What are the problems caused by generated non-biodegradable waste? (19 problems)

This article will focus on the problems and environmental issues that are stemmed from the occurrence of non-biodegradable waste. Other aspects covered would include: 

  • What is biodegradability?
  • What is the importance of biodegradability?
  • What are the effects caused by non-biodegradable waste?
  • Are there any alternatives to biodegradability?
  • What is the best solution for non-biodegradable waste?
  • FAQs

What are the problems caused by generated non-biodegradable waste?

There are a number of negative impacts rendered by non-biodegradable waste. Non-biodegradable waste will decapacitate waste management systems while also causing environmental anomalies such as global warming, pollution, and deforestation, to name a few. 

Non-biodegradable waste does not only affect the environment. Its effects are also seen bluntly on life and human health as well. Common examples may be cancer, neuro complications, disruptions of hormones, and developmental issues. 

Recycling is considered one of the best solutions to deal with non-biodegradable waste because when a material is recycled, its negative effects are delayed and averted. 

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability can be defined as a process in which biological agents such as enzymes and microbes break down complex waste into simpler structures. The simpler structures are thus able to get back to the system. 

Every day you come across the process of biodegradation. The rotten vegetables that you dispose of or the spoiled fruits that you think can not be eaten. These are common, everyday examples of biodegradation. 

It is the very process of biodegradation that is responsible for the spoilage of food. It can be termed the necessary evil because on one side food is spoiled but on the other side, it is ensured that there is no waste accumulation. 

If there is waste accumulation, there will be environmental problems and anomalies because the waste will lead to problems such as pollution and human diseases. 

Other than microbes and enzymes, there are also external factors that play a key role in the process of biodegradation. These include:

  • Sunlight 
  • Temperature
  • Aeration
  • Presence or absence of oxygen 
  • Type of microbes

Based on biodegradability, waste may be divided into two categories. These are 

  • Biodegradable waste
  • Non-biodegradable waste 

Examples of biodegradable waste include crops, plants, dead animals, manure, sewage, bioplastics, and natural fabrics. These may degrade in some days or some months. 

Examples of non-biodegradable waste may include synthetic plastics, epoxies, synthetic dyes, and synthetic fabrics like acrylic fabrics. These substances may remain in landfills for hundreds of years. 

For example, synthetic plastics may degrade in more than a thousand years while also causing other environmental problems such as global warming, weather anomalies et cetera.

What is the importance of biodegradability?

The importance of biodegradability can be explained from a simple analogy. Consider that you are unable to dump the waste produced by your house. 

Now consider that you can not dump that waste for an extended period of time, let us say one year. Do you think that your house will be livable?

Obviously not. The same is the case for biodegradability. Biodegradability can be regarded as the Earth’s dustbin whereas your house is the Earth. 

If there is no dustbin, our house will not be able to support life. The result? Armageddon. As per the statistics, there is a generation of more than 2 billion tons of waste every year. 

What this means is that every person, on average, makes about 5 kgs of waste every day. Biodegradability is a measure to ensure that this mass amount of waste does not cause that big of havoc. 

If there is no biodegradability, the waste will remain in the system for hundreds of years. This will lead to decapacitation of waste systems and decreased ability to support life. 

What are the effects of non-biodegradable waste? (19 effects) 

This section will cover the impacts and effects rendered by non-biodegradable waste. This will also plead for the case of importance and urgency of biodegradable waste. 

The biggest harm that is caused by non-biodegradable waste is the fact that it adds to waste generation and waste accumulation. When waste is accumulated and generated in excess amounts, it leads to the decapacitation of waste management systems.

If we are not able to properly manage and segregate waste, then their impacts will be translated and reciprocated in every aspect, domain, and level of life and the environment. 

This is mainly because the waste will cause pollution and environmental degradation. The effects of waste on animals and humans can also not be ignored. 

To further assert this, consider the case of non-biodegradable plastics. Plastic waste is regarded as non-biodegradable. Even though there are many measures taken to ensure that plastic waste is either reused or disposed of properly; regardless of it, plastic waste affects more than 700 species on land. 

Now imagine what will happen if those preventive measures fail. The whole world will be faced with an irreversible catastrophe. The accumulated waste will make the whole Earth a huge dustbin. 

Another major impact that is caused and rendered by non-biodegradable waste is the emissions of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, ethylene, SOx, and NOx are responsible for a plethora of environmental anomalies. 

When non-biodegradable waste is produced and processed, there is the usage of non-renewable resources and products from fossil fuels. This leads to the burning of fossil fuels that adds GHGs to the environment. 

The most catastrophic effect rendered by the GHGs is the phenomenon of global warming. Global warming leads to another set of various environmental problems such as:

  • Melting of glaciers
  • Rising sea levels
  • Increased global temperatures
  • Unforeseen weather patterns
  • Floods
  • Droughts
  • Deforestation
  • Pollution
  • Disruption of ecosystems
  • Destruction of habitats
  • Loss of life
  • Endangerment of species 
  • Infiltrations into the food chains 
  • Degradation of air quality
  • Smog 
  • Acid rains 
  • Acidification of water bodies
  • Damage to crops
  • Infertility of soil

The effects of non-biodegradable waste, such as chemical waste, are not just limited to animal species and the environment. Humans are also directly and immensely impacted by the occurrence of non-biodegradable waste. 

