A polluted environment may be a nuisance for tourism, or a foul-smelling river costly for the housing market, yet the price of pollution is evidently more than a few investors or tourists.
A recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated one in four deaths of children aged 5-and-under can be attributed to unhealthy living conditions caused by waste, air pollution, contaminated water, and lack of proper sanitation. Furthermore, the WHO pointed-out that exposure to a polluted environment can be as early as within the mother’s womb. Indoor and outdoor pollution can have detrimental effects on an unborn baby that will persist as chronic ailments and diseases throughout the child’s life.
This harmful exposure isn’t even restricted to rural areas only. In fact, a growing concern when considering the kinds of waste that cause the most harm are electronics, because electrical and technological waste is more-often-than-not incorrectly disposed-of. According to the WHO’s environmental report, exposure to these toxins during critical periods of development can impact a child’s intelligence, and put them at risk for things such as attention deficit disorders or cancer.
With the current global population size, reducing pollution and waste in our environment is the only feasible solution at the moment – and, Sweden is putting the entire world to shame. Over the last few years, Sweden has focused its efforts in recycling, so much so that less than one percent of its annual household waste has been sent to landfills since 2011. In fact, Sweden has started importing waste in order to keeps it’s recycling plants going.
Sweden began taxing fossil fuels in 1991 – one of the first countries to do so – and currently gets almost half of its energy from renewable sources. Even though private companies are responsible for the importing and recycling of waste, its national recycling policies ensure the energy from waste incinerators is directed back into the national heating grid rather than out the chimney and into the atmosphere. They replace fossil fuels with excess energy from recycling plants.
Sweden’s ideal, however, is less waste goes into recycling in the first place. For waste-heavy countries like the United Kingdom, China, India, the United States, and even South Africa, there is much to learn from Sweden’s policies on waste management. Exporting waste to other countries should not be an easy-way out of taking responsibility for our own waste, but rather be a source of motivation that proper recycling is a very achievable goal.
Essentially, the optimum goal is to re-use waste within our own homes; the second-best option is to separate our waste and send it to be recycled; and the thing we want to avoid is dumping all of our waste into a single black bag. Doing so fills-up landfills, pollutes the environment, has adverse effects on biodiversity, and adds to the WHO’s statistics regarding deaths per year due to polluted environments. Being aware of one’s pollution output could cumulatively be the difference between choosing walking over driving, and an extra gust of carbon monoxide to feed someone’s latent tumour.
Feature image taken by Mohammed Mubashir.