We burn our trash out here. There is very little positive about this situation. Maybe a large scale incinerating operation with air scrubbers and metal removal capabilities could provide a somewhat reasonable garbage solution but that is not an option yet out here. Garbage is taken care of on a household basis. It is chucked into a decently large hole somewhere on the property and after enough has accumulated, a fire is lit. This is in an effort to make the hole last longer by reducing the size of the garbage and to help along any reincorporation into the soil. For the most part, the outcome is a low-temperature, plastic-fueled bonfire. Who knows what sort of sinister and noxious things are forged in those bonfires but there is little doubt they are mostly unhealthy for the surrounding population and even the global environment.
My garbage burning addiction will catch up to me eventually. Most likely in the form of multiple cancers and heavy metal poisoning
The personal upside to this waste solution is that fire is amazing. This is one of those cases where one man's trash is another man's treasure. This is because sometimes I get to turn the trash into a glorious inferno. Simultaneously, my environmentally-conscience side sees a rubbish pit as half empty and my pyromaniac side sees it as half full. Wait, strike that and reverse it. Actually, I suppose it would all depend on if I was being pessimistic or optimistic. As you can see, it is a very conflicted state of being! My love of fire is one of my most atavistic features. I enjoy making fires, tending fires, watching fires, cooking over fires, crouching and grunting beside fires. I find them to be calming and stabilizing. In fact, I bet I could start a successful New Age therapy where every so often, one would build a small camp-fire and stare at it for an hour and let the healing begin. It is still in the developmental phase but I can tell that this is a billion dollar idea.
Garbage fires don't rank very highly on my favorite activities, it is more of a silver lining issue. Still, how bad should I feel about this and more importantly, are garbage fires a huge problem for my village? Without any solid evidence to guide me, I think not. The people here have very little waste and I would bet the carbon footprint of the entire village is significantly smaller than the same population selected from the U.S. At my host families house, these garbage fires happen once, maybe twice a month. I can't see it happening more frequently at other homes. One, people here are relatively poor so they don't buy many things or they usually buy in bulk with less packaging and two, the village is remote enough that all the things that tend to be garbage pit bound are hard to come by (soda cans, wrappers, all manner of plastic packaging etc.).
The garbage fires might actually be a good thing when thought about in a different way. It is at least taking some sort of action with regards to the waste. Again for the reasons mentioned above, there is little waste in my village but that does not mean that people do not litter. If someone has any bit of trash and isn't within maybe 10 meters of a garbage pit they'll just toss it anywhere. A terrible thing indeed but it doesn't lead to an eyesore in the village, not yet at least. In a larger setting though, even in the next village over, the litter is considerable worse. There are ever growing piles of garbage everywhere. Invariably, the worst offenders are taxis ranks where the ground is actually made of crushed soda cans and ice-juice wrappers.
The first step to correcting and preventing this would be getting people to throw things in a bin. This is hard enough in itself because you first have to convince people that littering is not a good thing because it is apparent that the sights and smells from it are not dissuading anyone. Although, and this may be why no one bothers, the next step is altogether missing. No one is going to come around to collect the bins nor would anyone take it upon themselves to make a landfill or village sized garbage fire. Large scale waste management in a rural context is a difficult thing and unfortunately, I don't really see anybody stepping up to that problem in the near future.