15th Feb, 2017
In some ways, it seems like it would solve a lot of problems if we just burned our rubbish. After all, why bother with skip hire and eventual landfill if we can simply make it disappear? Well, although it’s true that landfill isn’t anyone’s favourite, the answer isn’t quite that simple.
If you’re wondering ‘can I burn rubbish in my back garden?’, in short the answer’s no. It’s illegal and incredibly dangerous for the environment. In fact, burning our waste can be devastating for both environmental and human health – just two of the reasons you should consider hiring a skip instead!
It’s likely you know that burning waste causes powerful greenhouse gases, which are generally accepted to be just awful for the environment. But having said that, it’s not necessarily common knowledge exactly how dangerous they are – these gases can affect you in a ton of ways, each of which would be fascinating if it wasn’t so utterly horrendous. Burning plastic, for example, releases the chemical dioxin, which can cause reproductive and developmental problems, interfere with your hormones, damage the immune system and even cause cancer. Part of the reason for this is their chemical makeup – once inside the human body, they tend to stick around because of their chemical stability. Meanwhile the smoke that carries them can get absorbed deep into your lungs, causing lung and heart disease – and it can be blown for some distance on the wind, too.
Electronic waste, the newest type of waste to hit the scene, doesn’t do you any favours either. When burned, your old mobile phone, laptop, TV or games console will merrily blast toxic dioxins, cadmium and furans into the air, which will gift you with anything from skin disorders to permanent liver damage – not items on anyone’s Christmas list. And that’s when electronic waste actually burns! Fire alone often doesn’t reach high enough temperatures so most of the time it doesn’t, meaning that you’ve not really disposed of your waste – just melted it a bit and poisoned yourself in the process. Some people make the case for heavy-duty incinerators, but even they can’t always get the job done without those ever-present gases messing up everyone’s day. It’s true that they can raise temperatures high enough to reduce the amount of gas being emitted, but they’re still resource heavy – they need proper fuel and trained operators to run, which makes them very inefficient in the long term.
Quite a lot of the time skip hire and landfill can be a more viable option than you might think. We’ve already covered landfill’s advances in more detail here, but in short, today it’s a lot more than just a hole in the ground. Modern landfills are carefully managed sites that control the way waste breaks down, and the resultant methane gases from this process are then harvested and used to fuel turbines. The electricity generated from those turbines goes directly to the national grid, facilitating the process known as ‘energy recovery’.
We’re also working on reducing the amount of waste we produce in the first place. The EU wants a 70% of municipal waste to be recycled by its member states by 2030, and while our participation in that target is a bit up in the air at the moment, the UK has its own targets to be working towards too. From 2009 baselines, by 2021 Parliament is aiming to:
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