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Environmental Benefits and Impacts

Benefits

Resource Conservation

IDEM encourages the 3Rs of waste – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Reduce the amount of waste we make to a feasible extent by using resources wisely and using less than usual. For example, packaging. Reducing waste will not only protect the environment but will also save on costs or reduce expenses for disposal. In the same way, recycling and/or reusing the waste that is produced benefits the environment by lessening the need to extract resources and lowers the potential for contamination.

Energy Production and Environmental Quality

Biomass Anaerobic digesters and biomass gasification facilities collect biomass, manure, or other appropriate feedstock and convert the energy stored in its organic matter into methane or synthetic gas, which is used to produce energy (gas or electricity). This reduces the potential for pathogens to enter water systems through exposure to the land.

Certain suitable and allowable high fuel value solid and hazardous waste used as alternative fuel source in combustion devices reduces the use of coal or natural gas, as well as, reduces waste disposal.

Fertilizer and Soil Amendment

The animals raised in confined feeding operations produce manure and wastewater that is collected and stored in pits, tanks, lagoons, and other storage devices. Most farmers apply the manure to area fields as fertilizer. When stored and applied properly, this beneficial reuse provides a natural source of nutrients for crop production. It also lessens the need for fuel and other resources that are used in the production of commercial fertilizer.

Impacts

Environmental Contamination

Improper handling of waste may lead to contamination of surface water, ground water, land, and the air. For instance, when waste is illegally dumped along roadsides, in the woods, in illegal dumps, in wetlands, in lakes and streams, or by being improperly burned, these are all examples of improper handling. Once waste affects the environment, it can:

  • Cause potential threats to human health
  • Harm or kill animals
  • Damage plants and natural resources
  • Spread of diseases

Unsightly waste piles can also spoil the aesthetic appeal of Indiana’s landscape, decrease community quality of life, lower property values of surrounding homes, negatively affect tourism, and cost municipalities money for cleanups.

Potential Negative Health Effects

Physical hazards at open dumps include broken glass, sharp metal, and hypodermic needles that can cause painful injuries; appliances in which children or animals can become trapped; and tires that may catch fire and emit toxic smoke. Illegal drug lab waste can pose immediate threats (i.e., explosions, fires, chemical burns, or vapors). Chemical hazards include toxic substances such as antifreeze, paint, pesticides, and mercury from gas appliance pilot light sensors and other products that can be especially hazardous to curious children.

Biological hazards include contaminated medical waste that can cause life-altering diseases (HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis B or C). Household garbage (e.g., food scraps, dirty diapers) can attract disease-spreading rodents. Discarded tires or other objects that collect standing water can provide breeding areas for mosquitoes that could carry encephalitis or West Nile Virus.