Health and the Environment: Litter that lasts

November 11, 2015, 10:10am

By Deidre Kwenani, Ndapunikwa Investments
Photo: Pixabay

Did you know the health of our environment plays a role in our personal health? Keeping Namibia clean is like keeping our own bodies clean. But how do we keep the nation clean?

There are several ways to do it, and the simplest way is by using the bin for rubbish instead of throwing our trash on the ground. Anything from sweet wrappers, to plastic bottles, to take-away containers. Those types of trash will certainly “ugly” the nation.

You might think it’s innocent when you toss out a bottle, can, or even a cigarette butt on the ground… but if you knew how long it takes for that piece of trash to biodegrade you might think twice.

What do I mean by “biodegrade”? It’s basically the process of waste products decomposing back into natural elements. If a waste product is made from natural (or organic) products, it has the ability to biodegrade. However, if a product is man-made from non-organic material it could take hundreds or thousands of years for one piece of trash to decompose.

Simply put, that piece of trash you throw on the ground is capable of being an eye-sore for years and years to come. The facts about decomposition of waste are variable, but here are some common numbers about garbage decomposition that might alarm you!

Did you know it takes about 50 years for a tin can to decompose? How long do you suspect it takes for an orange peel to decompose, or a glass bottle? Of course some things biodegrade faster than others, so sciencelearn.org put together a list.

They suggest that vegetables take from 5 days to 1 month to decompose. A piece of paper can take anywhere from 2-5 months. Orange peels? 6 months! These items are all made from naturally occurring elements; but what about those man-made products like glass, Styrofoam, and plastics.

Scientific research is now suggesting that a styrofoam cup can take 500 years or more to degrade. A plastic bag is more or less the same, but a glass bottle, which represents one of the four main items disposed of in Namibia… it can take up to a million years to decompose. Think about that next time you throw a plastic, styrofoam, or glass bottle on the ground, and ask yourself this question, “How do we live a healthy life, if we are spoiling the environment we live in?”

Next week, Ndapunikwa Investments will give you some tips on managing waste in our nation, and ensuring that Namibia and our homes stay clean, healthy, and beautiful!