The War Against Illegal Dumping
Author: Mokshit Batra
I want you to imagine that you are standing in the middle of a landfill. There is garbage and trash as far as the eye can see. It is visual and olfactory distress.
Not only is it atrocious to look at, but it also smells horrible.
It's not a pretty scenery to imagine, is it?
What if I tell you it gets worse?
The waste that you see is dumped illegally. It is not treated according to industry standards before being dumped.
The trash, due to not being treated properly, is destroying the soil upon which it rests, diminishing any chances of a plant growing on that soil ever again.
It is ruining the nearby water bodies, making the water nearly toxic and making that area inhabitable for any species.
Now I do have to admit, illegal dumping is generally not performed on such a large scale. It is mostly performed at an individual level or a neighbourhood level. However, that is not to underestimate the effects that illegal dumping can have.
What is Illegal Dumping?
Illegal Dumping, also known as Fly Dumping, is the dumping of waste in such a manner that is not per the law. The waste does not undergo proper treatment as it should according to the type of waste.
This can cause a great amount of damage to the environment.
Generally, individuals dump their waste illegally along the bank of a river, off the side of the road and in some cases, even on their neighbour’s property.
Such actions are examples of crimes being committed against both people and nature.
The problem is escalated further when such waste ends up in the wild. Not only is it a disgrace to look at, it also harms the environment greatly.
Effects of Illegal Dumping
Illegal dumping can lead to devastating impacts on human life and the environment. It is not practical to cover every single impact in a small section of a single article.
Still, here are three of the greatest threats to the Earth that are caused due to illegal dumping.
1. Damage to the Environment
The waste affects the soil, making it harder for plants to grow. This may cause the plants that grow on that soil to be of lesser quality, or just stop growing on that soil altogether
The waste can also enter water bodies such as rivers and lakes, some of which are used for water consumption by towns and cities. This can greatly damage the quality of water that we use in our daily lives.
Waste being dumped improperly can also cause the air around the area to be polluted. Not only does it lead to stench around the entire area, but also decreases the quality of air that we breathe.
2. Damage to Life
Waste dumped in the wild can also cause mechanical injuries to humans and animals if they are to step on sharp objects.
Some animals may even eat the waste which can lead to sickness and even death within days.
As illegal dumping also harms the soil, this can lead to plants grown on the soil to contain toxic elements which are harmful to humans and animals alike that consume them.
Impure plants along with polluted water from water bodies and can cause sickness to life in the long run.
Some of the waste that is illegally dumped might also be medical waste. This can include used bandages, syringes, needles etc. This can cause in spreading of diseases especially when this waste is dumped in urban areas.
3. Risk of Wildfires & Insects
Illegally dumped waste may also lead to wildfires. Something as small as a cigarette butt can lead to a huge fire that results in humongous amounts of loss of property & life.
This waste may also become a breeding ground for insects and vermin. Mosquitoes and other insects threaten a lot of diseases to humans, some of them even life-threatening like encephalitis, Nile virus etc.
Solutions to Illegal Dumping
Illegal Dumping is a problem that needs to be taken care of immediately.
And as it is rightly said, problem talk creates problems, solution talk creates solutions, it would be awry of me to not talk about solutions while addressing this problem.
Before I talk about the solutions, I must warn you.
If you are motivated to clean up any of these illegal dumping sites on your own, please be careful before walking in with trash bags in hand. Many such people have been unjustly charged for theft of property, or trespassing regardless of whether the property is considered public or private.
It might be a better idea to register complaints to government bodies or sign up for groups that are currently involved with similar clean-up events.
Now, talking about solutions that you can take on an individual as well as some things that you can do are -
- Adding a lock to your dumpster
- Putting up “No Dumping” and “No Trespassing” signs
- Installing security cameras
- Calling and reporting to local authorities in case of suspicious activity
Other steps that can be taken on a larger level by the government or by other organisations could include certain steps mentioned below
Limiting access to certain sites prone to illegal dumping is a step in the right direction. This could include putting up barriers, fencing and locked gates.
Putting up additional solar lights in a city in South Wales increased the percentage of people who got caught for illegal dumping. In the long run, the city received fewer and fewer complaints of illegal dumping.
Increased surveillance and enforcement
Increasing the risk of getting caught as seen in South Wales, has greatly reduced the cases of illegal dumping.
Increasing surveillance measures such as CCTV cameras has helped in the fight against illegal dumping.
Interestingly enough, localities that have put up fake cameras have also seen great success in the fight against illegal dumping.
This is a solution that takes the bull by the horns. We fight illegal dumping from the very ground up. Instead of trying to catch people in the act, it is better to ensure that people have no reasons to commit the act in the first place.
The main reasons that people commit illegal dumping in the first place is because either the trash is too difficult/expensive to treat, or there is no proper solution by the local waste management committee.
By making it easier and cheaper for individuals as well as corporations to treat and segregate their waste before dumping in the appropriate locations, we can take a big step towards fighting this huge battle.
“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
The above line was rightly said by Nelson Mandela.
If education can be used to change the world, we can surely use it to change the current scenario of illegal dumping.
The sad part is that most people committing the act of illegal dumping, aren’t even aware that what they are doing is wrong.
They have as much of a clue about the segregation of waste as much as you and I have about thermonuclear physics. This is especially true for a lot of rural areas in the world today.
Educating people about proper disposal waste is the biggest weapon we have in the fight against illegal dumping.
Illegal dumping is like a termite. It is seemingly insignificant, especially because most of it is done at a small scale at an individual level.
As time goes by, the problem starts getting worse, but you just don’t notice it.
And one day, it hits you. The termite has hallowed out your furniture. It is too late to go back now. You have to buy new furniture now.
Unfortunately for us, we cannot buy a new environment. A destroyed environment is a problem not even money can solve.