What is non-biodegradable waste & how does it affect trees? (9 uses of trees) 

In this article, non-biodegradable waste is discussed and its impacts on trees are detailed. Other covered topics are: 

  • What is non-biodegradable waste?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • What are the impacts of non-biodegradable waste on trees?
  • Why does biodegradability matter?
  • What are the impacts of non-biodegradable waste in general?
  • FAQs

What is non-biodegradable waste & how does it affect trees?

Non-biodegradable waste is waste that can not be degraded by the action of microbes. Examples of non-biodegradable waste may be a nuclear waste, synthetic polymers, synthetic textiles, synthetic resins et cetera. 

Non-biodegradable waste may remain in the environment for a very long time and cause a lot of damage to life and the environment. The damages caused by non-biodegradable waste to trees are also well-established in the literature. 

It is because of this damage that the number of trees in the world has been reduced by more than 50% after human interventions

What is non-biodegradable waste?

Non-biodegradable waste, as the name suggests, is a type of waste that can not be degraded by the action of microbes. In order to understand non-biodegradable waste, it is important to know what biodegradability is in the first place. 

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability is a process through which complex materials are broken down into simple materials by the action of microbes. These microbes can be bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa, and even yeast. 

The process of biodegradability can be called a natural dustbin because it is nature’s way to ensure that there is no waste accumulation in the environment. It is coded in the profile of nature that waste has harmful impacts on the environment. 

The harmful impacts of waste are not just restricted to the environment but also the life that resides within it. If there is no biodegradation, there will be waste and deterioration of life and our atmosphere, in short, a global catastrophe. 

Regarding biodegradability, it is generally thought that there are two types of waste. These are biodegradable and non-biodegradable. 

As the name suggests, biodegradable waste can be broken down by the action of microbes. This waste can be plant-based or animal-based wastes. Other examples of this waste will include: 

  • Food waste
  • Animal waste
  • Human waste
  • Paper waste
  • Manure
  • Sewage
  • Hospital waste
  • Dead plants
  • Biopolymers 

On the other hand, non-biodegradable waste is a type of waste which can not be degraded by the action of microbes. Such a type of waste is usually not found in nature. This means that non-biodegradable waste is mostly made or synthesised in the lab. Examples of non-biodegradable waste may be: 

  • Electronic waste
  • Plastics 
  • Polyvinyl Chloride
  • Nuclear waste
  • Hazardous waste
  • Chemical waste
  • Hospital waste 
  • Synthetic resins
  • Synthetic fibres
  • Dyneema 
  • PHA 
  • EVA 

These are some examples of non-biodegradable waste which is associated with a lot of detrimental impacts on health, life and the environment. These aspects will be shed light on in later sections of the article. 

Why does biodegradability matter?

After a detailed introduction to what biodegradability is, you may wonder why biodegradability is an urgent matter. It is believed that the statistical assertions are fervent enough to answer this curiosity. 

The world’s population stands at around 7.8 billion and is expected to cross the threshold of 11 billion in the years to come. As far as waste production is concerned, it is estimated that an average person makes more than 4-5 kgs of waste per day. 

If you do the maths, the results are beyond staggering. Global waste production stands at a whopping 2 billion tons which may reach up to 3 billion tons in the coming time. Out of these 2 billion tons, around 1 billion tons of waste are not discarded properly. 

To further exacerbate the situation, if more non-biodegradable waste is generated as compared to biodegradable waste, then this simply implies our doomsday. There will be no space left to keep and treat the waste products and this will affect every life that is out there in the world, not to mention the effects on our future. 

This approach is bluntly opposite to what the principles of sustainability are. Sustainability preaches to be useful in the present in a way that the future generations’ needs are not sacrificed. 

That is why biodegradability is an urgent matter. We need to shift toward biodegradable waste both as a consumer and as a human because otherwise, there is no way out. 

Further, given the current context of science and technology, it is easily possible to shift to biodegradable waste. As the environmental concern rises, more and more people and producers are shifting towards sustainability and eco-friendliness. 

As a result, biodegradability and sustainability have become easy options to opt for without going the extra mile. Popular examples can be bio-based plastics, bio-polymers, natural fertilisers, renewable sources of energy et cetera. 