Non-biodegradable waste is responsible for a plethora of human-related problems and diseases. Some of them can be mentioned as an example:

  • Cancer
  • Neuro complications
  • Neuro toxicity 
  • Developmental issues
  • Hormone disruption
  • Damage to children
  • Lung cancer 
  • Skin problems 
  • Nephrological complications 
  • Autism
  • Infertility 
  • Behavioural problems 

Are there any alternatives to biodegradation?

With the highly fervent importance of biodegradation, you may wonder what alternatives can be refuged.

However, there are no exact and efficient alternatives to biodegradation. However, there are some processes that have a high level of similarity with biodegradation. 

These processes include degradation and composting. degradation is similar to biodegradation but there are some stark discrepancies and because of those, the former is given a discrete terminology. 

Degradation is the breakdown caused mostly by chemicals. A common example will be the degradation of plastic into microplastics. 

Those who know about microplastics will also know that there are many adverse impacts of microplastics on the environment and life in general. 

Therefore, it can be inferred that degradation may not always yield a positive outcome as is the case for biodegradation. 

In terms of duration, degradation may take much more time as compared to biodegradation. To put this into perspective, consider the following example. Bioplastics (a biodegradable substance) may break down in 3 years but conventional plastics (a degradable substance) may take up to a thousand years to degrade.  

It is claimed that degradation may also happen without the presence of oxygen since there are no microbes or enzymes involved. 

Composting is the process of converting organic waste into natural fertiliser which may be used as an alternative to synthetic, chemical-based fertilisers. 

Compost is simply decaying organic matter. Compost is assumed to improve the soil’s organic content thus leading to better soil fertility. 

It is even claimed that composting will lead to increased water retention profiles. Thus, composting can directly be linked to water conservation and environmental sustainability while also giving a positive nudge to the economy. 

The process of composting is very similar to that of biodegradation because both processes involve breakdown. However, there are differences as well.

All compostable material may be biodegraded but all biodegradable material can not be composted. This is mainly because there are certain requirements for composting that include:

  • The material should have organic content (like plant waste) 
  • The material should be non-toxic 
  • The material should not lead to emissions or discharge of harmful gases or elements

These conditions are not necessary for biodegradation and therefore, composting is more specific yet more rewarding than biodegradation. 

What is the best solution for non-biodegradable waste?

The best-regarded solution for non-biodegradable waste is called recycling. Recycling can be defined as the reusing of consumer products by working on them. In this way, the products do not need to be made from scratch. 

You may wonder what is the importance or significance of recycling. It can be summed up in the following key points: 

  • Better resource management
  • Better waste management 
  • One of the best solutions to non-biodegradable waste
  • Water conservation
  • Decreased pressure on raw materials
  • Decreased consumption of energy (which is mostly non-renewable) 
  • Increased labour and employment prospects 
  • Reduced pollution and environmental anomalies 

Some of the common materials which can be recycled include paper, plastics, packaging material, cardboard, metals et cetera. 

These are some examples. With the increasing awareness and better technology, more and more products are becoming recyclable which is a great indication of a shift towards sustainability and a green future. 

The biggest advantage that is reaped by the process of recycling is that it is one of the best solutions to deal with non-biodegradable waste. 

Non-biodegradable waste is a type of waste which may remain in the environment for hundreds of years. It can also cause environmental problems. 

When non-biodegradable waste is recycled, these effects are delayed if not deterred. This saves our environment from a lot of degradative effects. 

Another great benefit that is supported by the process of recycling is the re-usage of products. This decreases the stress given to raw materials. 

We have already seen that natural textiles are sourced from natural sources such as plants or animals. Increased production of textiles from scratch will mean the unsustainable cutting of trees or the killing of animals. 

The current scenario is already quite dense in this regard. It is estimated that humans have resulted in a decrease of more than 50% of the global tree count. In such dire scenarios, processes such as recycling offer great relief to the environment. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that there are a number of negative impacts rendered by non-biodegradable waste. Non-biodegradable waste will decapacitate waste management systems while also causing environmental anomalies such as global warming, pollution, and deforestation, to name a few. 

Non-biodegradable waste does not only affect the environment. Its effects are also seen bluntly on life and human health as well. Common examples may be cancer, neuro complications, disruptions of hormones, and developmental issues. 

Recycling is considered one of the best solutions to deal with non-biodegradable waste because when a material is recycled, its negative effects are delayed and averted. 

Frequently Asked Questions: What are the problems caused by generated non-biodegradable waste?

How much time non-biodegradable waste takes to degrade?

It may take from some years (10-20) to a thousand years. 

Why can’t non-biodegradable waste be composted?

This is mainly because there is no organic content. Further, non-biodegradable waste may also appear to be toxic to human health and life in general. 

References 

  • Hawkins, W. L. (1984). Polymer degradation. In Polymer Degradation and stabilization (pp. 3-34). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.
  • Lai, Y. Z. (2000). Chemical degradation. Wood and cellulosic chemistry, 443-512.
  • Sivan, A. (2011). New perspectives in plastic biodegradation. Current opinion in biotechnology, 22(3), 422-426.
  • Alexander, M. (1999). Biodegradation and bioremediation. Gulf Professional Publishing.
  • de Bertoldi, M. D., Vallini, G. E., & Pera, A. (1983). The biology of composting: a review. Waste Management & Research, 1(2), 157-176.
  • Stentiford, E. I. (1996). Composting control: principles and practice. In The science of composting (pp. 49-59). Springer, Dordrecht.
  • Stentiford, E. I. (1996). Composting control: principles and practice. In The science of composting (pp. 49-59). Springer, Dordrecht.

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