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There are lots of waste materials that are degradable and non-degradable. Therefore, categorization and proper disposal of waste are very important. Waste materials can be classified as biodegradable and non-biodegradable. Risks and threats related to waste disposal can be easily avoided by the knowledge of the different types of waste.
- Natural Polymers
- Synthetic Polymers
- High-Density Polyethylene
- Nylon and Polyester
What does Biodegradable mean?
A biodegradable material can be defined as a material which can be decomposed by bacteria or other natural organisms and not be added to pollution.
Biodegradable wastes are such waste materials which are and can be degraded by natural factors like microbes (e.g. bacteria, fungi and a few more), and abiotic elements like temperature, UV, oxygen, etc. Some examples of such wastes are food materials, kitchen wastes, and other natural wastes. Microorganisms and other abiotic factors together break down complex substances into simpler organic matter, which eventually suspend and fade into the soil. The whole process is natural, which can be rapid or slow. Therefore, the environmental issues and risks caused by biodegradable wastes are low.
Huge dumping of waste can raise some threats to life sooner or later. To avoid this, some people practise composting. In composting, the biodegradable wastes are dumped into a pit and covered for a period. Due to the action of microbes, they will decompose and will be used as manure for cultivation purposes. This will reduce the amount of waste in landfills.
What is Biodegradable Waste?
Biodegradable waste is a type of waste, typically originating from plant or animal sources, which may be degraded by other living organisms.
Biodegradable waste can be commonly found in municipal solid waste as green waste, food waste, paper waste and biodegradable plastics. Other biodegradable wastes include human waste, manure, sewage, and slaughterhouse waste.
What does Non-biodegradable mean?
A Non-Biodegradable material can be defined as a kind of substance which cannot be broken down by natural organisms and acts as a source of pollution.
Unlike biodegradable wastes, non-biodegradable cannot be easily handled. Non-biodegradable wastes are those that cannot be decomposed or dissolved by natural agents. They remain on earth for thousands of years without any degradation. Hence, the threat caused by them is also more critical. A notable example is plastics which are a commonly used material in almost every field. To give these plastics a long-lasting effect, improved quality plastics are being put to use. This made them more temperature resistant and more durable even after use. Other examples are cans, metals, and chemicals for agricultural and industrial purposes. They are the main causes of air, water and soil pollution and diseases like cancer.
Since non-biodegradable wastes are not Eco-friendly, they need to be replaced. As a part of the development of alternatives, scientists have brought forward many ideas like biodegradable plastics, etc. They incorporated some biodegradable materials with plastics and made them easily and rapidly degradable. But this is quite an expensive procedure.
What is Non-Biodegradable waste?
Waste that cannot be decomposed by biological processes is known as “Non-biodegradable wastes”. Most of the inorganic waste is non-biodegradable. Non-biodegradable wastes that can be recycled are known as “Recyclable waste” and those which cannot be recycled are known as “Non-recyclable waste”.
Also, Check ⇒ Recycling of Paper
Difference between Biodegradable and non-biodegradable
|Degradation process in Biodegradable waste is rapid
|Degradation process in Non-Biodegradable waste is slow
|Biodegradable waste is decomposed and degraded by microbes
|Non-Biodegradable waste cannot be decomposed by microbes
|Biodegradable waste are not accumulated but are used up in a short time
|Non-Biodegradable waste often accumulate
|Biodegradable waste becomes part of biogeochemical cycles and give back rapid turnover
|Most of the Non-Biodegradable waste never enter into biogeochemical cycles, very slow and toxic
|Biodegradable waste are used to produce energy manure, compost and biogas
|Non-Biodegradable waste can be separated and recycled but the process is very expensive
Effects of Waste Material on Environment
Waste quantities are generally growing in all countries all around the world. Every year billions of tons of waste are generated. These wastes are the result of activities in our homes, businesses and industries and the disposal of this large amount is an enormous environmental problem with many dimensions. Municipal, industrial and agricultural solid waste and biomass deposits cause large-scale pollution of land and water. The generation of waste causes a loss of materials and energy and increases environmental costs on society for its collection, treatment and disposal. The impacts of landfills and incineration are significant because of their potential for greenhouse gas emissions (methane, carbon dioxide) and transboundary migration of organic micro-pollutants (dioxins and furans) and volatile heavy metals. Problems with waste are as old as the human race.
Very soon, humans realized that waste is a potential source of diseases and infections, so they dumped their waste, which was totally biological, away from their settlements. The first organized municipal dump was in 500 BC outside ancient Athens in Greece, where regulations required waste to be dumped at least a mile from the city limits and covered with soil (Vuk, 1995). Until the industrialization of society, waste was mostly organic so that it could decompose naturally. Later, mostly because of industrialization, urbanization, and the development of consumer society amount of waste increased very fast.
Whether it is biodegradable or non-biodegradable, they harm human life and ruin other organisms and their environment. Thus, proper treatment of waste has to be done. This is not only the responsibility of the Government but of every individual as well. The three Rs- Recycle, Reuse, and Reduce are the simplest steps which can be followed by each person to do their part. This can save energy and other resources as well. Another step is separate biodegradable from non-biodegradable at home and dispose of them separately.