Negative Effects of Improper Solid Waste Disposal on Human Health

solid waste management

The rapidly growing population, urbanization and changing consumption patterns in India has led to the generation of vast quantities of solid waste. As per the Swachhata Sandesh Newsletter released by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in January 2020, 1,47,613 metric tonnes of solid waste is generated per day, from 84,475 wards across India. The existing process for collection, transportation and disposal, as part of municipal solid waste management, is under undue stress. Thus, improper solid waste disposal poses a great risk to public health. 

According to the Task Force of the Planning Commission, organic waste generated at households such as food waste, kitchen waste, vegetable waste, fruit peels, paper etc. constitutes about 52% of the total waste. This organic waste can undergo fermentation process, creating a conducive environment for microbial pathogens to survive and thrive. Thus, it may become a serious threat and cause health hazards. Direct contact with such solid waste can cause different types of infections and chronic ailments. 

There are several harmful effects of solid waste. For example, unattended waste on the roadside, which is a common site in different places of India, can become the breeding ground for mosquitoes, cockroaches and rats. These rodents are known for spreading diseases such as Malaria, Dengue and cause food poisoning as well. Thus, improper solid waste disposal and littering can cause disease-carrying pests to affect public health on a large scale. 

Also read: India’s Gigantic Problem Of Solid Waste

Solid Waste Management Resource

Municipal workers and rag pickers are the most affected groups if solid waste is disposed of in unscientific ways. Exposure to toxic substances and pollutants can affect human health. Coming in contact with such waste can lead to skin irritation and blood infections. Experts point out that children are most vulnerable to pollutants. 

Water and Air Pollution 

A Planning Commission report released in 2014 showed that more than 80 per cent of the waste collected in India is disposed of in dump yards improperly. This unhygienic method of waste disposal causes health hazards. Also, it is commonly observed that waste is dumped on the streets and the drains. During the rainy season, the garbage containing harmful substances is washed down and end-up floating in nearby ponds and rivers, causing water pollution. Human consumption from polluted water bodies can lead to diseases like cholera, diarrhea and dysentery. 

The integrated solid waste management system hierarchy, prepared by MoUHA in 2016, shows landfills as the least preferred method for solid waste disposal. It is because landfills cause air pollution. People living near landfills may inhale pollutants, and toxins like hydrogen sulphide (H2S) emitted from the landfill site. 

Different types of incinerators used for municipal solid waste management show   high toxic emission levels that can put human health at risk. Although the scientific studies conducted on the health effects due to landfills and incinerators are not conclusive, it certainly shows the possibility of adverse health effects on humans. 

These are some of the improper solid waste disposal effects on human health. 

Besides health hazards for humans, improper solid waste disposal affects animals and marine life too. Animals that consume polluted drinking water or cows that feed on solid waste on the streets, are in danger of acquiring different types of diseases. The landfill sites also pose risk to animal life. As for marine life, pollution of water bodies due to waste can disturb the balance of the aquatic ecosystem, leading to the death of marine animals. 

 Thus, preventive solid waste management measures must be taken to avoid improper solid waste disposal. One of the most preferred methods to manage solid waste is to treat the waste at the source. 

Composting is one of the best methods for solid waste management. People can practice composting at their homes to prevent the burden of waste on communities, authorities and the government. Proper segregation of waste should be done, and the organic waste must be kept aside for composting. You can compost different house and kitchen waste, vegetable and fruit waste, leftover food, paper etc. Once the compost is ready, it can be used as a fertilizer. 

You can use SoilMate, a product from Organica Biotech that helps to decompose the organic waste effectively and naturally and boosts the composting process. Its special formulation of rapidly acting bacteria decomposes a variety of organic waste and gives rich and fine compost. All of us must play a role to protect the populace from the negative effects of solid waste, and SoilMate can help you play your part effectively. 

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Post by Rohan Bhansali