Waste not, want not

 (photo credit: PEXELS)
(photo credit: PEXELS)
Waste management has become one of the most important issues in modern society. Humanity has always produced waste, but the exponential increase in the production of waste in recent years is due to the rapid economic growth and the rise in the standard of living.

Without efficient management of the treatment and disposal of waste, humanity is in danger of being overwhelmed by the amount of waste it produces.  

Disposable disposition 

Economic growth increases industrial waste, while the rise in the standard of living causes immense increases in urban waste. Primitive societies produce the smallest amount of waste because they have a culture that places a premium on the economical use of resources. However, so-called advanced cultures place a premium on unlimited consumption without a thought for tomorrow.

According to estimates, in 2019 alone global waste amounted to 53.6 million tons. This works out to an annual 7.3 kilograms per person. On a daily basis, this is an average of 0.74 to 4.54 kilograms, depending on the country and its level of development. On a per capita basis, Canada tops the list, with Western Europe and the US close behind.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the sub-Saharan countries generate daily per capita waste of less than one kilogram. Although high-income countries account for only 16% of the world’s population, they generate about 34% of global waste. However, much to the detriment of the world’s ecological well-being, low-income countries are rapidly catching up. 

Future projections

Looking ahead, global waste is expected to increase to 3.40 billion tons by 2050, more than double the population growth over the same period. 

Overall, there is a positive correlation between waste generation and income level. Daily per capita waste generation in high-income countries is projected to increase by 19% by 2050, compared to low- and middle-income countries, where it is expected to increase by 40% or more. This is because high-income countries are devoting larger resources to waste management, while the economic growth and standard of living in low-income countries are increasing,

Photo credit : PexelsPhoto credit : Pexels

Recycling rates

Germany devotes large resources to ecological issues. It has the largest recycling rate in the world. It recycles 56.1% of the waste it generates. Austria comes second, with a 53.8% recycling rate. It is closely followed by South Korea, with a recycling rate of 53.7%, The UK is fourth on the list, with a rate of 52.2%. Switzerland comes fifth, with a recycling rate of 49.7%.

Israel's policies and problems

Where does Israel stand in the global ecological pecking order? It is high in generating waste and low in recycling. On a daily per capita basis, Israel generates an average of 1.7 kilograms of waste but recycles barely 20%.

The Israeli government is well aware of the need to manage waste and maintain ecologically sound policies and fight pollution in a country that is so small and crowded. Israel has enacted two laws related to the issue: the law to protect cleanliness and the law to collect recyclable waste.

However, experts believe that the government is not doing enough. Israel is a highly developed country; consequently, waste management and ecological policy should be aggressively promoted and adapted to our needs.

Waste composition in Israel s relatively low on consumables, such as food and greens -- a total of 30%. Manufactured goods and industrial waste, usually dry waste that cannot be recycled, such as plastic, metal, and glass, accounts for around half of all waste. The remaining 20% is made up of organic waste, which includes bodily excretions.

Israel is a highly developed industrialized country. Consequently, together with large amounts of urban waste, it generates large amounts of industrial waste. In 2020, approximately 350,000 tons were produced.

Alex Mangold is the proprietor and CEO of one of the country’s leading waste disposal services and treatment of industrial waste. The company operates a transit station for hazardous and industrial waste in Kiryat Gat. In addition, it provides a wide range of industrial and hazardous waste treatment technologies. 

Mangold explains, “Not all industrial waste produced by local manufacturers undergoes treatment. The amount of industrial waste treated depends on the level of enforcement of ecological legislation and directives. But the whole issue of treatment and disposal of industrial waste is undergoing big changes. Industrial waste also includes dangerous and toxic substances. In the not so distant past, industrial waste was either incinerated or buried in landfills. Today, it is being recycled and is used to produce products by burning the industrial waste. New cutting-edge technologies are able to extract what is usable and create ‘raw materials.’ In this way, metals, plastics, and chemicals can be reused to produce various products.”

The process of managing and processing industrial waste is being actively promoted by industry. Manufacturers have come to realize the economic benefits. By an efficient policy of waste disposal and in-house recycling of the waste they generate, they can reduce costs, and the results of recycling will create income.

While Israel is making efforts to increase the recycling ratio, most waste is dumped. In the case of wastewater, it is purified for agricultural and horticultural purposes.

Most of Israel’s current ecological problems derive from past policies. Up until relatively recently, the world was not ecologically inclined. More so for a country like Israel, which in the not so distant past has very limited and restricted resources. The result was rivers and streams that became sewage outlets. The Hula Lake area has been drained, the Sea of Galilee is periodically used as a reservoir of drinking water with shrinking sea levels, and the Dead Sea is in the process of sharing the fate of the Aral Sea in Central Asia because the rivers and streams feeding it have been diverted for agricultural purposes. 

In addition, industrial areas and industrial complexes such as the petrochemical installations in Haifa Bay and the Ramat Hovav region in the Negev, which were built in the 1950s, and the Haifa refinery built in the late 1930s, are polluting the surrounding areas in Haifa Bay, one of the most densely populated areas of the country.


Plastic: A perpetual pollutant

Photo credit : Freepik.comPhoto credit : Freepik.com

Fossil fuels -- first coal and then oil -- have been the lifeblood of the modern economy. But historically, they have been the cause of most of the pollution in the world.

Directly and indirectly, oil is currently the world’s major polluter. Directly because spills from oil wells, oil rigs, and oil tankers pollute land and sea. And indirectly because plastic, which is a byproduct of oil, is converting the world’s seas and oceans into cesspools. 

Plastic is a very useful material, but from an ecological perspective it is a disaster. It has one major drawback -- it does not decompose easily. And when it does, the process can take thousands of years. 

Even the strongest substances decompose with time. Titanic, the famous steel ocean liner that sank in 1912 and has been under water for nearly 110 years, is in the process of disappearing due to the natural process decomposition. Similarly, the British battleships Barham and Prince of Wales and the aircraft carrier Ark Royal, which sank in the first half or the 1940s, and as warships are built of reinforced hard steel are also decomposing.

If instead of being steel warships they were plastic pleasure crafts, they would still be intact because plastic does not decompose. And because it does not decompose, it is polluting our seas and endangering marine life. 

Because the seas have been historically and still are the worlds major dumping grounds.

Just look at the figures. More than 300 million tons of plastic goods are produced every year. It is estimated that at least eight million tons of this plastic end up in our oceans annually, and the amounts are increasing every year. They currently make up more than 80% of all marine debris, from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. There are now 5.25 trillion macro and micro pieces of plastic in our oceans; that is, 46,000 pieces in every square mile of ocean, weighing up to 269,000 tons. 

The Great Pacific garbage patch is a case in point. A vortex of plastic debris in the central North Pacific Ocean, it is the largest accumulation of plastic in the world. This accumulation is not only not going away, but it is constantly increasing.