Environmental Awareness

Environmental Awareness

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In today's society, people have become very wasteful. Many Americans have never lived or been exposed to an environment where resources were not plentiful, so there is a lack of appreciation for the resources that are easily accessible. The United States of America generates hundreds of million tons of solid waste per year. The commonly known term for solid waste is trash or garbage. Solid waste has become a major problem- it is a potential threat to public health, it scars the environment, and it can be a block to the economic development of an area because of the negative image it presents (Cardinali, 2001).
It is important that solid waste be disposed of properly or it could potentially become a hazard to the health of the environment. Disposal of solid waste on land is by far the most common approach in the USA, and accounts for about 90 percent of the nation's municipal waste. Incineration accounts for most of the remainder composting of solid waste. The choice of disposal methods is typically made on the cost to maintain the disposal site. Landfills are currently the cheapest way to dispose of the trash and garbage. In a modern landfill, the garbage is spread in thin layers, each of which is compacted by a bulldozer before the next is spread. When about ten feet of waste has been laid down, it is covered by a thin layer of earth or soil, which is also compacted. In essence the garbage is being packed and pressed down into the ground. It is very important that when choosing a site for a landfill that the location is not easily subjected to flooding. Flooding of a landfill can spread hazardous bacteria through the water and into other areas. This could cause contamination to crops and the grasslands were the cattle eat. It could also cause contamination to the waters where the fish live causing them to die. If bacteria is in the foods that we eat it could cause disease and health risks to the people who eat the contaminated foods (Cardinali, 2001).
Trash also gives off a negative image because it produces a foul odor and is not appealing to the eye. It can cause an economic barrier to the development of certain areas because people attract to places that have clean, fresh air and where the environment appears to be in good shape.

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For example, people will prefer vacationing in Jamaica where the water is clean and clear that you can see the ground where you are stepping. You would not mind taking a swim. Versus vacationing in Galveston, where the waters are so murky and trashy that you have no idea what is in the water. Lingering trash and garbage produce deadly disease that can be spread to the people through pest such as mosquitoes and other insects and is unsafe in the environment.
It is a known fact that there is no escape from garbage; however, it is important to research and implement better ways of disposing of the trash to slow down the negative effects to the environment. If there is an intervention on how waste is disposed it could slow the deterioration of the world in which we live. It could also reduce the impact of harmful diseases and bacteria that are born from the waste infected waters and soils. There will be less pollution, so there will be cleaner air. We are constantly pulling out the resources from the earth and packing it with trash and garbage. It is inevitable that the earth will deteriorate at some point, but there are measures that can be taken to slow down the process.
Political action, concerning waste management, requires the involvement of all stakeholders including the general public. Anyone of voting age can vote for an elected official who will address waste management issues according to the voter's preferences. The twenty-sixth amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, "the right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age" (cited in Office of the Secretary, 2006). Anyone of any age can write his or her elected official to address his or her waste management preferences. Thus, the affected parties of a pollution concern have the ability to influence political action by voting or writing their elected officials. Hence, local and federal elected officials legislate and pass laws concerning the management of all municipal solid waste.
There are many laws and regulations in effect as of today concerning waste management. In fact, "Congress enacted a series of laws between 1965 and 1984 and thereafter that transformed the nation's solid waste management practices" (Phillips, 1998a). For instance, there was the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965 that addressed the recognition of the disposal of municipal solid waste as a national problem. The Solid Waste Disposal Act launched a federal municipal solid waste research and development program. Through this program federal grant were set aside to aide states and municipalities in the efforts of forming new waste disposal programs. There was the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 that created the Council of Environmental Quality. The Council of Environmental Quality is responsible for national policy on solid waste generation and disposal. In 1970, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established. "The agency brings together environmental divisions from the Departments of Health, Education, and Welfare; Agriculture; and Interior; and other federal agencies" (Phillips, 1998b). EPA had sponsored municipal solid waste research concerning collection, disposal, and recycling. In addition, there is a good amount of information on solid waste management provided by the EPA. In 1970 as well, the Resource Recovery Act was established. The Resource Recovery Act was an amendment to the Solid Waste Disposal Act. As opposed to the federal program emphasis being centered on disposal, it was replaced with recovery.
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