How to Reduce Soil Pollution?

Soil pollution is any toxic materials or contaminants mixing into the soil as a result of which the ecosystem and human health suffer negative consequences. Soil pollution is a major issue in almost all parts of the world. The causes of soil pollution can be either natural or anthropogenic (man-made). 

Natural causes of soil pollution include volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. Anthropogenic causes of soil pollution can be much more diverse. It can be due to modern agricultural practices, mining practices, organic and technological wastes disposal, crude oil and its derivatives and plastics, medical and research wastes, and many more.

To understand how we can reduce soil pollution we first need to understand the causes, natural causes are out of our hands, but anthropogenic causes are not. 

Better awareness and systems to reduce anthropogenic soil pollution will eventually make the problem of soil pollution manageable. This article will focus on the major anthropogenic causes of soil pollution are and what we can do to reduce soil pollution. 

How to Reduce Soil Pollution? 

Soil pollution is a major cause of health concern for many communities across the globe. Soil is the primary nutrient provider for a diverse group of microbes as well as almost all crops as well as most land-dwelling animals. 

The main way we can curb soil pollution is by reducing the amounts of toxic chemicals and metals from leaching into the soil. 

There are multiple sources of toxins and contaminants in soil pollution, the major sources are pesticides from farming practices, toxic chemicals leaching out of plastic and hazardous wastes in dump yards and landfills, and heavy and trace metal leaching out from technological wastes. 

To reduce soil pollution we need to make sure we dispose of hazardous wastes responsibly, reduce the use of plastics and stop using single-use plastics, recycle plastics and electronic wastes, minimize electronic waste, and use eco-friendly pesticides and fertilizers for farming. 

Responsibly disposing of wastes: 

Waste disposal systems in most countries are not up to par with the massive mountains of waste we generate. As a result, materials that are harmful to the environment get thrown into dump yards where they mix in with the soil and eventually leach into groundwater. 

Hazardous waste includes medical or research waste, mainly radioactive waste that is improperly disposed of. Radioactive molecules can remain in the soil for many, many years. These are known to be mutagenic, which means these can actively mutate the microbial species as well plant species that are growing in the soil. 

Waste materials like batteries can leak dangerous acids into the soil that can change the soil pH and harm vegetation. 

The best way to fight soil pollution due to toxic wastes is to create better waste disposal and waste treatment plants.

Raising awareness about the harmful effects of certain waste on soil pH and integrity is also necessary to make sure improper disposal is curbed. 

Recycling extensively: 

One of the biggest challenges in making a more sustainable future is improving our underdeveloped recycling infrastructure. Most countries do not have enough recycling facilities to recycle all the recyclable materials we throw out. 

Materials like glass, metals and some plastics can be recycled many times yet, in many places, these are simply thrown into the landfills.

Plastics especially pose a serious problem since they release toxic chemicals into the soil. Polystyrene for example can often degrade to styrene which is a known carcinogen. Even though there isn’t much evidence that polystyrene causes cancer, it is still recommended to avoid heating the plastic. 

Besides polystyrene, many plastics release toxic chemicals into the soul. Single-use plastics like straws, shopping bags, plastic cutlery all end up in landfills or simply into the lands due to littering. 

There is a push toward establishing chemical recycling plants where all plastics can be converted back into their raw materials so the same plastics can be used, recycled, and used again indefinitely. 

This will reduce the amounts of plastics ending up in landfills and hence reduce soil pollution. 

Reduce Electronic waste: 

Electronic waste refers to any electronic device or gadget that has reached the end of its lifespan. Nowadays, the turnover rate of electronics is very high since almost every year new devices are being released into the market. 

This rapid turnover results in tons of electronic devices being thrown into the scrap yards. Even though electronics most often contain precious, irreplaceable metals like gold, silver, or chromium, these are hardly ever recycled properly. 

This is due to the engineering flaws in the devices that make it so hard to separate the metals, as well as a poor recycling infrastructure for these materials. 

Electronic wastes take up significant space in scrap yards and landfills. These materials most often have heavy metals and toxic compounds that leach out of the devices and enter the soil.

Heavy metals are known to biomagnify over time and can cause severe health implications for both humans and animals living near polluted soils. These metals like mercury, cadmium, lead, and arsenic remain in the soil for many, many years and are very hard to eliminate. 

This is why a better system. Recycling as much electronic waste as possible will reduce the chemical leaching that is so detrimental to the environment and human health. 

Soil pollution due to agricultural practices: 

Modern-day agricultural practices put an immeasurable strain on the natural world. The amount of water it takes to grow most plants is unsustainable, and irrigating this water causes severe damage to the area around it. 

Moreover, the synthetic pesticides that are used to grow most crops and fruits bioaccumulate in livestock, animals in nature, as well as us. 

These pesticides deposit onto the soil and affect the natural ecosystem in the soil. Soil is not just dirt or broken rocks. It is a complex mixture of organic materials mixed in with broken rocks; 10 cms of soil take over a thousand years to form. 

Soil is home to many microbial species which help maintain the fertility of the soil, pesticides, inorganic fertilizers, and uncontrolled irrigation affects the balanced soil. The microbial species are affected, the pH is affected which impacts all living things growing on the soil. 

Each year we lose thousands of acres of arable land to urbanization, bad waste disposal, and agriculture. Soil is a non-renewable resource and we cannot afford to step back and continue to let our soils get contaminated and eroded. To make sure our future generations have arable land to produce crops, we need to take action now. 

Conclusion: 

To understand how we can reduce soil pollution we first need to understand the causes, natural causes are out of our hands, but anthropogenic causes are not. 

Better awareness and systems to reduce anthropogenic soil pollution will eventually make the problem of soil pollution manageable. This article focuses on what the major anthropogenic causes of soil pollution are and what we can do to reduce soil pollution. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How to Reduce Soil Pollution

What is soil pollution? 

Contamination or damage done to soil by anthropogenic or natural means is called soil pollution. 

Why do we care about soil pollution? 

Soil is a non-renewable resource, and we are running out of arable lands at unprecedented rates. To ensure that future generations have arable land where they can grow food to feed an ever-increasing population, we need to protect our soils. 

How can we reduce soil pollution? 

The main causes of anthropogenic soil pollution are to reduce the use of harmful pesticides in agriculture, recycle electronic wastes, recycle plastics and stop the use of single-use plastics. 

Why should we avoid soil pollution? 

Soil pollution reduces the amount of arable land we have and toxic chemicals in the soil can make their way into our food source. To avoid this, we need to reduce soil pollution. 

How does soil pollution happen? 

Soil pollution has multiple causes, rapid urbanization, overuse of pesticides and fertilizers in farming, accumulating hazardous wastes in landfills all cause soil pollution. Toxic chemicals leach into the soil and affect the delicate balance of the soil microenvironment. 

How can we prevent soil pollution? 

Better urban planning, using environmentally friendly pesticides, recycling electronic wastes, and reducing the use of single-use plastics can reduce soil pollution. 

Reference: 

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  9. Koul, B., & Taak, P. (2018). Soil Pollution: Causes and Consequences. Biotechnological Strategies For Effective Remediation Of Polluted Soils, 1-37. DOI: 10.1007/978-981-13-2420-8_1
  10. How can we prevent land pollution?. (2022). Retrieved 30 January 2022, from https://sciencing.com/how-can-we-prevent-land-pollution-13643508.html


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