In this article, the advantage of biodegradable waste will be covered. Other related topics will be:
- What is biodegradability?
- What are the types of waste based on biodegradability?
- What are the examples of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste?
- What are the implications of non-biodegradable waste?
- What are the advantages of biodegradable waste?
What are the advantages of biodegradable waste?
Biodegradable waste has a lot of advantages over non-biodegradable waste. That is because the former causes less GHG emission, less pollution, may degrade readily, involves less amount of chemicals and may also be used as bio fertiliser, biomass, and bioenergy.
What is biodegradability?
To truly decipher whether all foods are biodegradable or not, it is essential to fully understand the science of biodegradability. Therefore, this section will commence first with an introduction to what is biodegradability.
Do you remember the last time you disposed of something in your trash bin? Have you ever wondered what happens after that? What is the fate of trash that ends up in your trash cans and then is taken away by waste management authorities?
Have you ever wondered how much waste is produced on a global scale and what measures are taken to manage the waste? Or perhaps you may have rummaged mentally that how was waste treated before there was any science or machinery.
The answer to all such queries and curiosities will be found in this section. The understanding of biodegradability is really essential to know what is the fate of the trash that ends up in our trash cans.
Biodegradability can be explained as a natural process through which microbes break down complex waste into simpler substances. This conversion is also facilitated by external conditions such as temperature or sunlight.
The main driver of biodegradation is microbes. These microbes include bacteria, algae, fungi, protozoa, yeast, and decomposers. They break down the structures of complex waste so that the simple waste may become part of nature again.
Biodegradability is nature’s way to ensure that there is no waste and that the waste produced is taken back into the system. It is because mother nature is aware that if there is waste, there will be complications and obstructions.
To understand this, the article invited you to an analogy. Imagine that for some reason you are unable to dispose of waste in your home or office. The situation may be manageable for some days but not very long.
Now, imagine that you can not dispose of the waste for several hundred years. The first thought that you will get is that your home or office will become unlivable. The same is the case for biodegradability and the earth.
Biodegradability is the earth’s dustbin and earth is our home. If there is no biodegradability, there is no waste disposal. This will, eventually, steal our home’ capacity to sustain life. Results? Mass extinction and environmental degradations.
What are the types of waste based on biodegradability?
Biodegradability is the earth’s natural way to eliminate waste by making sure that it gets back to the system. However, there has been corruption in this naturality as well.
Regarding biodegradability, there is a general understanding that natural materials and natural waste are biodegradable. This is because it coincides with the code of nature. The microbes have no difficulty in breaking down the structures of this type of waste.
On the other hand, we have the type of waste which can not be degraded by the action of microbes. This type of waste is mostly considered man-made. That is because microbes are unable to degrade the inner structures of synthetic materials and as a result, this type of waste may persist for hundreds of years.
Do you remember the analogy of the last section? If you do, you will also remember that if there is an incapacity to biodegrade, then this means that nature’s capacity to sustain and promote life is being taken away.
The same is the case with non-biodegradable waste. Non-biodegradable waste is known to cause a lot of harm to nature and man, other than being non-biodegradable. There is an endless list of these effects but some prominent ones can be cited as a humble example.
- Greenhouse effect
- Global warming
- Soil leaching
- Soil erosion
- Destruction of habitats
- Disruption of food chains
- Species endangerment
- Loss of life
- Medical complications
- Harm to the economy
- Unforeseen and unprecedented climatic anomalies
- Pest & insect attacks
These are some of the effects to illustrate why biodegradable waste is important and needed.
What are the examples of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste? (11 examples of biodegradable waste)
In this section, various examples of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste will be covered to further our understanding of the concept and science of biodegradability.
Biodegradable waste is that waste can be degraded by the action of microbes. This type of waste may degrade readily or may also take some months. As per some studies, biodegradable waste (like bio-plastics) may even take some years to degrade. Examples of biodegradable waste include:
- Food waste
- Plant waste
- Animal waste
- Crop waste
- Waste from slaughterhouse
- Natural fibres
- Natural fabrics
- Semi-synthetic material obtained from plant or animal sources (like rayon fabric)
- Drywall mud
Non-biodegradable waste, on the other hand, can not be degraded by the action of microbes. It is mainly because microbes are unable to break the structures of this type of waste.
It is generally perceived that materials that are synthesised in the lab from petroleum or fossil fuels are not biodegradable. The tragedy is that with increased commercialisation and consumerism, more such waste is generated which leaves us with unprecedented and grave issues.
