Waste is an unavoidable item arising as a result of domestic operations or industrial activity. Since they have no alternative use, they are of little to no value. Lack of proper waste disposal system creates a big issue for both the environment a nd human life. Waste is generally divided into biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste.
Contrary to biodegradable items, non biodegradable items are those items that don't break down. They do not decompose via the natural process. In the natural process, the decomposition gets done by the living microorganisms. To get an understanding of non biodegradable waste, we first have to understand what biodegradable waste is.
Biodegradable items get decomposed by microbes such as bacteria and fungi. The decomposition takes place in the presence of high temperatures, sunrays, oxygen, and other factors. Biodegradable wastes are food materials, kitchen wastes, and other natural wastes. The decomposition process may take days or years. The risk to nature is low on account of biodegradable waste which is the complete opposite in case of non biodegradable waste.
What is Non-Biodegradable Waste?
As mentioned above, non biodegradable waste cannot get decomposed by natural agents. They lie on the planet for hundreds of decades. The damage caused by them is very severe. One of the well-known non biodegradable waste examples is plastic. Since plastic is not organic, it does not decompose, resulting in polluting the land and the water ecosystem. Therefore, inorganic wastes can be categorised under non-biodegradable waste.
Difference between Biodegradable and Non-biodegradable waste
Non Biodegradable Waste
Biodegradable waste decays at a faster rate.
Non biodegradable waste decays at a relatively slow pace.
The biodegradable waste gets absorbed by nature.
The non biodegradable waste keeps on accumulating.
The cost of disposal of biodegradable waste is relatively low.
The cost of disposal of non biodegradable waste is high.
List of Non-Biodegradable Wastes
The non biodegradable wastes include:
1. Electronic waste: Used/discarded mobile phones, T.V., computers, etc.
2. Plastic: Old plastic containers, plastic bags, etc.
3. Nuclear Waste: Generated from the nuclear power station
4. Artificial polymer: The origin is the industries using them.
5. Artificial rubber: Often found in the tyre factory.
6. Old use Batteries: Car batteries, etc.
Also Read: How To Start A Plastic Recycling Business?
Adverse Impacts of Non biodegradable waste
In the case of land, the non-biodegradable waste can take away its key nutrients, therefore, polluting the ground. Developing healthy crops or sustenance of various life forms can be a significant issue because of such wastes. For example, in a nuclear disaster, the land becomes useless because it gets contaminated by radioactive materials. Neither can it sustain any life nor its inhabitable. If the waste leaks into marine life, the oxygen level drops, thereby causing loss of aquatic life forms. The water becomes unfit for consumption as well.
Other adverse consequences are as follows:
1. Non-biodegradable wastes such as artificial pesticides make the soil acidic and unfit for cultivation.
2. Toxic substances like Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (D.D.T) can enter the food chain due to improper disposal. It can cause serious health ailments.
Origin of Non biodegradable waste
1. From households: Households are the source of several non-biodegradable wastes. These include metal and steel products such as utensils. Households are the primary contributors to plastic and polymer waste. The Indian household is yet to adopt adequate waste management techniques.
2. Agriculture: As a result of agriculture activities, various residues are left out. The primary residue is artificial fertiliser. Fertilisers such as DDT are non-biodegradable and therefore, impact the land.
3.Construction: As a result of construction activities, several non-biodegradable wastes are produced. These include cement, fly ash etc.
4. Medical waste: Medical wastes are often non-biodegradable. Hospital wastes such as medicine bottles, syringes, equipment, cleaning litter, and other tools and articles in the research laboratories are non-biodegradable. Some hospitals have a waste disposal system. Other hospitals depend on the civic authorities for the proper disposal of waste.
5. Nuclear Power Station: Nuclear power is used to generate energy. At the end of the energy generation process, non-biodegradable nuclear waste is generated. This waste will continue to leak out if not disposed of properly. Many life forms may die immediately on coming in contact with this waste.
6. Plastic Pollution: Plastic is used in households and in industrial packaging. It is one of the worst types of non biodegradable wastes. Its low cost makes it an absolute game-changer in the field of manufacturing. As a result of this feature, we find plastic everywhere. They are in the ocean, the arctic circle, the forests and even on top of the highest mountains. If the plastic covers the soil, the life forms beneath do not get the proper oxygen supply and hence, the entire ecosystem gets disrupted. The land may also get barren due to improper disposal of plastic. Since only less than 50% of the plastic gets recycled, the adverse impact on our environment is not getting reduced. We are also witnessing the slow death of aquatic life on account of plastic pollution. Animals on land such as cows, goats, horses, etc. also consume plastic, leading to disastrous consequences.
Recycling Different Types of Non-biodegradable wastes
Metals: Metals such as aluminium, brass, and copper are hazardous. These materials get broken down into small pieces and are molten to be recast in new items. However, these are often released into the freshwater streams.
Iron and steel: In the waste disposal plant, iron gets segregated from the rest of the waste. This is usually done using magnetic force or heating. This iron can be reused again in the industrial process. However, it may not be as strong as the original iron.
Glass: The items made up of glass get broken down into small pieces. They get heated up in a furnace. This removes its colour. It can again be recast to form another glass material.
