Why is Desalination Bad for the Environment?

Desalination

DesalinationDesalination is a water (usually seawater) treatment process, which separates salts from the seawater to produce potable drinking water. There is a high consumption of energy during the production process. Salt water is channeled into the treatment plant that produces a stream of pure water and another stream of high concentrated brine.

The issue of water shortage is internationally recognized as a crisis due to the increased drought in different regions. While the concern is being addressed as a matter of importance, there are questions that require answers taking into consideration the negative impact of desalination methods. The most common desalination methods are reverse osmosis (RO) and thermal processes. Reverse osmosis is widely accepted in Europe due to its lower energy consumption compared to thermal alternatives.

Desalination and energyDue to high population growth rate, industrialization, and urbanization, freshwater sources are being over-exploited. Therefore, the use of desalted water has been an alternative to address the issue of drinking water scarcity. However, the large-scale desalination is energy intensive. Additionally, the environmental impacts are critical given the huge amount of emissions released from fossil fuel combustion in the desalination plants. There is also the issue of brine discharge into the oceans, which is extremely concentrated with salts and chemicals derived from the treatment processes. The brine and those chemicals pose danger to marine animals.

Reverse Osmosis (RO) and its Impacts

Reverse osmosis is a desalination process that uses a fine membrane to filter out particles present in water. It not only removes the salt but also removes heavy metals and harmful microorganism in water. The traditional RO systems have been using fossil fuels to provide energy, which causes severe negative impacts on the environment. The release of greenhouse gases and the intensive energy consumption has been a threat to the environment. Even though it is an effective method to provide clean and pure drinking water, the use of fossil fuels remains a global concern.

The negative impacts can be minimized through the use of renewable sources of energy. Renewable energy provides a sustainable approach to increasing supply of clean water without degrading the environment. Places such as Asia and North Africa are the most hit by freshwater scarcity, but they have a high potential of the wind and solar energy to power desalination plants. If effectively utilized in desalination processes such as reverse osmosis, the freshwater shortage can be addressed in a more sustainable manner.

Desalination waterWhile RO technology has been in the market for quite some time, there are more innovations expected in order to meet the new demands for environmentally friendly productions. Globally, RO technology is now u. The technology is driven towards achieving energy efficiencies in reverse osmosis water production.

According to a research analysis in 2008, the major impacts of reverse osmosis were associated with the water intake, discharge of concentrated brine, and emission of greenhouse gas. Impingement and entrainment of marine animals such as fish were also a concern. Fish are trapped and transported to the RO plant, which are then killed during the filtration processes. However, a few practices and technologies have been identified to help in reducing such impacts. Some of the new changes include the water intake volume reduction, intake timing, intake placement, and intake location. Also, new screens are being designed.

Solar Powered RO Systems

Solar energy can be used either directly or indirectly in the reverse osmosis desalination process. The major disadvantage of using solar energy is the low production rate, especially where large scale RO water production is required. However, Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) can provide an effective option to power RO systems in large scale desalination plants. Areas such as Asia have a high potential of solar energy that can facilitate energy production needed to offset the startling drinking water deficit.

global water

Health Impacts of Reverse Osmosis Water

Reverse osmosis uses a membrane to filter out molecules large than water. The particles of harmful contaminants are also removed, making the water safe for domestic and industrial use. For the patients who should not drink mineral water, RO water is their best alternative. It is free from microorganisms that cause diseases, and therefore suitable for cancer patients with low immune strength. More importantly, reverse osmosis water has no heavy metal traces. However, reverse osmosis has its own disadvantages too. During the filtering process, many of the essential minerals are removed from the water.

Where does all the Human Waste Go?

sewage treatment

Human WasteSeveral decades ago, many cities did not have sewage systems. That means all the stuff you usually flush down in toilets would be thrown on the streets, which can cause high pollution in the environment. It is no surprise to find some urban areas, especially in developing countries, without sewage treatments. So, where does the human waste go after flushing a toilet? It is simple. The waste is directed to a nearby river, which is a big concern when it comes to environmental conservation and public hygiene.

A sewage system is a great investment that should be a priority in all cities. Given the constant increase in human population, there is tons of human waste generated on daily basis. With a sewage treatment facility, managing that enormous waste is easier and efficient. Therefore, let us look at how a sewage treatment system works.

sewage system

Sewage treatment can be broken down into two classes; storm sewers and sanitary sewers. Storm sewers are less polluted because they contain materials that are washed away by surface runoff. Sometimes, treatment may be done to remove substances like vehicle oil. On the other hand, sanitary sewers contain human waste and other rotten substances. The treatment process involves three stages, which are explained below.

Primary sewage treatment

sewage treatmentBasically, your house is connected to a sewer through pipes. Once people flush the toilet, the waste flows through the pipes and released into a treatment plant. Here, it goes through a series of filters. The large pieces are filtered out during this stage, but there are several filters that eliminate pieces depending on their sizes. Once the sewage is separated into liquid and sludge, the solid stuff may be taken to a landfill.

