Waste management and the process of life

By Christopher Cohen, Sports Editor

There’s a cosmic principle that declares for every entity that goes up, another entity is pushed down.

This should not be a surprise to anyone that the build-up and collection of trash has increased tremendously over the last few decades.

In April 2016, LA Times’ Ann Simmons reported that each year the nations of this globe produce around 1.3 billion tons of trash and waste to be disposed.

Despite this, Simmons and several other waste reduction experts acknowledge that “More than half the world’s population does not have access to regular trash collection” and current estimates project the 1.3 billion annual tons to rise to 4 billion tons by 2100, the turn of our grandchildren’s coming century.

There should also be no surprise that the five largest producers of waste on this planet in order include: The United States of America, China, Brazil, Japan, and Germany.

Despite the fact that China’s population has consistently been four times as large as that of the United States, the U.S. has continuously lead the globe in annual waste produced.

Simmons stated in her article, “The U.S. produced about 228 million tons of waste in 2006, a figure that climbed to 254 tons by 2013.”

If those figures aren’t enough to place in perspective the waste produced by our nation in relation to the nations of our globe, the World Bank provides alternative statistics.

In a comprehensive report released in 2011 that provided information and data from previous years, the World Bank concluded that the United States produced 624,700 metric tons of trash per day, followed closely by the significantly larger and compressed China who produces 520,548 metric tons on a daily basis. In third place, Brazil produces 149,096 metric tons per day.

The top five nations by population as of 2016 are as follows: China, India, U.S., Indonesia, and Brazil. Logically, the three largest producers of waste by metric tons per day would sit among the top national populations.

However, India, who has a population that is also four times as large as the United States, just eclipses the 100,000 metric tons of waste per day mark.

Waste and trash are not just an issue of space and disposal. There are also significant concerns regarding the process of disposal and the price of such processes. Some accounts estimate the United States by itself contributes $200 billion annually to combatting waste management and the loss of energy resources from operating such a management system.

Some suggestions gaining ground in this conversation revolve around the concept of incineration. However, arguments against this matter typically lead the conversation into how the incineration process will not continue to add to the concerns of air pollution and atmospheric destabilization.

The United States is a nation that charges certain disposals based on proportioned values agreed upon through legislation, whereas Sweden has completely adopted an incineration process, and even imports trash so as to maintain their recycling plants.

The reason Sweden imports so much trash is because they’ve reconfigured their recycling system to utilize the stored heat from waste disposal, which can be distributed to residences during the harsh Scandinavian winters.

Sweden was one of the first nations to implement a heavy tax  on fossil fuel usage in 1991, and has since continued to digress from the use of oil, natural gas, and other environmentally harmful energy resources. 

Sweden’s ultimate goal is for other countries to follow in the footsteps of this foundation, so as to create, operate, and maintain their own local and national facilities for waste management.

The other plus side is that this process requires a significant amount of time to develop a stable and steady infrastructure that will utilize to the best of its abilities the recycling and heating systems.

Not only does Sweden have the process down for transitioning waste disposal into heating and other resourcing; the Swedes have also developed the capability to replace much of their waste resources with biofuel resources that would be just as effective.

The nation of Sweden understands the value of heat as it just touches the Arctic Circle, as well as the necessary responsibility of utilizing resourcefulness in their environmental conditions.

Because Sweden is so directly affected by severe and alternating weather conditions, the nation must be consistently prepared to utilize their resources for maximum effectivity.

Unlike the United States, whereas of this year 55 percent of trash is placed into landfills, (causing countless environmental concerns to ecosystems and individual health concerns), the European Union has outlawed landfills, prompting them to discard their waste by alternative processes.

Unfortunately, some casualties from disregarding the urgency of these concerns have already begun to take notice.

In 2011, the Smithsonian’s Collective Encyclopedia of Animals labeled the polar bear as a vulnerable population among the species of the Arctic.

This came following an extensive study that was published in the Ecological Application that cumulatively calculated a 40 percent loss of polar bear population between 2001-2010. The estimated drop in population accounts for a subtraction of 700 individuals from an originally 1500 accounted for.

Clearly the largest threat facing the polar bear population is what we call ‘Climate Change’ no matter what form it takes.

Increased temperatures in the Arctic have been melting the ice in unsteady sequences, delaying the hunting seasons and destabilizing the environment that the bears build their burrows in to hibernate and protect cubs.

As the ice continues to dwindle while humanities inability to cough up the dough towards the ultimate means of waste disposal, we will continue to see this rising trend in waste and a disregard for the endgame; while a decline in once proud species continues to tumult until we are next on Mother Nature’s pecking order.


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