There are considerable waste management issues in our country since many of the consumer products that are sold in our stores contain more and more toxic substances, and these ingredients are becoming more prevalent in our waste dumps. Solid waste is basically garbage that we dispose of from our homes and businesses, and it and its polluted ingredients are growing at a disturbing rapid pace.
Harmful ingredients such as mercury, PBDE materials, which are flame retardant chemicals, and other chemicals and hazardous materials are going to eventually be a decisive impact upon our environment and the public health of our citizens.
In New England, the situation is near to a crisis because of the close proximity of populations which makes the possibility of toxic pollution even more of a potential problem. Many of the much older facilities which municipalities have traditionally run have been shut down because of the concerns for the environment.
In the United States we are the champions of waste production. With only 4% of the population of the world, we produce 30% of the total garbage, or waste generation of the entire world. Manufacturing companies and corporations continue to make profits by continuing to make products with ingredients in them that are harmful when they are discarded, and there seems to be no incentives that would force any different behaviors.
There is no doubt that we are in boom times for the chemical industries who are capable of making everything from more and more chemicals. Many of these items are harmless when we use them, but are damaging to the environment when we discard them in our garbage.
Currently, our parade of consumer products that we use each and every day contain more than 60,000 chemicals are in many products that are in our homes and on our shelves. A good example is a chemical called Biphenyl-A which is a very common ingredient in many of the plastic toys we purchase for our children. When the toy is discarded to the trash heap, what happens to that chemical. No one really knows. This is only one example of thousands of instances, and we as a society have no solutions currently to deal with these issues.
The packaging of items is now the most serious waste problem that exists in our society. Over 30% of the solid waste in municipalities is in the form of packaging, and nearly half of that packaging is in the form of plastic.
Plastic does not degrade, but it just breaks down without biodegrading. Over the years in goes through a process that is termed as photodegradation where it is broken down by sunlight. It breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces until it is just plastic dust. It does not go away and it is always there for centuries, giving ecosystems fits.
In regard to the volume of plastic alone that is just tossed away, there is a great degree of concern about the outcome. These waste management issues are certainly disturbing, and steps need to be taken to set new directions for the solutions.