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Waste is an inevitable by-product of living. In developed countries, 40% of the waste that gets landfilled consists of building materials. Industries and households also contribute with unimaginable amounts of waste everyday.
The two most common ways of dealing with the waste in developed countries - burying it deep down in landfills or burning it - have negative impacts on the environment. When burning waste, fumes are emitted that speed up the greenhouse effect and affect plants and animals negatively in other ways. When burying waste, hazardous compounds in the waste leak out into the soil and can cause serious disturbances to the soil ecosystem.
If we produce less waste, its negative impact on the environment would be less. Minimizing the waste production can be done by developing long-lasting materials for building, implementation of the "PPP" (polluter pays principle) for industries and "the 4 Rs" (reduce, re-use, recycle and recover) for households.
Waste can be sorted into different categories, for example hazardous waste (explosive or harmful), organic waste (food or garden waste) or recyclable waste (paper or aluminium cans).
Every day, approximately one million tonnes of hazardous waste are produced in the world (325-375 million tonnes per year). 90% of this waste is generated by industrialized countries, mostly from chemical and petrochemical industries.
Some waste produced by developed countries, especially electronic waste, gets exported to developing countries where it becomes subject to scavenging. A report by environmental groups says as much as 50% - 80% of the United States' electronic waste that is collected in the name of recycling actually gets shipped out of the country. Scavenging, or resource recovering, is pursued in many different ways. The methods of searching through the waste for valuable resources, as well as the burning of materials or opened containers with unknown contents, pose threats to health and the surrounding environment. Water surrounding disposal sites is often highly contaminated.
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