18.3.2 Solid waste management
Solid waste management can be classified into five main stages. These stages are also referred to as the functional elements of solid waste management. These are:
- onsite handling, storage and processing
- transfer and transport
- resource recovery and processing
Onsite handling, storage and processing methods are undertaken at household level. This includes compacting waste by squashing it and changing its size and shape for easy handling. It also includes sorting the waste in order to separate the items that can be reused or recycled. For example, organic wastes should be separated out for composting as part of onsite handling. Bottles and cans can be reused. Collection and transfer or transport activities are not common in rural areas because the waste is usually disposed of immediately onsite in a prepared waste disposal or composting pit. (The five functional elements of solid waste management are discussed in more detail in Study Session 22.)
Ideally, waste management should go beyond pollution prevention and disease prevention for humans and should benefit society by providing economic gain for families and communities. The preferred approach for dealing with solid waste is integrated solid waste management (ISWM). ISWM means considering not only the appropriate disposal of solid waste but integrating this with other management options such as minimising waste production, recycling, composting and other waste recovery options. The advantages of ISWM are that it considers all options and aims to manage waste in ways that are most effective in protecting human health and the environment. ISWM can also have many economic and social benefits for your community. For example, you could consider composting of human waste and animal manure to produce natural fertiliser for gardening and for cultivating vegetables and crops. Some solid wastes can be recycled or reused. You could also consider helping your community in the development of a biomass waste digestion plant that will produce biogas to be used for cooking and lighting energy. Biomass is any biological material from living or recently living plants that is used to generate energy, usually in the form of biogas.