Plastics: The major issue in plastic waste is proper segregation. Since plastics come with varieties of chemicals, their segregation is an arduous task. After proper segregation they can be reused or recycled based on strength and flexibility.
Methods to Dispose of Non-Biodegradable wastes
As per the law of thermodynamics, energy is neither created nor destroyed. It only changes form. The non-biodegradable waste has energy stored in itself. This energy can get extracted via the process of recycling. It is only by way of proper disposal that this energy can be accessed. Lots of energy and cost get involved in the production of items that lead to non biodegradable waste. Letting go of such energy on account of improper disposal may cause a severe imbalance of resources. Hence, waste management is critical in the 21st century.
Some of the practical processes of disposing non biodegradable waste are:
- Recycling: Among all the non-biodegradable waste, recycling plastic is significant. The recycling of plastics can take place by initiation of proper segregation. The segregation is based on plastic material and composition. As per recent studies, plastic can be reused a maximum of 5 times. The government of India has taken the initiative to use plastic for road construction. It buys discarded plastic in bulk from the sellers. As a result, it is creating an incentive to dispose of wastes.
The energy derived from the recycling of non biodegradable waste can be used as fuel. This fuel can act as a substitute for fossil fuel. When you get rid of electronic waste, its proper disposal is very critical. One can reach out to the civic authorities to get rid of the waste. Batteries contain reclaimable lead and sulfur acid. If not disposed of with precision, it will leak mercury, lead, nickel and cadmium. These chemicals are hazardous to the Ecosystem and for health. In the case of batteries as well, proper civic disposal should be done.
- Pyrolysis: Pyrolysis is the disposal of waste via heating. This heating takes place in the absence of oxygen. In the lack of oxygen, the poisonous gas, Carbon Monoxide, is released. The heating takes place at a temperature as high as six hundred degrees Celsius. All the volatile elements disintegrate in the heating process. The residue which comes out is ash and carbon.
- Incineration: Incineration focuses on reducing the mass and volume of waste. The mass and volume of the biodegradable waste reduces by 80 to 90% with incineration. Hazardous, medical, and solid wastes are often subjected to incineration.
- Sanitary Landfills: This is unlike a normal landfill. Normal landfills fail to stop the leaking of toxic substances into the groundwater and soil. Sanitary landfills have concrete walls on the side. This prevents leakage of hazardous substances.
- Encapsulation: Often, the waste gets buried deep into the soil or the ocean. To prevent their leakages of wastes and gases, they get filled into a capsule. These days nuclear wastes are getting disposed of using this technique.
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Initiative: The Companies Act, 2013 mandates that companies spend at least 3% of their net income for society. In this context, investing in waste treatment can be considered an eligible expenditure. With a waste treatment plant, pollution from non biodegradable waste can be significantly reduced, resulting in clean air and water. Also, the idea should get propagated among different business lines for creating a positive mindset to spend on waste management techniques.
What more can be done to dispose of Non Biodegradable Waste?
1. The civic authorities should set up proper storage houses to collect the waste material.
2. Rag pickers should be deployed for the collection of non-biodegradable waste.
3. The civic authorities must use different coloured baskets and vehicles for the segregation of wastes.
4. Scientific methods such as incineration must be used.
5. Usage of biodegradable plastic should receive prime focus.
6. The waste generated from the construction sites should get disposed of with care. A fine should be levied on the contractor for improper disposal.
Swachh Bharat Mission
With the advent of the Swachh Bharat mission, the disposal of non-biodegradable waste has become far more efficient. The primary emphasis has been on solid waste management. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change rolled out a new set of rules called Solid Waste Management Rules in 2016. The rules are described as follows:
- Segregating wastes into dry, wet, hazardous waste from the beginning should be made compulsory. It mandates the use of separate bins for biodegradable and non biodegradable wastes.
- Hotels and industries have to treat waste on-site before releasing it.
- In a bid to collect non-biodegradable waste, the emphasis has also been on the employment generation of the rag pickers.
- The companies using non-biodegradable packages have been asked to devise methods to collect waste and dispose of it at the source.
- Waste having substantial energy ( 1500 cal/Kg) should be first treated for energy recovery.
Also Read: How to Start Jute Bag Making Business
With the industrial growth and rapid increase in the population, waste generation is unavoidable. Hence, waste management plays a critical role in the present decade. The management of waste can start with the segregation of wastes. In the words of UNICEF, the solid wastes can get segregated based on them being a biodegradable or non biodegradable waste. Waste disposal can be done through the three-step model. The first is the collection, followed by transportation and disposal. Every step is critical and should be executed with precision.
In India, the management of waste is critical. The country holds 20% of the world's population and has only 2% of land space. There are inadequate spaces and locations to store waste. As a result, the primary focus should be on waste recycling and its reuse.
Today's generation is the first to feel the impact of rising pollution and waste. They are also the last of the people who can do anything about it. In schools and educational institutes, waste disposal methods should be taught. The students must know the consequences of improper waste management. Therefore, by following the disposal methods presented in this article, non biodegradable waste can be managed appropriately.