.
What type of pollution does household garbage cause?
Household waste sent to municipal landfill produces many dangerous gasses which contribute to global warming, human health risks and other environmental issues. The most common types of gas emitted by landfills are carbon dioxide, methane, ozone and nitrogen dioxide. Methane is a particular concern in landfills because it is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, which significantly impacts global warming.
In addition to being harmful to the environment, landfills are also a risk to human health, which we will explore in the next section.
Effects of garbage pollution on health and the environment
As we know, landfills have a significant impact on the environment and human health. Municipal solid waste sent to landfill is linked to respiratory diseases such as lung cancer and asthma, causes significant environmental impacts like air pollution and water pollution, while also being dangerous to animals and wildlife.
1. Risks of municipal solid waste: air and water pollution
Landfills produce a significant amount of pollution which contribute to environmental and public health risks. Depending on where your garbage goes, it can produce a variety of pollutants. The most common air pollutants that are emitted from municipal landfills are carbon dioxide (a potent greenhouse gas), methane (which is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide), nitrogen dioxide (which can cause lung and throat inflammation), and hydrogen sulphide (which is linked to decreased cognitive and respiratory function).
These aren't the only toxic substances that come from landfills however. Trace pollutants such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes are emitted and combine to form ozone – a highly volatile greenhouse gas which can reduce the productivity of photosynthesis which can make plants unhealthy. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, ozone causes coughing and throat irritation.
2. Risks to human health: respiratory problems and birth defects
As we know, landfills increase the amount of toxic substances which contribute to local air pollution. Many of these compounds combine to create the perfect storm for respiratory diseases in those affected landfill air pollution. Common respiratory diseases that researchers find among residents living close to landfill include asthma and lung cancer.
Studies have also linked landfill pollution to birth defects. Living within 2 miles of a landfill site increases the chances of non-genetic birth defects by 33% according to a study in the UK.
3. Risks of hazardous waste to wildlife & biodiversity
Animals and wildlife are also impacted by Municipal solid waste collection processes. The sheer size of landfills means that many species are lost per hectare with one study showing that between 30 – 300 species are lost per hectare. Certain species are attracted to landfill as a source of food which is potentially harmful to their health. If landfill sites are located close to coastal areas, toxic materials may find their way into the ocean causing harm to other animals in the ocean by contaminating water and introducing other items like plastic bags. Plastic waste is extremely dangerous to wildlife, particularly in marine environments which can cause them to become trapped while also contributing micro plastic pollution.
Landfills also introduce pests which are harmful to other species and public health. Pests are notorious for carrying diseases and are often attracted to organic waste as a source of food. Once they are introduced to the environment, they can be difficult to get rid of and may require the use of harmful pesticides.
3 solutions to trash pollution you can try at home
Even though landfill presents significant environmental threats and health risks, there are solutions which you can adopt to limit the amount of solid waste that ends up in landfill. This will reduce air and water pollution, increase biodiversity and reduce the associated health risks.
1. Traditional home composting
Composting is a biological process facilitated by bacteria, oxygen, moisture and organisms such as red worms, which break down solid waste into compost. Compost is used as a solid and/or liquid fertilizer and is often used on farms and in gardens since it is useful for plant growth and healthy top-soil.
There are enormous benefits to composting. The first benefit is that it reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill, which contributes to emissions like methane and carbon dioxide. Another significant benefit is that it provides nutrients to plants that can be used to grow your own food which saves money and further reduces carbon emissions.
Pro tip: If you're wondering what can be composted, then a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if it can grow – usually, if it grows from the ground, then it can be composted. For example, you can compost vegetables, fruits, yard trimmings, flowers and paper.
2. Compost with Lomi
A great option to consider when managing your own household waste is to use Lomi – a convenient kitchen appliance which turns organic materials like yard trimmings, food waste and paper into nutrient rich dirt that has a variety of uses. Lomi does this by using heat and abrasion to break down organic waste into smaller pieces, which accelerates the decomposition process. Additionally, Lomi uses Lomi pods to fortify your soil with natural microbes that accelerate the decomposition process.
Using Lomi has many advantages. It eliminates the need for organic waste to be sent to landfill sites which reduces methane and carbon emissions. Lomi is your opportunity to take garbage disposal off your to-do list!
Pro tip: Lomi approved products such as bioplastics and other compostable non-food items can also be broken down by Lomi.
3. Grow your own food
Growing your own food is a great way to reduce the amount of waste you produce. It cuts down the amount of food packaging and it's a great way to use the nutrient rich dirt produced by Lomi. Growing your own food also means that your food retains more nutrients that aren't contaminated with pesticides and other chemicals. In addition to the health benefits of growing your own food, the carbon footprint is very small.
Growing your own food also adds to biodiversity in your neighbourhood. The added vegetation can provide habitat and food for animals and insects (such as bees), while simultaneously improving soil quality and extra shade on hot days. Not to mention that free food is a great benefit! By growing your own food, you also reduce dependency on plastics and packaging which reduces the need for recycling.
Pro tip: Hydroponic farming is a popular way to grow food if you don't have a garden. Hydroponic farming can use both liquid nutrients and soil.
Landfills create many different types of pollution with risks for the environment and public health. You might feel overwhelmed by the different types of pollution generated by household waste. Educating ourselves about pollution can help us make better decisions about waste collection processes which will protect the environment and human health. By switching to more sustainable practices such as composting and growing your own food, you will help reduce hazardous waste disposal such as industrial waste from plastic bags and packaging.
If you want to be a more conscious consumer, you may want to consider investing in kitchen appliances that reduce household waste, such as Lomi.
Written by: Adam Morgan