Edexcel GCSE Geography Student Book revised edition: Unit 1

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Text of Edexcel GCSE Geography Student Book revised edition: Unit 1

  • Construction anddemolition 31%

    Mining and quarrying28%

    Industry13%

    Commercial12%

    Household9%

    Other7%

    104

    Chapter 6 A wasteful world

    Chapter 6 A wasteful worldTypes of waste and its productionWaste is defi ned by the European Union as any substance or object that the holder discards, intends to discard or is required to discard. It is also referred to in different places as rubbish, trash, garbage or junk, depending on the type of material. In the UK, the government classifi es waste as either hazardous (waste that poses a risk to human health) or non-hazardous. Waste comes from a variety of different sources. As you can see from Figure 1, the main source is from the construction and demolition of buildings. But in this chapter we will be focusing on domestic (household) waste.

    The differences between LICs and HICs waste productionWe all produce waste of one sort or another and it has become an increasingly important issue in many countries as they decide how it should be disposed of.

    There are many different types of domestic waste. Figure 2 shows the main types of waste produced by households in the USA. This pattern is fairly typical for HICs, with paper and cardboard much of it newspapers and packaging being the main component. Food waste is also signifi cant, much of it being leftovers from meals.

    HICs produce more waste than LICs typically about fi ve times as much. It is estimated that in LICs the average weight of waste produced per person is 100220 kg per year, whereas in HICs it is 400800 kg per year. The top waste-producing countries are Ireland (800 kg/person/year), Norway (780), USA (760), and Denmark (725). The UK (600 kg/person/year) comes tenth.

    It is much harder to establish accurate waste-production fi gures for LICs, but there are estimated fi gures for Laos (237 kg/person/year), Vietnam (182), Philippines (146) and Thailand (73).

    Objectives

    Know the different types of waste.

    Be able to describe the differences between HIC and LIC waste production.

    Understand what causes these differences.

    Figure 1: Sources of waste in the UK Figure 2: Types of domestic waste in the USA

    Activity 1

    Describe the different sources of waste shown in Figure 1.

    Other4%Cans

    4%Textile

    5%

    Glass5%

    Plastic12%

    Food 25%

    Paper andboard 45%

    Top Tip

    Good answers to questions about patterns should recognise that there are often exceptions or anomalies that do not conform to the general pattern. This is true in waste production. Japan, for example, only produces 400 kg per person per year, even though it is one of the richest HICs.

  • 105

    Types of waste and its production

    Wealth and increasing waste As countries become more wealthy, the people have a greater demand for consumer products, as they become part of what is known as the consumer society. They buy more items and they replace them more frequently. This not only leads to products becoming waste, perhaps before they have completely lost their usefulness, but it also means more packaging that then needs to be disposed of. The tendency for people to buy things and then throw them away has led to the creation of what we can call a throw-away society.

    In LICs, not only is much less waste produced, but the content is also rather different. By far the biggest component is food waste, as can be seen from the data for Dhaka in Figure 3. (Although the actual amount of food wasted is small, the percentage is high as they produce so little waste in total.) Much less waste is produced in LICs because:

    Consumer purchases are very limited because of low incomes.

    Little packaging is used on products, so there is limited plastic waste.

    Many people cannot read, so fewer newspapers are sold.

    Disposable nappies and single-use drinks containers are rarely used.

    Practical recycling for personal use is widespread because people cannot

    afford to buy new products.

    Figure 3: Types of domestic waste in Dhaka, Bangladesh

    The difference between HICs and LICs is well illustrated by the amount of waste paper they produce, as shown in the table on the right.

    In the UK, the biggest component of waste at the beginning of the twentieth century was ashes from coal fi res. The move away from coal fi res in the 1960s saw the disappearance of coal waste. Today the main bulk of domestic waste is paper, cardboard, metals, glass and plastics.

    tActivity 2

    Describe the differences in waste production between the USA and Bangladesh, as shown in Figures 2 and 3.