Secondary sewage treatment

This stage gets rid of nasty odors and bacteria from the water and sludge. It normally uses the bacteria to feed on the available organic compounds and nutrients. Water, inorganic salts, and carbon dioxide are left behind. The fundamental treatment of the sludge is known as digestion whereby it is ‘eaten’ up by the bacteria. The sludge is pumped into digesters (usually concrete digesters) containing bacteria, which feed on it to release methane. Any remaining water is drained, and then the dry sludge can be used as fertilizer.

Tertiary sewage treatment

This is the third or last treatment stage that gets rid of all stuff from the water. The water is cleaned thoroughly through a series of chemical treatments to restore a normal taste and odor. Phosphates and nitrates are usually the most harmful chemicals left, and therefore rotifers and algae are used to absorb the chemicals. The water is sterilized and then released into water sources.

Now you have understood the basic sewage treatment, but some of you might be asking if the type of toilet may affect the level of sanitation in their homes. Alright, there are many types of toilets on the market. Basically, an ideal toilet should be able to flush all the waste without wasting water.

Let us look at a few tips to help you when buying a new toilet;

Toilet bowl shapes

Toilets come in two types of bowl shapes; elongated and round front. The elongated models have more options that offer a comfortable seat and usually require a bigger space. If you have a limited space, the round front toilets can be your better option.

Toilet design

The three basic designs include one piece, two piece, and wall mount. One piece models are typically expensive, though they are attractive and easy to clean. Two piece models are the most common, but they come in a variety of prices to choose from. Wall mount toilets are less popular, and their cost is also high. They have an advantage because you can clean the area under the toilet.

Toilet height

A standard toilet height is usually 15 feet from the ground level to the top of the toilet seat. The majority of people prefer the standard height, but there are other toilets with different height to suit the needs of various people. For instance, a person with a disability may prefer a toilet height of 17 feet. In other words, the choice of a toilet may depend on an individual comfort height.

One flush/two flush

The toilet designs have improved significantly over the years. With the traditional low flush toilets, you had to flush twice in order to get the stuff washed down. One flush toilet means it has enough pressure to get rid of the waste with a single flush. The dual flush toilets are more improved options because they have additional features to save water. A full flush uses about 1.6 gallons while a partial flush uses about 0.8 gallons of water.

How Much Waste Produced Each Year in the World?

waste in world

waste in worldAccording to a report published last year, global waste volume generation increased from 20,955.5 to 22,072.1 million tons between 2015 and 2016. The estimations on the report indicate that industrial waste takes up the biggest percentage of the overall waste generation, with about 15,790 million tons. The others include municipal solid waste, construction and demolition, and waste electrical/electronic equipment. The Asia-Pacific and Europe produced the highest volume of industrial waste followed by United Sates, Middle East, and Africa.

The increasing rate of waste generation is influenced by high economic development, high level of industrialization, public habits, and climatic conditions. Basically, if the economic development and urbanization continue to increase, more volume of waste will be produced. The income level and urbanization are much correlated, meaning that the increase in living standards and disposable incomes, more goods will be consumed. So, high consumption of goods leads to the high generation of waste. The report shows that urban residents produced twice as much as the rural residents.

Two Main Sources of Waste

Industrial waste

waste in the worldThis is waste generated during energy, chemical, agriculture, or metallurgy productions. Industrial manufacture of rubber, petrochemicals, plastic, and pharmaceuticals generate huge wastes. Also, industries producing fabricated metal, ferrous and non-ferrous materials release waste. Other waste sources include the cement industries, textile, and pulp & paper factories. Even the manufacturers of tobacco, food & beverages and health products usually produce a significant amount of waste.

Municipal solid waste

This is the waste generated in urban areas including commercial and residential settings. Most of the solid waste from these areas includes food materials from restaurants, hotels, food cafes, and residential areas among others. However, the hazardous waste is not included in the municipal solid waste as it is handled differently before reaching the landfills or dumpsites.

Domestic Waste Management

Domestic waste management is an important issue for every urban area. The absence of a functional waste disposal system poses risks of disease to the residents of a city, which may have negative economic impacts over time. There are various ways through which domestic waste can be managed. These include; use of landfills, incineration, recycling, and use of garbage disposals.

Landfill waste disposal

Using a modern landfill is more efficient compared to a simple dumpsite. Landfills allow a controlled fashion of handling waste materials, and therefore the quality of groundwater and soil is preserved. Lighter waste materials are put in the bottom because the majority of them contain toxic chemical compounds. Every time new waste is added to the landfill, a layer of soil is applied to cover the waste. The idea is backed up by hopes that the waste will break down before the barrier between the groundwater and the landfill breaks. For the sanitary landfill to stay ‘healthy’, the wastewater should be treated and toxic gases recovered. However, sanitary landfills have a drawback – it consumes a huge piece of land, as well as damaging the ecological balance.

Incineration waste disposal

waste typesIncineration is usually used where there is a limited space to construct a landfill. Even areas where land is highly valuable (prime land) to build a landfill, incinerators are seen as the better alternatives to dispose solid wastes. It helps in reducing the bulkiness of waste, but it does not eliminate the waste entirely. For instance, toxic heavy metals cannot be eliminated completely through burning, as the ash containing traces of heavy metals will be left all over the environment.

