Economic activity has always generated waste, but the phenomenon has clearly increased with the consumer society.
In 1510 an investigation is carried out by the authorities: the air has become unbreathable since the exploitation of coal in the city. A doctor says that the smoke produced is dangerous, that no one can stand such an odor, and that as a result people may die suddenly. Proof that pollution is already seen as a scourge that must be protected. In 1673, the foul-smelling tanneries were expelled from Paris and, a century later, laundries and dyers followed the same path.
At that time, the health and well-being of the population was still the priority. Things were reversed during the industrial revolution. With this new era where industry becomes all-powerful, we no longer care about local residents or nature. In 1774, a memorable trial began this turning point: intoxicated by the leaks of sulfuric acid escaping from the Holker factory, residents attacked the industrialist, demanding compensation and the relocation of the factory.
They are rejected because the production is considered of national interest! Industrial pollution, it is at this point that the expression appears, is perceived as the price to be paid for progress and economic development. So we stoically support the fumes.
Pollution in modern times
After 1945, the advent of the consumer society amplified the phenomenon: everyone now has the means to become a polluter on their own scale. If a few voices are raised to worry about this pollution, they are inaudible.
A series of dramas in the 1970s and 1980s forced the world opinion to open their eyes.
First in the United States, where 1969 is a dark year: in California, the beaches of Santa Barbara are soiled by the leaks of an oil platform, and in Cleveland (Ohio), the Cuyahoga River catches fire under the effect of flammable products spilled on it.
In France, it was the sinking of the Amoco Cadiz off the coast of Finistère in 1978 that raised awareness. Broadcast on television, images of thousands of birds stuck in the black mire upset the whole country. Demonstrations are improvised in the region. What will Brittany be like when I turn 20? Can we read on a sign brandished by a kid. Thousands of volunteers come to help the locals to clean the beaches for weeks.
Pollution has become a concern. A 1981 poll found that 47% of people considered environmental problems very important, and 42% important. But not to the point of changing their way of life. After all, the Amoco Cadiz oil spill only affected a small part of Brittany. If you are not from there, you can still think you are spared.
After Chernobyl, mentalities change
On April 26, 1986, reactor 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in Ukraine, and a radioactive cloud covered Europe.
In France, there’s panic. In early May, they stop buying fruits and vegetables for fear of contamination. Sales of strawberries and asparagus plummet by more than 30%. Geiger counters, which measure ionizing radiation, are appearing everywhere: the Skyrock radio makes daily readings, while a journalist measures vegetables. This time, there is no longer any question of hiding behind your little finger: pollution concerns everyone.
In an attempt to limit its effects, decisions are multiplying. In 1991, Europe tackled nitrates that contaminate water in agricultural areas, and introduced the first standard for combustion engine emissions a year later. In France, the 1992 law lays down the principle of recycling. Paying attention to the environment is gradually becoming a habit: the time is over when, as in this scene from a movie, you dump your trash in nature after a picnic …
The fight against pollution integrates educational programs. Everywhere, green alternatives are developing: Japan and Germany are betting on solar energy by funding roofs covered with photovoltaic panels in 1995, and the first wind farm was established in France in 2001 in the Somme.
The ecological cause is now embodied by freshly converted people: little concerned with environmental issues at the start of his career, Commander Cousteau played a role in the media coverage of the Earth Summit in Brazil in 1992. And Nicolas Hulot, first photographer and backpacker, created in 1990 the Ushuaïa Foundation – renamed since Nicolas-Hulot Foundation for nature and man.
However, the efforts made have little weight in the face of a general deteriorating situation. We realize this at the dawn of the 2000s with a new oil spill in Brittany, that of the oil tanker Erika, on December 12, 1999.
Two years earlier, the American navigator Charles J. Moore discovered that a gigantic continent of plastic waste is floating in the Pacific. There has also been a failure to manage nuclear waste, most of which has a lifespan of 100,000 years and which we do not know what to do with.
