OPEN burning of waste remains one of the worst case scenarios in the solid waste
management value. Research has shown that residents resort to opening burning of
waste if local authorities fail to adhere to their waste collection schedules.
However, open burning poses risks to the environment and public health. The
pollution range from the air we breathe, soil, and water bodies. Open burning of
waste can also lead to veld fires. Burning only approved materials and following
state regulations can minimise the potential for these harmful effects.
Burning prohibited materials, such as garbage, plastic and painted or treated wood,
is harmful to the environment because these materials release toxic chemicals that
lead to air pollution. The polluted air can be directly inhaled by humans and animals,
or deposited in the soil and surface water and or plants.
Residue from burning contaminates the soil and groundwater and can enter the
human food chain through crops and livestock. In addition, certain chemicals
released by burning can accumulate in the fats of animals and then in humans as we
consume meat, fish and dairy products.
Smoke and soot can travel long distances. Odours can be bothersome to people, and
both odours and smoke residue can enter houses or can impact anything outside of
houses, like cars or hanging laundry. The gases released by open burning can also
corrode metal siding and damage paint on buildings.
Some of the most dangerous chemicals created and released during burning are
those from burning plastics, such as dioxins, which are by products formed when
chlorine-containing products are burned.
Dioxins tend to adhere to the waxy surface of leaves and enter the food chain in this
way. Even if certain types of plastic (such as polyethylene or polypropylene) do not
contain chlorine, other materials attached to or burned with the plastic may be a
Partially burnt plastic waste becomes litter on the ground and in lakes and rivers. As
it disintegrates, animals may eat the plastic and get sick. Larger pieces of plastic can
become a breeding ground for diseases, such as by trapping water that provides
habitat for mosquitoes.
Sustainable waste management
Sustainable waste management relies on the waste management hierarchy, a
system that focuses on avoidance, reduction, reuse, recycling, energy recovery, and
finally, treatment or disposal. It aims to prioritise actions for the most efficient use of
resources, placing renewable and less wasteful practices at the top of the pyramid.
Waste management can be sustainable in both businesses and homes if the right
framework is implemented. But more importantly, the consequences, if waste is left
unchecked, are too great not to consider.
Let us all play our part, burning of waste is strictly prohibited.