Friday, May 24, 2024

From Waste to Wonder: Transforming Dumpsites into Lush and Vibrant Parks.

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Over the decades, the environmental topic has been on the agenda of many organizations, with sustainability becoming crucial for all, regardless of the industry. Shareholders, customers, and employees are increasingly inquiring on how products and services will be delivered sustainably. Around the world, landfills have become a common phenomenon, especially due to the increased number of wastes from our homes, schools, offices, hospitals, and markets. Some landfills are well managed. However, most communities leave the landfills unattended to which cause land pollution and uncontrolled build-up of all sorts of waste materials.

Due to their non-biodegradable nature, they heap in the landfills where they stay for years. The scenario is even worse for poorly managed waste disposal systems which normally results in damage to the land and the surrounding environment.

All these have resulted in drastic effects. From air pollution where there are more than ten toxic gases emitted from landfills, of which methane gas is the most serious. Methane gas is naturally produced during the process of organic matter decay. Aside from the methane gas, other household and agricultural chemicals that find way to the landfills like bleach and ammonia can generate toxic gases that can greatly impact the air quality within the landfill vicinity. To an increase in the risk of severe health implications that have been reported among individuals living next to landfill areas in numerous studies. For instance, trichloroethylene (TCE) is a carcinogen element often originating from landfill leachate. Other discomfort and self-reported symptoms for people living next to the landfills include sleepiness, headaches, and fatigue.

In 2008, Nairobi, a city in Kenya was suffering immense water contamination due to the heavy disposition of waste around the Nairobi River as well as the region’s booming population. The cabinet secretary of environment and forestry joined efforts with seventeen ministries to come up with plan that not only focused on cleaning up the Nairobi River but also ensured the riparian reserve. From decommissioning the dump site where tones of solid waste was evacuated to bringing in red soil, planting trees and vegetation while continuously ensuring the water was clean. Moreover, there was establishment of walkways, guardhouses, public restrooms, gabions which created employment and empowerment opportunities for the community. Today, thousands of residents relish the Michuki Park that acts as both a relaxation and recreational place.

Waste management requires a strong strategy to handle waste, identify reusable materials to process, and decrease the number of discarded resources going into landfills. Having an approach that proactively addresses conservation needs and plans for reusing materials will help communities move toward a more sustainable future.

Landfill management will always remain a major environmental issue if communities don’t embrace the need of recycling, reducing and reuse. The increased demand of manufactured products is what increases the final waste products that end up in the landfill. In this view, the use of recycling systems for electronic wastes, plastics, paper, metal, glass, and other non-biodegradable materials can provide an effective means of reducing the landfill effects. Reducing our demand for manufactured products and embracing re-use can equally favour reduction to both the toxicity and volume of waste that end up in the landfill as waste. People have no option but to embrace the art of using manufactured products to the end of their useful life.

It’s critical that various industries collaborate to develop more streamlined and efficient ways of addressing waste management requirements. Renderers, municipalities, landfill operators, and consumers can all work together to handle waste output and repurpose materials as much as possible. Rendering is a vital industry that can help save space in landfills and promote increased sustainability. By reusing discarded meat products, animal fats, cooking oils, and other materials, renderers can collaborate with meat processors to decrease waste volumes. Raw proteins, bones, fat, and other materials can go toward vital applications such as pet food, biodiesel fuel, agriculture, and other needs.

The construction of modern landfills with well-engineered and managed disposal facilities can significantly lessen the impacts of landfill on soil, air, and water. Landfills that are well-designed and operated ensure compliance with environmental preservation requirements and it ultimately ensures that the environment is free from contaminants. In addition, the use of such designs ensure the landfills are not located in environmentally sensitive areas and are incorporated with an on-site environmental monitoring system. With on-site environmental monitoring systems, signs of land fill gas and groundwater contamination can be easily detected and controlled.

Finally, entities have taken various initiatives that reduce and manage waste. Through the creation of an efficient plan, it is more efficient to consider waste management as a last resort rather than take the approach of sustainable materials management. In the former, one needs to look at all the generated waste and think of ways to recycle or reuse the waste. However, the latter allows one to make deliberate and informed decisions on the material flow at different stages, generating less waste.

 

Dr. Edward Mungai
Dr. Edward Mungaihttp://www.edwardmungai.com/
The writer, Dr. Edward Mungai, is a global sustainability expert. He is the Lead Consultant and Partner at Impact Africa Consulting Ltd (IACL), a leading sustainability and strategy advisory in Africa. He is also the Chief Editor at Africa Sustainability Matters. He can be contacted via mailto:edward@edwardmungai.com

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