Almost every activity using materials and energy generates waste - from mining to manufacturing to cooking dinner.
Machinery compacting the piles of rubbish at a landfill
Rubbish is what people throw away because they no longer need it or want it. We get rid of it by putting it in the rubbish bin. Waste is created in many ways and can be difficult to define - as what one person regards as rubbish could be a useful resource (or treasure) to someone else. Refilling your drink bottle, trading items on trade-me or wrapping up your Friday night take-aways in yesterdays newspaper are examples of reusing your "rubbish".
Rubbish represents an inefficient use of our resources. It can be bad for our environment, bad for our health and bad for our economy. The improper disposal of waste can have a significant impact on us personally and our environment:
- Waste is unslightly
- Decomposing organic waste in landfills makes methane (a harmful greenhouse gas)
- Landfills can produce leachate, a liquid that could pollute our waterways and soil
- Burning rubbish can release hazardous and toxic substances in the air we breathe
- Waste creates a large cost: Waste is materials that are paid for and then thrown out which costs us more money.
We live in a wasteful world. Last year, Southlanders threw away over 49,500 tonnes of rubbish - thats the same weight as 123 Boeing 747's airplanes or 7,081 African elephants. Everything we use and throw away is made from the earths natural resources - water, oil, gas, coal, air, minerals, plants and animals. Paper was once a tree in a forest, your soft-drink can was once a rock and glass bottles are made from sand. We are using up our planets resources at an alarming rate. If we keep going like this, we will need several planets to meet our needs. Being more efficient with our resources and minimising our rubbish will help us to better balance our needs with our environment.
What can I do?
By minimising our waste and making the most of our resources we can make a difference.