The ever-increasing human population keeps on increasing the volume of waste generated as well as the pollution levels associated with it. As our ecosystem gets polluted, the organisms living in it are also impacted.
Poor waste management practices harm biodiversity both directly and indirectly. A clear example of the direct impact is marine wildlife consuming plastic microbeads, whereas indirect effects often stem from landfill sites that foster the creation of methane-releasing bacteria.
Landfills, in particular, release pollutants into air, soil, and water, resulting in the loss of biodiversity in various ways. In this guide, you’ll learn how poor waste management impacts biodiversity, but before that, it’s important to understand why biodiversity matters.
Why Biodiversity Matters
Before anything else, we need to understand that humans are part of biodiversity. Everything that impacts other living organisms affects us all. Besides, we directly and indirectly depend on the existence of other creatures and organisms for our survival. To quote an example, around 80% to 85% of the commercial pollinated hectares rely on insects. In addition, 84% of the 300 commercial crops are insect pollinated.
Moreover, our consumption and medication needs as well as requirements for construction materials all depend on biodiversity for resource exploitation. 115 out of 150 most prescribed drugs originate from plants in the US alone. Countless plant species with the medicinal potential may soon become extinct. Many species in this world are expected to go into extinction even before they are discovered, all because of poor waste management practices.
How Poor Waste Management Impacts Biodiversity
Leachate Causes Degradation and Habitat Loss
One of the biggest issues with most landfills is that they lead to leachate, which occurs when rainwater or other surface water running through the waste carries toxic solutes present in the landfill. Without proper drainage and liners in landfills, leachate won’t go into the ground water.
As a result, it’s carried away to lakes and ponds, degrading the habitat of organisms that thrive there as well as those that use that water source. If humans obtain drinking water from there, it can impact them too.
The majority of toxins present in leachate originate from improper disposal of household items, such as lubricants, cooling fluids, solvents, pesticides, and polystyrene found in disposable plates and cups. According to a study that was conducted to examine the toxicity of groundwater leachate, the cancer risk from exposure to leachate originating from municipal solid waste landfills and that from industrial toxic waste landfills happens to be the same.
A common scenario of landfill leachate impacting living organisms is the damage caused to plant root tips. In China, for instance, damages to the roots of barley (a common crop in China) have been attributed to Leachate concentrations in nearby landfills. All plants around landfills remain under threat.
Release of Landfill Gas
Biodegrading waste generates landfill gas, which is a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide, two dangerous greenhouse gases. Landfills are estimated to account for 3% to 19% of global anthropogenic methane emissions. While the current methane emission rate is lower than the emission rate for carbon dioxide, it’s exponentially increasing due to landfill emissions. Methane and carbon dioxide capture thermal energy in the atmosphere, giving rise to the temperature in the earth’s atmosphere and surface.
The production of landfill gas depends on the quantity and quality of waste present in the landfill. By reducing the volume of waste that goes into the landfills, communities can lower the emission rate of landfill gas and slow down climate change.
Since climate change is a global problem, landfill gases released in one region can harm biodiversity in other parts of the globe. On a global scale, climate change is affecting biodiversity massively. Since the earth comprises of an enormous number of living organisms, it’s not easy to anticipate how individual species, communities, and ecosystems will respond to rising sea levels, temperatures and precipitation.
Yet, insights from experts and studies suggest changes in the composition of communities, extinction of species, and reduction in the richness of the species in the upcoming decades. When creatures are forced to leave their degrading habitats, they’ll move out from their thermal tolerance ranges, and get exposed to intense weather events.
The devastation caused to coral reefs is a clear example of the impact of climate change on biodiversity. Covering an area of around 280,000 square km, coral reefs support countless marine species. Not only do they protect the shores from the effects of storms and waves but also form the source of medicine and food for humans.
However, the rise in temperatures is destroying the organisms that coral ecosystems rely on for thriving by reducing the photosynthetic pigments. One may not be much concerned about the loss of coral reefs. However, what’s alarming is that if they’re gone, they’ll take away with them one-third of the world’s marine biodiversity. The domino effect of this change will impact other ecosystems too, impacting everything else in the world.
The impact of your waste management practices extends beyond what you can imagine. Hence, responsible waste management is a must. It does more than just keep the environment clean. It also supports the ecosystem around the globe, thereby protecting biodiversity.
Now that you’re aware of how poor waste management impacts biodiversity, it’s time to be responsible about how you manage your commercial or residential waste. Century Waste Management can help you play your role in preserving and safeguarding biodiversity. To learn about different waste management solutions, get in touch with Century Waste Management today.