What are the impacts of non-biodegradable waste in general?

The need for biodegradable waste has already been asserted and made fervent in the last section. Here we will assess some of the impacts that non-biodegradable waste has on the environment. 

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. 

In a nutshell, the effects of non-biodegradable waste on the environment are: 

  • Pollution
  • 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:

  • Abnormality
  • Reproductive complications
  • Hormonal issues
  • Damage to foetus
  • Necrosis
  • Skin damage
  • Eye allergies
  • Organ defects
  • Cancer
  • Mutation
  • Psychological complication
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Neuro-toxicity
  • Neurological complications 

These are some of the issues that are caused by the existence of non-biodegradable waste. In the light of mentioned facts, it is proposed that non-biodegradable waste is blunt harm and threat to life and life-supporting systems. 

What are the impacts of non-biodegradable waste on trees? (9 uses of trees) 

The negative and detrimental impacts of non-biodegradable waste have already been asserted and explained in the previous sections. This section will primarily deal with the effects of non-biodegradable waste on trees. 

As explained, non-biodegradable waste is directly and indirectly linked to the reduction of trees on our planet. The impacts of this reduction are far beyond comprehension. 

Trees are linked to a plethora of advantages and useful features that make our survival and that of other species intact. Among these advantages, there are: 

  • Cleaning of air 
  • Reduction of GHG 
  • Reduction in soil erosion 
  • Prevention of water pollution 
  • Conservation of water 
  • Conservation of energy 
  • Source of habitats
  • Primary producers
  • Reduction in ozone depletion 

These are some of the benefits of trees and without a doubt, there are countless more. Freer trees mean that there will be a compromise on these benefits as well. 

It is researched that there are roughly around 3 trillion trees. However, the number of trees has been reduced by half by the effect of human activities and human exploitations mentioned in the previous sections of the article. 

The major activities that result in decreased tree count and are also linked with non-biodegradable waste are deforestation, land use change and unsustained forestry practices. 

Non-biodegradable waste is a blunt source of GHG emissions and global warming. Global warming results in an increased temperature and thus greater melting of glaciers. 

These processes then are directly involved in many further destructive processes like unprecedented weather patterns, insect attacks, destruction of habitats, flooding, droughts, altered distribution of water, and affected ecosystems. 

All these processes are directly involved in the reduction of tree count and as a result, we have lost more than 50% of our trees owing to these phenomena that directly or indirectly are linked with non-biodegradable waste. 

Conclusion 

It is concluded that non-biodegradable waste is waste that can not be degraded by the action of microbes. Examples of non-biodegradable waste may be nuclear waste, synthetic polymers, synthetic textiles, synthetic resins et cetera. 

Non-biodegradable waste may remain in the environment for a very long time and cause a lot of damage to life and the environment. The damages caused by non-biodegradable waste to trees are also well-established in the literature. 

It is because of this damage that the number of trees in the world has been reduced by more than 50% after human interventions. 

Frequently Asked Questions: What is non-biodegradable waste & how does it affect trees?

How many trees are there in the world?

There are approximately 3 trillion trees. That is 422 trees per every person on this planet. 

How long does non-biodegradable waste take to degrade?

Non-biodegradable waste may take many hundred years. Some researchers say that non-biodegradable waste like plastics may take up to a thousand years to degrade. 

References

  • Serre, J. P. (2002). Trees. Springer Science & Business Media.
  • Attfield, R. (1981). The good of trees. The Journal of Value Inquiry, 15(1), 35.
  • Tokiwa, Y., Calabia, B. P., Ugwu, C. U., & Aiba, S. (2009). Biodegradability of plastics. International journal of molecular sciences, 10(9), 3722-3742.
  • Bharadwaj, A., Yadav, D., & Varshney, S. (2015). Non-biodegradable waste–its impact & safe disposal. Int. J. Adv. Technol. Eng. Sci, 3(1).
  • Zhang, S., Wang, J., Yan, P., Hao, X., Xu, B., Wang, W., & Aurangzeib, M. (2021). Non-biodegradable microplastics in soils: a brief review and challenge. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 409, 124525.

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