Solid waste has become a major upshot of development and modernization in many countries across the world, and its management continues to present many challenges to the developed nations as well as the developing countries.
However, the greatest challenge of solid waste management is felt in third world countries (Thomas-Hope, 1998), where the existing frameworks of solid waste management coupled with weak or inadequate policies regarding the same and population pressures have aggravated the issue to a point of attracting international attention.
This does not imply that developed countries have won the battle of solid waste management; on the contrary, countries such as China and India often stand accused of implementing improper solid waste disposal practices, thus endangering the health of the community and contributing to environmental degradation. It is the purpose of this paper to discuss the issue of improper trash disposal practices and the human health problems that such practices may cause in the community.
A multiplicity of actions that we engage in on daily basis may in actual sense constitute improper trash disposal practices by the fact that we do not follow the proper procedures to discard the trash, mostly generated from our interactions with the environment (Thomas-Hope, 1998).
At the most basic level, we often drop banana peels in places not designated for garbage disposal, in the process endangering the lives of passersby, who may step on the peel and slip, causing injury. This in itself constitutes an improper trash disposal practice.
At a more specific level, some companies are known to drain chemical byproducts from their manufacturing processes into the nearby rivers, in the process generating a situation which can have far-reaching ramifications for the environment, the aquatic life, and for the public who may end up using such water for domestic purposes (Leach, 2010).
Other waste management practices end up mixing trash that can decompose with others that cannot decompose, resulting in an escalation of the waste disposal problem as seen in most Asian countries that are struggling to clear man-made ‘mountains’ of garbage generated by employing improper trash disposal practices (Thomas-Hope, 1998).
As such, it can be argued that methods and techniques of waste disposal that end up occasioning negative consequences for the environment, natural vegetation, inhabitants (people and animals), and the public health constitutes improper trash disposal practices.
Improper trash disposal practices may lead to a number of human health problems. Indeed, a meta-analysis of several environmental studies done by Thomas-Hope (1998) demonstrates that the consequences of improper disposal of waste causes governments to spend huge sums of money to mitigate against disease outbreaks or in treating individuals whose conditions are largely derived from the poor waste disposal practices.
In the decomposing phase, various types of garbage may combine to form gases and chemicals that are potentially dangerous to the health of individuals. As unpleasant as it may seem, dead animals and raw sewage are among the types of organic waste that may find their way into the ‘mountains’ of garbage in the absence of an effective solid waste management system (Leach, 2010).
Assuming that such an area is hit by a devastating earthquake or rains heavily, the waste and its poisonous emissions and chemicals will be soaked and then carried through the landmass and into the underground water table, which is a fundamental source of the water that we drink and use on daily basis.
These chemicals and compounds can cause irreversible health conditions in people who take such water, and studies have demonstrated that various forms of cancers, tooth decay, stomach problems, and birth defects are often caused by such contamination (Leach, 2010). These medical conditions end up consuming vast financial resources in treatment, but the solution can be readily found in developing and implementing effective trash disposal practices.
As demonstrated in Haiti after the devastating earthquake, disease outbreaks are likely to occur in areas with inadequate mechanisms or frameworks of disposing waste. The open pits and uncollected garbage has caused Haitians untold suffering in cholera outbreaks and diarrhea.
Away from Haiti, it has been observed that Malaria increases in areas where water collects in uncollected plastic bags because mosquitoes find ready bleeding grounds (Leach, 2010). As such, it is imperative to encourage people not to dispose their plastic wrappings and bags in the open fields within the community as this is likely to lead to more health challenges for the people residing in the area.
Lastly, the deterioration of air quality and climate change occasioned by improper trash disposal practices can cause human health problems, some of which may be very difficult to treat (Leach, 2010).
It is well known that the process of waste decomposition generates methane, a greenhouse gas that is considerably responsible for some of the changes in the global temperatures that is being experienced, and which have made many countries to come together to fight global warming. Indirectly, many of the diseases and parasites which threaten the health and wellbeing of individuals are known to thrive well in conditions brought about by global warming.
As such, it can be argued that the production of the methane gas upon decomposition of waste which has been improperly disposed off occasions the right conditions for disease prevalence through global warming. Burning of waste in the open is also an improper waste disposal method since it releases dangerous and toxic chemicals such as dioxin in to the environment (Leach, 2010). Such gases have the capacity to cause serious public health risks.
As such, the focus should be on all the interested stakeholders to develop mechanisms, frameworks, and practices that will necessitate proper trash disposal for the sake of the environment and its inhabitants, and for the sake of our own prosperity and well-being.
Leach, M. (2010). Effects of improper solid waste disposal. Retrieved November 2 2010 http://www.ehow.com/about_5074838_effects-improper-solid-waste-disposal.html
Thomas-Hope, E. (1998). Solid waste management: Critical issues for developing countries. Kingston: Canoe Press