Scientific analysis of pollution
The scientific work relating to the impact of pollution on our health is increasing. In 2002, a study carried out by the cardiologist Yves Cottin proves that when the quantity of fine particles exceeds 25 micrograms per cubic meter, the number of heart attacks jumps by 161%.
Pesticides are now presented as potential serial killers. A grain farmer becomes the symbol of these dangers. A heavy user of phytosanitary products, in 2004 he inhaled toxic vapors while bending over a tank filled with herbicides and has since accumulated neurological problems. In 2007, he filed a complaint for lack of information against Monsanto, which markets the herbicide in question, Lasso, which was banned the same year. The agrochemical giant was ordered to compensate him in 2012, but appealed against this decision.
The 2000s are the years of another realization: pollution does not just harm our health, it hampers the climate. Waste management companies like Little Rock Dumpster Rental HQ try to help clean the mess, but junk removal is not enough. While the first two reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, created in 1988) had gone relatively unnoticed, the third, published in 2001, is widely reported in the media. As well as the hypothesis – now proven – that climate change is anthropogenic.
Many people realized that warming was a problem during the heat wave of 2003, because it showed the weaknesses of our system in the event of an extreme episode, according to expert climatologists.
In the Middle Ages (from 476 to 1453)
Around the year 1000, men began to regroup in cities. The inhabitants throw their waste, excrement, animal carcasses on the street or in rivers. The bourgeois residences in large cities (Munich, Lyon, Paris, etc.) are certainly equipped with latrines, but their pipes lead directly into the streets!
The streets are then muddy, dirty and smelly, rats spread there. Live pigs and dogs roaming freely in the street clean the city by eating garbage, vagrants “treat” also part of this waste.
People even walk with clogs with high heels, so as not to get our feet dirty! In Paris it is the time of epidemics. No longer able to bear the smell, Philippe Auguste orders in 1184 to pave the main streets and creates central canals and ditches for cleaning certain areas. Four hundred years later, only half the streets are paved.
In all the neighborhoods, wells are created where everyone must dump their rubbish and in 1343, Charles V built covered evacuation ditches to avoid the odors. The garbage is therefore stored in eccentric places or reserved public places, it is certainly a change … but it is limited: they moved the problem without solving it …
But despite this, people most often refuse to take garbage to the expected places, they continue to pollute the rivers which serve as a garbage chute and throw their domestic waste in the streets, resulting in bacterial infiltration into the soil and causes epidemics of plague, cholera and typhus.
In Europe, the most important epidemic was the Black Plague of 1347 which made 25 million deaths. At that time, the locals think it’s the smell of garbage that makes people sick and unaware even though this garbage is teeming with bacteria …
Junk collection in modern times
In the 1960s, global consumption exploded: waste was therefore multiplied by 10 with the chemical industry and new materials, especially plastics.
Since then, we have entered the era of disposable items (pens, razors, batteries, etc.) and of ready-made consumables: fast food, wipes, packaged ready meals, pre-cooked vegetables. All this packaging has led to the doubling of household waste.
Social changes partly explained the increase in waste: single homes like the number of servings and individual packages jumped!
For a long time now, manufacturers have been seeking to reduce the weight of packaging. So, the weight of an empty polystyrene yogurt pot was halved between 1970 and 1990.
Since 1998, a decree stipulates that the weight and volume of a package must be limited to the minimum necessary while ensuring all of its functions.
Junk Removal in the United States
But all this packaging continues to fills our garbage cans to the brink!
The situation is particularly dire in the USA, where each American person throws around 120 kg of household packaging every year.
There is so much waste that dumpsters large and small are a regular sight in the big cities as well as the smaller ones. Landfills are getting full and recycling is not widespread enough to allow to a better usage of resources.
There is even a thriving industry of dumpster rental services, where people can rent a large bin when they have too much junk accumulated on their premises. The company will bring an empty roll-off dumpster and the customer fills it themselves with all their junk. One full they call the waste management company, which will bring it to the nearest landfill.[Top]
The United States is the largest economy, and this is in no small part due to national consumption.