Material-recovery

This is basically recycling to a new level where the waste is sorted by material and reprocessed. The project is typically daunting and expensive, but nowadays there is an advanced technology to help in sorting the waste. For instance, many developed countries are using automated robots to sort the waste without direct human involvement. The recovered materials are sold while others are reprocessed to make new products. This keeps the system running sustainably and economically beneficial to the government.

Garbage disposals

Garbage disposals are domestic appliances used for disposing of waste food materials. They grind the waste and then water is added to flash the materials down into the drain pipes. There are two basic types of garbage disposals; continuous feed and batch feed. Continuous feed models are easy and simple to use. Once the switch is turned over, you can comfortably start cleaning the dishes as the waste drops down into the disposal. It is important to note that, this type of disposal can cause injuries if you insert fingers while it is running.

On the other hand, batch feed disposal is designed to counter the limitation of the continuous feed model. It can only work if the magnetic lid cover is put on, and thus eliminating the potential injuries if someone inserts fingers to remove something that dropped accidentally.

In conclusion, the enormous waste generation globally is a critical concern. As much as technology and innovations are being identified to address the issue, homeowners with garbage disposals can play a major role to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills. More importantly, the liquid waste generated by the garbage disposal is transported to sewage treatment plants where it can be processed to produce methane and organic fertilizers.

How Do You Get Rid of Old Ammunition – How to Store

old ammunition

old ammunitionMany people (firearm holders in this case) realize that they are piling up old or corroded ammunition, which they won’t want to risk shooting. Sometimes, they notice some of the bullets are already damaged due to poor storage conditions, and now they start thinking how to eliminate them.  No one would want to stockpile bad ammo. Many want to get rid of them.

Regardless of what kind of advice you get from friends and relatives, disposing of bad ammo should be done taking into consideration the legal procedures and environmental protection.

Bad Ammunition Storage

If you were to store bad ammunition, perhaps you have just a few ones that don’t require a huge space in your house. As a responsible gun owner, you need to understand the significance of using proper gun safes. Gun safes are not only meant for storing guns, but also for keeping your ammo appropriately. Also, you should note that bullets contain harmful chemicals including lead, a very hazardous heavy metal. Leaving the bullets exposed to the environment can cause serious soil pollution.

Gun safes provide a better way to keep weapons and ammo away from unwanted people. There are many different types of gun safes that offer a varied degree of protection levels and storage capacity.

Handgun and pistol safes

These have a compact design that can fit easily underneath your bed. Since handguns are used for quick protection against intrusion, you can place the gun safe in a nightstand drawer for easy access. If you have a few damaged or bad bullets, you can choose to store them in the gun safe. This is the safest place to prevent young ones from accessing them.

Rifle and shotgun safes

Old Ammunition storageThese are designed to hold large weapons, and they are heavier than their handgun counterparts. They have advanced features such as several layers of fire insulating material, high-gauge steel construction, internal compartments for ammunition, and compartments for pistols. There are also bolt locks to ensure the firearms and ammo stay secure throughout.

Environmental Concerns about Disposing Bad/Old Ammunition

Those individuals with a few rounds they want to get rid of, there are methods that are not recommended by environmentalists. As mentioned earlier, the best approach to dispose ammunition is through storing them in a gun safe. However, what if they are too many to store in a gun safe? Alright, that will be covered later in this article.

It is not safe to bury damaged ammo at the back of your backyard. Burying a few bullets may seem safe, but there are some negative environmental impacts associated. Even though lead exists naturally in the soil, the concentration is not as high as in the bullet. What if someone else moves into the home and decides to grow some vegetables on top of your ammunition landfill? According to various studies, most vegetables tend to absorb heavy metals that may find their way into human bodies through food.

Disabling old ammunition is another method many firearm owners use, however, it is not recommended. Environmentalists have found that bullets thrown into the trash after disabling contain high concentrations of lead. Whichever method used to disable the bullets, there are traces of lead that are left behind.

How to Get Rid of Bad Ammunition Appropriately

Old Ammunition storeIf you have got a large batch of damaged ammunition, you need a more appropriate method of eliminating them rather than burying or disabling and throwing to the environment. You should call a professional who can advise or dispose your stockpile of ammo.

Local law enforcement

If your immediate neighbor is a cop, you can request the person to take care of your damaged bullets. Or else, call a local police station and ask them to come and collect them. Not all police departments handle the bad or damaged rounds, so you need to enquire first.

Hazardous waste facility

If you cannot reach the police department at the moment, consider calling the nearest hazardous waste facility. However, they might not be able to allow dumping of ammo into the hazardous waste landfills but they will provide advice.

In case you have a larger quantity of bad ammo, you can inquire from a local indoor shooting range to see if they can take a few off your hands. In order to continue advocating for a cleaner and healthy environment, it is wiser to dispose your ammo in a safer manner. You can check your state laws so that you can be sure of what you do.