Hazardous waste is one of those issues that we rarely talk about but which isn’t going away. Illegal, and even legal, hazardous waste dumping continues. Its long-term effects on human beings and the environment haven’t received enough attention either. What’s more, it’s become a problem we leave for future generations who may have the unpleasant surprise of finding hazardous waste by accident many decades from now. Here are three of the biggest issues of hazardous waste dumping and what we can do to prevent them.
What Makes It Hazardous?
Hazardous waste is a pretty broad description of many different forms of waste. Specifically, while some waste can be beneficial (such as compostable materials), and others are inconvenient and unsightly (general waste that offers no immediate danger), hazardous waste comes in four types. Specifically, hazardous waste can be ignitable, corrosive, toxic, or reactive. Ignitable waste can catch fire. Corrosive waste can break down other materials through bases and acids or the like. Toxic waste can harm or kill living things. And finally, reactive waste can explode or release harmful fumes when it meets other materials or substances. And yes—some wastes can be all of the above.
A Real Gas
Landfills produce one big issue that we can’t even see. Landfills containing strictly compostable materials alone produce a staggering amount of methane, carbon dioxide, and other gases that are hazardous to plants, animals, and even human life. Hazardous wastes up the ante by turning out still more toxic gases that can outright eliminate all the above.
Loss of Land
Our waste needs to go somewhere, but what we forget is that there are only so many places in the world to put it. Usually—but not always—located away from places where human beings live, landfills and waste disposal sites dominate natural lands and render them useless for anything else. Flora and fauna lose their habitats, and that means the loss of places to grow food, plants that produce air, clean water, and more. Some day, we’ll run out of space.
The last of our three biggest issues of hazardous waste dumping involves the health of everyone alive now and in the future. Hazardous waste can cause horrendous physical and mental health issues. These issues can affect those with already compromised health and cause cancer, congenital disabilities, sterility, breathing issues, and more. When it comes to keeping a community clean and free from hazardous waste, the time to act is now.