Waste Waste refers to unwanted materials and things. It can be anything from household garbage to industrial effluents, batteries, electronics, construction materials, and more.
Sources of Waste
The major sources of waste are industries and households. Indeed, industrial waste is not comparable with household trash, but the quantity of junk and garbage that is thrown out of the houses all across the world is huge. Year after year, it can add up to millions of tons of waste materials that find their way into the landfills. Every industry contributes to environmental waste that gets added to the soils and landfills on the planet. Everyday human activities are also a major source of waste on our planet.
Industrial waste can be in the form of solids, liquids, and gases. However, when we talk about industrial waste, it is mostly referred to as solid waste. The sources of industrial waste are the power generation plants, metal processing industries, cement plants, iron and steel manufacturing industries, manufacturing units for leather goods, food packaging, chemicals, transport equipment, resins, plastics, and paper. Even water treatment plants generate industrial waste. Industrial solid waste contains metals, chemicals, plastics, demolition materials, medical trash, ashes, packaging and other hazardous materials. Sludge from industries contains toxins, which is harmful for the environment.
Commercial waste refers to the waste from commercial or business establishments. Any trash or waste material from restaurants, hotels, markets, or offices is commercial waste. Industrial and domestic waste is not included in this category. Any waste generated from the premises or places of business or trade is termed as commercial waste. Paper, food, plastics, glass, fabrics, and even toxins are examples of commercial waste.
Domestic waste is garbage and waste materials discarded from the households. It can include food materials, plastics, cardboard, rubber, metal, paper, wood, fabric, chemicals etc. Domestic waste can be organic or inorganic in nature. Most of the food waste generated in domestic premises is organic in nature. Batteries, electronics, and metals are the inorganic waste. Discarded mattresses and furniture form a major component of household waste. Without proper recycling, mattresses can severely clog landfills. Chemicals from household cleaners add to pollution in water sources.
Agricultural waste refers to waste generated due to agriculture-based activities or operations. Chemicals from fertilizer plants, harvest wastes from agricultural activities and fertilizer run-offs from fields are various types of agricultural waste. It also includes waste from slaughter houses, poultry farms, feedlots, vineyards, dairies, and agricultural farms. Fertilizer run-offs are a major source of waste that pollutes local water sources and soil, and oceans in a major way (via other bodies of water). Pesticides and chemicals can also contribute to agricultural waste.
Chemical waste includes any waste material consisting of chemicals. Its sources include industries, farms, commercial establishments, and even households. Cleaners and refrigerants are examples of household chemical waste. Both industrial and domestic use of batteries can be harmful without proper recycling of waste. Television tubes, computers, and components of appliances contain chemicals that contribute to chemical-based pollution. Lead and mercury from electronic parts can seep into the soil, thus increasing toxicity in soil and water.
Types of Wastes
Besides the classification based on their sources of origin, waste can also be classified as biodegradable and non-biodegradable.
Waste that consists of organic matter is referred to as biodegradable waste. Food and paper are perfect examples. Organic matter is broken down or decomposed into gases (methane, carbon dioxide) and liquids (water, others) via the action of the microorganisms. Major sources of biodegradable waste are households and some types of commercial establishments such as restaurants, hotels, food processing units etc. Some biodegradables can also come from industries, animal farms, and agricultural farms.
Non-biodegradable waste cannot be further decomposed via the action of the microorganisms. Such waste is the major source of toxins in the landfills. Chemicals, metals, plastics, paints, rubber etc. are examples of non-biodegradable wastes. These materials can remain as landfills for thousands of years without any damage. Toxins from metals and plastics get soaked into the earth and pollute the soil and water sources.
Recycling of Waste
Waste recycling is a necessary step for waste management. Recycling of waste refers to reusing waste material instead of throwing it away permanently. Almost any substance can be recycled. Paper, wood, metals, and components of electronics are now often recycled to keep them away from the landfills. Each component of a mattress can be recycled such as the fabric, springs, coir, foam etc. Wood from discarded furniture is now often recycled.
Decomposition of Biodegradable Waste
Biodegradable waste can be broken down or decomposed into gases and liquids by the action of microorganisms, sunlight, oxygen, and even water. The timeframe for decomposing is never certain. It depends on the waste material and the type of decomposing it goes through via different elements.
Composting is a process of biodegradation of organic waste but under controlled aerobic conditions. The process consists of decomposing organic waste such as food and plant parts with the help of microorganisms such as worms, fungi, and bacteria. Unlike natural decomposing, composting is undertaken by several organizations, and the process mostly occurs in large containers or holes in the grounds with the help of proper oxygen required for the process.
Vermicomposting is the process where earthworms are used for the purpose of decomposing organic materials. It is a type of controlled composting. Vermicomposting helps in producing a better quality of compost (manure). Vermicomposting is actually the excretion from the earthworms who feed on the organic material. The excreta in granular form consists of chemical secretions found in the digestive track of the earthworms. These chemicals help in breaking down organic matter and enrich the soil with nutrients.
Conclusion Proper regulations for waste management and recycling are required to control the damage from the pollution caused by waste generated from everywhere. Without them, pollution control will remain a utopia.