If you come from a relatively urban area like me, you would be more than familiar with the term “burn ban” and the annoyance of not being able to burn your trash for the week. For those who aren’t aware, a burn ban is a wildfire prevention method administered by townships that enforces the public to go a few days refraining from fire-related activities; and includes everything from campfires to burning household garbage. Burn bans are also relative to public health.
People who burn their trash usually do so because it is more efficient for them get rid of their waste. It is commonly thought by those who burn that it is okay because now their trash isn’t going to a landfill. It turns out that burning household waste does more harm than good.
When trash is burned, paper or cardboard products, food waste, plastic materials, and other organic waste turn into emissions that pollute the air. More importantly, these emissions are freely going into the air without any form of filtration or treatment. These pollutants can cause health problems such as nausea, rashes, heart, and lung problems. The environment is also at risk because the toxins that are released into the air can get in waterways and crops, thus harming our health even further.
The Environmental Protection Agency states that burning garbage releases dioxins that are harmful to the air and waterways and that these toxins are only produced once burned. They claim that burn barrels produce higher dioxin levels due to their tendency to hold smaller amounts of oxygen. Industrial incinerators have to follow regulations administered by the EPA in order to reduce and prevent emissions.
It is important to learn how to appropriately get rid of wastes in a safe and sustainable manner. The best way to reduce the amount of trash in landfills is to reduce, reuse, and recycle. To all of you who also dread the local burn bans, I advise to praise them instead because your overall community will greatly appreciate it in the long run!
Keepin’ it green,
Albright Class of 2020
Environmental Science Major