Synthetic polymers are regarded as the most common non-biodegradable waste. Other examples may include:
- Electronic waste
- Polyvinyl Chloride
- Nuclear waste
- Hazardous waste
- Chemical waste
- Hospital waste
- Synthetic resins
- Synthetic fibres
What are the implications of non-biodegradable waste?
The assessment of the implications of non-biodegradable waste on the people and the plant is essential to understand the advantages of biodegradable waste.
That is because if there is biodegradable waste, it means that implications caused by non-biodegradable waste are avoided and deterred.
The bluntest effect of non-biodegradable waste is the ability to not degrade. It may, therefore, remain in the environment for a long duration of time.
The non-biodegradable waste has a lot of negative impacts on the environment. Since these materials can not be degraded readily, they remain in the system for hundreds of years and affect the life and environment nearby greatly.
The non-biodegradable waste, on land, exploits the property or characteristics of the medium that they are a part of. For example, if non-biodegradable wastes are part of a landfill, they may release toxic gases that can impact the soil, flora and fauna.
Non-biodegradable waste may also lead to leaching and toxication of the soil making it hazardous for nearby plant life. They may also change the pH by the release of gases and chemicals.
An example can be that e-wastes present in landfill release volatile gases and other greenhouse gases such as methane, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. These gases are not only toxic but also lead to many detrimental phenomena like global warming.
In water, non-biodegradable wastes affect aquatic and plant life and result in the death of millions of fishes due to countless different reasons– all arising from non-biodegradable wastes. For example, many animals eat plastic confusing it with their prey and resultantly, they die.
Non-biodegradable waste is known to affect as many as 800 species of the world. This waste may remain for up to a thousand years and cause a plethora of negative impacts on the environment and life. Some of them are pointed out below:
- Global warming
- GHG emissions
- Rise in temperature
- A rise in sea levels
- Melting glaciers
- More floods
- Frequent droughts
- Unprecedented weather patterns
- Insects attacks
- Land degradation
- Food shortage
- Food security concerns
- Species endangerment
- Infiltration into the food chains
- Loss of aquatic life
- Accumulation of plastics
- Disruptions of ecosystems
However, it may also be asserted that the effects of non-biodegradable waste are not just limited to the environment, they are also impactful on health as well. Below are the common health issues that arise from non-biodegradable waste:
- Reproductive complications
- Hormonal issues
- Damage to foetus
- Skin damage
- Eye allergies
- Organ defects
- Psychological complication
- Neurological complications
What are the advantages of biodegradable waste?
In this section, the advantages of biodegradable waste will be unravelled.
The biggest advantage of biodegradable waste is that biodegradable wastes can be degraded by the action of microbes. Since these can be degraded, they go back to the environment and do not cause any great harm.
It has been seen and assessed that if waste is accumulated, it may cause great harm to the environment and life in general.
Biodegradable material is mostly made from natural substances. These may include plants, animals et cetera. Since there is only space for natural materials, there is no room for artificiality and harmful chemicals.
Non-biodegradable products on the other hand are made at the expense of fossil fuels which results in the release of greenhouse gases. These GHG cause global warming and other harmful problems.
However, biodegradable waste ensures that these effects are avoided and mitigated. Most biodegradable material is made with the use of a minimum amount of chemicals and toxins. This gets biodegradable waste to another edge of non-biodegradable waste.
Biodegradable waste is also generally safer for humans because it poses lesser health complications which is not the case for non-biodegradable waste.
Biodegradable waste can also be converted to compost which can be used as a natural fertiliser. Biodegradable waste can also be used as biomass, bioenergy and soil-improving material.
It is concluded that biodegradable waste has a lot of advantages over non-biodegradable waste. That is because the former causes less GHG emission, less pollution, may degrade readily, involves less amount of chemicals and may also be used as bio fertiliser, biomass, and bioenergy.
Frequently Asked Questions: What are the advantages of biodegradable waste?
How much time biodegradable waste takes to degrade?
It depends on external conditions and the type of biodegradable waste. Some waste like fruits may degrade within a week. Some waste like bioplastics may take more than three years.
Can biodegradable waste be harmful?
Yes, biodegradable waste may cause harm too if chemicals are used in the production of such waste. Unhealthy production of biodegradable materials may also cause them to be not eco-friendly.
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