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How Waste Recycling Can Help Overcome an Emerging Threat to the Environment

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The continuous growth of the global population has led to an increase in the amount of waste that is generated and therefore more space is required to store refuse. But more space is utilized for settlement and infrastructure to satisfy the demands of the increasing population, hence less land is available to be used as landfills. The problem of an increase in waste is also as a result of the increase in urbanization as people living in cities tend to generate more plastic waste that sits in landfills for hundreds of years as they are not biodegradable.

An alternative to storing refuse in landfills is burning waste. Burning waste releases toxic chemicals into the air which cause acid rain; it contributes to climate change with the release of gases such as carbon dioxide which are greenhouse gas that accelerate global warming; the ash that accumulates pollutes the soil and groundwater and the smoke released possess as a potential human health risk. All of these consequences make burning waste an unsuitable option and therefore the only other alternative is to reduce the amount of waste we produce through recycling.

The aim: To determine if the current method of waste disposal (landfills) are reaching their limits faster and if we, the consumers are recycling enough.

The hypothesis: The amount of waste stored in landfills is increasing hence landfills are reaching their limits faster and currently not enough people are recycling in their households.

The purpose of this project and reason as to why this project and topic is justified is this project will provide evidence to help answer the question whether landfills are reaching their limit so if there is a problem regarding a shortage of space, the public can be made aware of this situation so they can reduce wastage and start recycling before methods such as burning waste are executed which have dire consequences. If this project can encourage more to start recycling, South Africa will benefit greatly as recycling creates employment.

Source A mentions the South African Waste Pickers’ Association estimating there to be about 60,000 waste pickers in this country who are unemployed but make a living from recycling. It takes less energy to make a product from recycled materials than it does to make it from raw materials. Recycling reduces pollution caused when products in landfill sites decompose releasing harmful gasses into the atmosphere. South Africans currently throw away millions of tons of recyclable materials every year and over 70 percent of the “garbage” in South African landfills can be composted or recycled. Every year recycling could save enough energy to power 1.4 million homes and it reduces water pollutants by 27,047 tons. Additionally, recycling saves 14 million trees each year. Recycling also reduces the amount of solid waste going into landfills, making each landfill last longer.

The factors that were investigated were what percentage of people recycle, is the amount of waste being produced increasing and are landfills reaching their limits faster. The factors in this investigation that were kept the same to make this a fair investigation are: all candidates received the same survey; there is an equal amount of urban and rural people who filled in my survey to produce accurate trends between both settlement types and variables such as the amount of waste generated in the set time frame of a week (which is measured in refuse bags) were kept the same to be used to draw up comparable graphs. The sample space is reliable to represent the whole as the candidates come from a multitude of backgrounds which can be compared to the households around our province that vary from each other but all contribute waste to landfills, the landfill used to gather information from is the DCLM landfill where all the candidates waste go to.

The sequence of enquiry involved initially doing research on potential landfills that I could use for my research. I’d then emailed and called various people who could only help me to a certain extent. This is when I realized I had to change my original topic as the landfills I had called are private companies who could not disclose any of the information I needed such as data on how much waste they receive so I decided to focus my project on recycling which DCLM had mentioned was something landfills needed. I created a survey which I’ve gotten 130 people to fill in. After I’d collected all the data I started to draw up charts then analyze it to come to a conclusion.

These surveys are reliable as I filled them in after reading and explaining the question to the workers so the information they provided me was correct and the surveys collected by Google forms are reliable as they can only be filled in once requiring a different email address for each entry and each candidate had to add their name.

Data Collection

To collect data on landfills I’d emailed both the Shongweni and DCLM landfills; Shongweni got back to be first by referring me to coastal operations manager Clive Kidd. He had informed me that the Shongweni landfill is a private company and could not disclose any information. After several calls and being referred to different people, Patricia from DCLM was able to answer a few of my questions giving me averages via email but DCLM too could not disclose much information. I’d contacted different branches of Durban Solid Waste and emailed them and they referred me to the educational center who has not replied to any of my emails and their landline number just rings.

I collected data about recycling by creating a short and simple survey with understandable questions. In total I’ve gotten 130 people to fill in my survey having 65 candidates from a rural area and 65 from an urban area. I also got information about landfills from Patricia from DCLM via email. I’d sent the survey to a few classmates and employees at my dad’s factory via Google forms. I also went to work with my dad during the July holidays to explain my project to the workers to have more people fill it in. I realized I had mainly urban candidates so I decided to stand at my estate’s entrance gate to survey the domestic, garden and building workers who were from rural settlements.

73 of those surveyed are workers from Salden factory in Stanger, 7 are classmates from Crawford College North Coast and 50 are domestic, garden and building workers from Brettenwood Coastal Estate who come from the surrounding areas including ShakasKraal, Etete, Umhlali and etc.

The problems experienced during data collection would include the companies and people I’d emailed and called to gather data about landfills mostly referring me to other person who wouldn’t get back to me or they couldn’t disclose any information. Regarding the surveys -problems I faced would include convincing the estate’s manager to allow me to survey workers and I’d originally handed out surveys to the workers who would not return them and that’s when I decided to physically help workers fill in the survey as they enter/exit to ensure I don’t waste anymore surveys and time waiting for them to return the surveys to me.

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