The Huge cost of Improper disposal for environment

According to data, Improper disposal leads to $1.7b loss annually.

The Huge cost of Improper disposal for environment

MojNews-According to data, Improper disposal leads to $1.7b loss annually. 

Improper management of waste in the country causes 870 trillion rials (some $1.7 billion) in damage to the environment and natural resources every year, an official with the Department of Environment (DOE) has said.

Some 445 thousand tons of urban, rural, medical, agricultural, and industrial waste are generated per day, equaling 164 million tons per year, leading to land, water, and air pollution, IRNA quoted Mehdi Khadem-Sameni as saying.

Converting waste into fertilizer and energy, using standard waste incinerators, and modern methods such as digesters and pyrolysis are among the known strategies used in the world for handling waste, but these methods do not exist in the country, he added.

The current methods used in the country for waste management are old, the official noted, regretting that up to 80 percent of the waste that can be recycled to be used for different purposes is discarded.

“Out of around 600 waste management centers across the country, just four to five are standardized. In other words, some 96 percent of the waste is just dumped in landfills.”

According to World Bank, the pollution of resources in 2004 incurred a loss of about 8 billion dollars to the country, and the figure rose to about 10 billion dollars in 2009.

Mismanagement of waste

Today, one of the most serious problems of the country’s environment is improper management of all municipal, household, industrial, hospital, and hazardous wastes, which has caused environmental pollution and a negative impact on the quality and quantity of biological resources (water, soil, and air) and incurs a loss of huge sum of money annually.

According to the DOE, an estimated 10 to 17 percent of the total produced waste is recycled. While in developed countries this number reaches up to 70 percent.

In 2021, Iran ranked 17th in terms of waste production, according to the World Population Review.

Although there will be pollution as long as there is consumption in any way, it can be kept to an acceptable level by considering green options so as not to cause excessive pollution of the environment.

Some 65 percent of waste is "wet" and 35 percent is "dry", while 25 percent is processed and the remaining 75 percent without processing is buried directly and only 10 percent is separated at the source.

Every Iranian consumes an average of three plastic bags daily, and the average life of each bag is only 12 minutes, while it remains in nature for hundreds of years. In addition to this, disposable plastic containers, plastic tablecloths, plastic packaging, etc., have been produced in large quantities in the country, which has been used a lot due to the change in people’s lifestyles in recent decades and has put double pressure on the environment.

Also, the abundance of plastic bags is of great importance in the waste segregation at the source and their recycling. According to global statistics, Iran is among the top 20 countries in the world in producing plastic waste. Some 4 million tons of plastic waste are produced annually, of which half a million tons are related to plastic bags. In Iran, over 1 million tons of plastic bags are produced annually, 96 percent of which go directly into the trash.

Considering the high rate of waste produced in the country and its harmful effects on human health and the environment, it seems that the revision of waste management is very important. One of the ways that many countries have taken to reduce waste production is "zero waste".

"Zero waste" is a kind of lifestyle in which a person decides to take full responsibility for the waste they produce during the day and night, and also tries to bring the production of waste closer to zero.

In the zero-waste lifestyle, people try to avoid luxurious life as much as possible at the beginning. In the next step, people with this lifestyle try not to produce waste. When the generation of waste is unavoidable, people regularly and carefully separate the waste properly.

We humans can never achieve the zero waste goal. It is only the name of a lifestyle, but if the conditions of the society and infrastructure are available, we can only approach it.

Pilot program for waste management

Two pilot programs for community-based waste management are being implemented in two villages of Mazandaran province to reduce the accumulation of waste in the Hyrcanian Forests, also known as the Caspian Forest.

According to UNESCO, the Hyrcanian Forests in the northern provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran, and Golestan are between 25 and 50 million years old.

The forests contain the most significant natural habitats for in situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the perspective of science or conservation.

It also contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.

In July 2019, Hyrcanian Forests was named a UNESCO World Heritage during the 43rd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

Burying waste in the northern provinces of the country, due to the proximity to the sea and the existence of many underground rivers and aquifers, is almost impossible.

The problem has endangered not only the health of the forests but also the health of the residents living in their surroundings, also.

Therefore, the Department of Environment in cooperation with two non-governmental organizations, has launched two pilot programs for community-based waste management in two villages, which have resulted in a 70 percent reduction in landfilling.

Wet waste is turned into compost in a field around the village, and dry waste is collected as people hand them and receive goods in return.

Mohammad Alamouti, secretary of NGO networks of the Natural Resources Organization, said in 2022 that regarding this concept, many measures have been taken in the world. In Iran, people have personally tried to take measures in this field.

The most important stage of waste management is segregation at source, which will affect the whole process if implemented properly, he added.

At present, we do not have any unique example in the world from which we can take absolute zero waste, of course, some measures have been taken, but in order to reach the zero-waste stage, the behavior of citizens and villagers or changes in their lifestyle of citizens alone cannot help. We need a set of processes to achieve it, he explained.

Referring to the cultural aspect as the most important infrastructure for a zero-waste lifestyle, he said that creating a cultural infrastructure in a manufacturing plant with a high volume of waste products will reduce the waste generation in the production process.

Marine waste management

In September 2023, a comprehensive marine environment monitoring program for the country was designed, said an official with the Department of Environment.

“The program includes both biological and pollution monitoring for the Persian Gulf, the Oman Sea, as well as the Caspian Sea,” Omid Seddiqi, the DOE official said. 

“The comprehensive program for monitoring the pollution of the Caspian Sea has made further progress and its fund has been provided. It will begin in late autumn with the help of an ocean-going vessel,” he explained.

This program will probably start in autumn or early winter in the south of the country with the help of the Persian Gulf probe ship.


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