How waste affects our fresh water
Did you know the average Manitoban makes 660 kg of waste each year? That's about the weight of a full-sized adult cow and about 1.5 times as heavy as a grand piano.
Different types of waste pose different problems for our water quality and quantity.
Leaf and yard waste, food waste, and wood waste
About one-third of household waste in the Winnipeg Metro Region is organic waste. Meaning a third of what we throw out could easily be either composting at home or collected using curbside yard waste pickup services.
Organic waste in our landfills takes up space. Decomposition at the disposal location releases methane gas into the air, a powerful greenhouse gas (GHG). In Manitoba, landfills are responsible for three per cent of GHG emissions.
Increased GHG emissions accelerate climate change, which creates extreme variations in rain and snowfall, leading to more floods and droughts. The number of floods in the world over 20 years has more than doubled between 1980-1999 and 2000-2019 (1,389 versus 3,254).
The average person wastes 1,165 litres of water per day because of food waste. Producing our food requires a lot of water. For example:
One hamburger takes 2,400 litres of water to produce
One cup of coffee needs 140 litres of water
A bag of potato chips requires 185 litres of water
It also takes a lot of water to make the products we buy that often become waste. For example:
It takes 2,700 litres of water to make one cotton t-shirt
Around 12,000 litres to make a smartphone
At least twice as much water to produce a plastic water bottle than the amount of water in the bottle (ex. at least 2 L of water to create a bottle for 1 L of water)
Click here for more examples of the hidden water in everyday products
Waste tossed on the roadside can easily float or get blown into our waterways. Litter on the street can end up in our street drains, flowing directly into nearby freshwater rivers or streams.
Electronics, medications, and paint waste can lead to water contamination if not properly recycled. Imagine being a fish in contaminated water. The fumes and colours of paints floating around you all the time, destroying water visibility, killing the things you eat, and degrading water quality.
It is crucial to take oil and other chemicals to a hazardous waste management depot for proper disposal.
Check out last week's blog to learn how to properly dispose of these and other household waste products.