Americans are known to be big spenders in a society dominated by instant gratification and hyper-consumerism. As such we can expect a huge quantity of garbage created daily from such behavior.
Waste management and how to deal with with the problem of containing pollution is one of the nightmares facing local and state oficials.[Top]
Sometimes pollution can be more predominant inside the house than outside!
What are the main sources of indoor pollution? What risks does it expose us to? What are the right actions to improve your home’s air quality?
Improving indoor air quality is a health priority
Knowing that we spend more than 80% of our time in closed places (home, work, school, transport, etc.), the condition of the air we breathe is a major factor that conditions our health. Exposure to indoor pollution can lead to various symptoms and conditions: respiratory tract irritation, headache, poisoning, etc.
What are the main sources of pollution of inside air?
Tobacco is of course the first indoor pollutant … and the easiest to act on! Then there are products used for cleaning or for improving the atmosphere (household products, interior perfumes, incense), DIY products (paints, glues, solvents, gardening products), building materials (glass wool, rock wool), products used for the manufacture of furniture (formaldehyde for example), radon, etc.
The right things to do at home to fight against indoor pollution
Regularly ventilate your home.
It is better to insulate your home, which translates into less energy expenditure. But this insulation hinders the renewal of our indoor air. It is therefore necessary to ventilate all the rooms every day by opening the windows wide for at least 10 minutes.
Even if it is cold, and even during periods of peak outdoor pollution, it is essential to ventilate in order to renew and mix the air, to dilute and remove indoor pollutants. Please note, some activities require even more ventilation: cleaning, DIY, decoration, renovation, etc.
Equip your home with a suitable ventilation system
The ventilation systems (VMC, controlled mechanical ventilation) installed in our dwellings provide general and permanent air circulation. Their installation and verification of their operation must be carried out by a specialist.
Make sure that the air inlets, grilles and exhaust vents are not blocked and clean them as often as necessary to keep them effective.
What measures should be adopted for each pollutant?
Reducing indoor pollution from tobacco
Do not smoke indoors, or even outside the window. Also force your guests to smoke outside. With 3,000 toxic substances, tobacco is the first pollutant present in homes, causing cancer by active and passive smoking, asthma, allergies, cardiovascular disease, etc. Each year, some thousands of people die from second-hand smoke.
Control pollution from household products and home fragrances
Ventilate when using household products, avoid spray products, do not mix products with each other (especially with bleach), follow the instructions for use, doses and safety indications, limit the number of products you use, prefer products certified as protecting the environment.
Avoid scented candles, incense and home fragrances, major sources of indoor pollution. Also watch out for stain removers or solvents used to remove nail polish.
Reduce indoor pollution from DIY products and building materials
Many building materials (paints, glues, solvents, glazes, waxes, strippers, thinners, lacquers, etc.) emit toxic substances such as fibers or volatile organic compounds or VOCs (formaldehyde, organic solvents , glycol ethers, hydrocarbons).
When you tinker:
- always wear the appropriate protection (filter mask, gloves, glasses),
- close the products well after use,
- keep them in a ventilated place and out of reach of children.
If the work takes place indoors, take regular breaks outside and ventilate. Prioritize the purchase of products that contain the least quantity and number of pollutants: read the labels, favor the eco-labels and consult the pictograms.
Please note, some new furniture (in particular agglomerated wood) gives off chemical substances for a certain time after unpacking them. Ideally, leave them for a few days in a well-ventilated place before installing them in your bedroom or living room.
Reducing indoor pollution by radon
Radon is a radioactive natural gas emitted by the soil that causes lung cancer (second cause after smoking). The presence of radon depends on the nature of the soil and the degree of containment of the site. If you live in a region with a high concentration of radon, work to increase the ventilation of your accommodation may be necessary.[Top]