Disposing of waste has huge environmental impacts and can cause serious problems. In the UK much is buried in landfill sites – holes in the ground, sometimes old quarries, sometimes specially dug. Some waste will eventually rot, but not all, and in the process it may smell or generate methane gas, which is explosive and contributes to the greenhouse effect. Leachate produced as waste decomposes may cause pollution. Badly-managed landfill sites may attract vermin or cause litter.
Incinerating waste also causes problems, because plastics tend to produce toxic substances, such as dioxins, when they are burnt. Gases from incineration may cause air pollution and contribute to acid rain, while the ash from incinerators may contain heavy metals and other toxins. Because of these problems there are active campaigns against waste incineration. Greenpeace actively worked on these issues and some information, including a map of UK waste incinerators, can be found by searching the Greenpeace website for waste incineration. However, burning waste can generate energy and there are operational schemes. The Renewable Energy Association website provides more information including a map of biomass and energy from waste projects.
Throwing away things wastes resources. It wastes the raw materials and energy used in making the items and it wastes money. Reducing waste means less environmental impact, less resources and energy used and saves money.