    Country Waste paper (kg/person/year)

    USA 293.0

    Japan 239.0

    Germany 205.0

    Poland 54.0

    Indonesia 17.0

    Bangladesh 1.3

    Other10%

    Garden waste11%

    Plastics5%

    Paper4%

    Food and vegetablewaste 70%

    Top Tip

    Good answers to questions about differences between countries point out that there are differences in the composition of waste as well as in the quantity.

  • Build Better Answers

    EXAM-STYLE QUESTION

    Explain differences in waste production between HICs and LICs. (4 marks)

    Basic answers (01 marks)Give descriptions of the differences only with no explanation.

    Good answers (2 marks)Offer some explanatory statements relating to the level of development, perhaps focusing on the amounts of waste produced.

    Excellent answers (34 marks)Provide clear and full explanations of the differences in the amounts and types of waste produced.

    Top Tip

    Good answers to questions about harmful waste should provide a specifi c example of something that is harmful. For instance, an example of a harmful metal from a computer.

    106

    Chapter 6 A wasteful world

    In LICs, the rural areas produce less waste than the urban areas because they have lower per capita incomes. Urbanisation and rising incomes are the two most important factors that lead to waste generation because they cause increased demand for resources.

    For example, in Bangladesh, the rural population generates only 55 kg of waste per person per year, while the urban population generates 150180 kg.

    Different types of domestic waste in HICsHICs not only produce much more domestic waste than LICs but they also produce different types of waste. Items that typically fi nd their way into HIC waste include:

    Electronic goods including mobile phones which are often discarded not

    long into their potential life.

    White goods domestic appliances such as washing machines and fridges.

    Packaging including plastic bags.

    In the UK we throw away 15 million mobile phones per year that is 1,700 per hour. Mobiles contain harmful metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium and there are thought to be over 5 billion of them in the world today.

    The UN estimates that a global total of 50 million tonnes of electronic waste is being produced each year. (A sign of our throw-away society is that twelve years ago the average lifespan of a PC was ten years, but now it is just three years.) Electronic waste contains many harmful metals and gases, as you can see in Figure 4.

    Figure 4: Harmful waste from a computer

    Mercury is used in fl at screen displays

    DEHP is used in plastic cases of keyboards

    Beryllium is used in motherboards

    Cadmium is used in switches

  • tActivity 3

    Study Figure 5.

    (a) Describe the composition of packaging waste (i) by weight (ii) by percentage of packaged goods.

    (b) State the main differences between the two.

    (c) Suggest two reasons for these differences.

    Watch Out!

    Although plastic packaging forms the highest percentage of packaging used, it is often very light and so it is not the highest in terms of weight.

    (ii) by percentage of packaged goods.

    107

    Types of waste and its production

    PackagingPackaging can be defi ned as materials used for the containment, protection, handling, delivery, and presentation of goods. Packaging can be divided into three broad categories:

    Primary packaging: the wrapping or the containers that are handled by the

    consumer.

    Secondary packaging: the larger cases or boxes that are used to group

    quantities of primary-packaged goods for distribution and for display in

    shops.

    Transit packaging: the wooden pallets, the cardboard and plastic wrapping

    and the containers that are used to enable the loading, transport and

    unloading of goods.

    The UK produced 10.5 million tonnes of packaging waste in 2007, of which 70% was for food and drink. Much of the primary food and drinks packaging is dirty and contains residues from its contents.

    Paper and cardboard are the most widely used packaging materials in terms of weight, as can be seen in Figure 5. They account for 43% by weight of all packaging and are used to pack 25% of goods. Plastic packaging accounts for just 20% of the weight of all packaging but 53% of goods are packaged in plastics. Because of its low weight and relative strength, plastic is one of the most energy-effi cient, robust and economic materials available. Plastic bottles are widely recycled and other plastics make a positive contribution to mixed waste sent for energy recovery (as an increasing amount of waste is).

    Mixed-material packaging can in some cases have the benefi ts of being more resource- and energy-effi cient than single-material packaging. Combining materials can make subsequent recycling diffi cult but it makes a positive contribution because energy can be recovered from it. An example of this type of packaging is the Tetra Pak which typically consists of 75% paper, 20% polyethylene and 5% aluminium foil.