What is non-biodegradable?

In this article we will discuss what the term non-biodegradable means. We will also shed light on non-biodegradable materials, their impact on the environment, their examples, the origin of non-biodegradable materials, their longevity in nature, the methods to dispose them of and the difference between biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials.

What is non-biodegradable?

The term non-biodegradable can be used for any kind of substance, compound or element which is unable to be broken down by the natural organisms such as microbes and microorganisms and can potentially act as a pollutant. 

A pollutant is a compound which is responsible for causing pollution in the environment. It can be plastic, fossil fuel or any other compound having disastrous impact on the environment. 

Non-biodegradable waste, unlike biodegradable waste, cannot be easily treated. Non-biodegradable wastes are those that cannot be easily broken down or dissolved by natural means. They can survive on Earth for eons without deteriorating. As a result, the threat posed by them is more than serious.

Plastics, for example, are a widely utilized material in practically every industry. Improved quality plastics are being used to make them have a long lasting effect. This enhances their temperature resistance and durability even after use. Cans, metals, and agricultural and industrial chemicals are also some examples.They are the primary sources of air, water, and soil pollution, as well as diseases like cancer.

What are non-biodegradable waste?

non-biodegradable waste are the wastes that are unable to decompose by the natural biological processes. They are also referred to as inorganic waste. Non-biodegradable waste that can be recycled is regarded as recyclable waste and the ones which cannot be recycled are known as non-recyclable waste. 

How is waste biodegraded?

Any substance which is organic in nature will be biodegraded. These products are broken down naturally by sunlight, water, oxygen, radiation and microorganisms. The products are broken down into their simpler forms and are eventually decomposed. Once decomposed, they become a part of the soil. 

Microorganisms release specific enzymes to decompose these organic substances. The organic substances are susceptible to these enzymes and are degenerated.

Are non-biodegradable waste harmful to the environment?

Yes, non-biodegradable waste is harmful to the environment. Waste is something which is unavoidable and is rising because of increased domestic and industrial activities. Since in most of the places there is no proper waste management system , the waste ends up creating difficulties for human life and the environment. 

The non-biodegradable waste remains on the planet for hundreds of years. One of the most common examples of non-biodegradable waste is plastic. It lacks the ability to decompose and ends up polluting the land and water. 

What are different types of non-biodegradable waste?

There are different types of non-biodegradable waste. Non-biodegradable waste cannot be broken down or decomposed and end up causing pollution. Burning of these non-biodegradable susbstances ends up causing even more pollution. These non-biodegradable waste are: 

  • Electronic waste: used/discarded mobile phones, computers and televisions.
  • Plastic: plastic bags, plastic containers etc
  • Artificial polymer
  • Artificial rubber: generated in tyre factory
  • Nuclear waste: generated by nuclear factory
  • Metallic waste
  • Synthetic fibers
  • Ball-point pens refills 

What are different origins of non-biodegradable waste?

There are different origins of non-biodegradable waste. Such as:

  • From households: household items are a major contributor  to non-biodegradable waste. These include metal and steel utensils. Household items also add to plastic and polymer waste.
  • From agriculture: artificial fertilizers used in agriculture also contribute to non-biodegradable waste. Fertilizers composed of DDT are non-biodegradable and have adverse impact on the environment.
  • From construction: several non-biodegradable compounds are produced from construction such as cement and fly ash etc.
  • From medical waste: most of the medical waste is non-biodegradable. Waste from the hospitals such as syringes, medicine bottles, cleaning litter etc cannot be decomposed. A lot of hospitals, especially in third world countries, lack proper waste management systems.
  • From Nuclear power stations: nuclear power stations generate energy and at the end of this process nuclear waste is generated. This waste continues to leak if it is not disposed of properly. If any life form comes in contact with this waste, they can potentially die.
  • From plastic pollution: plastic is used in domestic households and in industries. It is referred to as the worst type of non-biodegradable waste. Since it is very economical it is used almost everywhere. When this plastic is discarded on the land the life form underneath does not get enough supply of oxygen and eventually the entire ecosystem is disrupted. 

How long do non-biodegradable products last in the environment?

Non-biodegradable products remain in the environment for a very long time as they are not prone to decomposition entirely. According to research, substances such as nylon fabric take up to 30-40 years to decompose, tin cans and aluminum cans take almost 100 years to decompose and glass bottles take almost 1 million years to decompose completely. On the other hand plastic requires 500 years to be decomposed in the landfill entirely.

What are the adverse impacts of non-biodegradable products?

Non-biodegradable products have a lot of adverse impacts. When they are thrown on the land, they take away the key nutrients from the soil and pollute the ground because of this reason healthy crops are affected and not grown properly. 

During nuclear disasters the entire land becomes contaminated. This contaminated land is filled with radioactive substances and is useless for all types of life forms. 

If the non-biodegradable waste enters the water bodies the oxygen levels drop and impacting the aquatic life forms. The water cannot be consumed as well. 

Artificial pesticides are also non-biodegradable and make the soil acidic and useless for contamination. The toxins then enter the food chain and cause severe implications on various levels. 

Can non-biodegradable waste be recycled?

Yes, non-biodegradable waste can be recycled. There are various ways through which they can be recycled these are:

  • By taking non-biodegradable substances to the recycling factory.
  • By combustion and energy recovery.
  • By disposing of them at sanitary facilities.

What are the methods to dispose of non-biodegradable waste?

There are several methods to dispose of non-biodegradable waste. The non-biodegradable wastes have energy stored in them. This energy can be utilized by recycling these products. For this very reason waste management is crucial. 

Recycling is crucial for the non-biodegradable waste. Out of all the non-biodegradable products recycling of plastic is highly significant. It is said that plastic can be recycled 5 times maximum. The plastic can be used in road construction.

The energy that comes from non-biodegradable products can be used as fuel as well. Through the process of pyrolysis carbon can be obtained from these non-biodegradable products and they can be disposed of. From the process of pyrolysis polymers can become sustainable and the oil that is produced as a by-product at the end of this process can be used to heat various substances.

Incineration process is another way of disposing of non-biodegradable waste. Through this process hazardous medical waste and solid waste are discarded. Sanitary landfills are another way of properly discarding non-biodegradable waste. As these landfills have concrete walls surrounding them they prevent the leakage of toxic substances in the soil and groundwater.

Encapsulation is a process used to get rid of nuclear waste. The waste is filled into a capsule in order to prevent the leaking of gasses and waste.

Frequently asked questions “what is non-biodegradable?”

What is the difference between biodegradable and non-biodegradable?

The difference between biodegradable and non-biodegradable is that the biodegradable process is rapid, involves microbes and microorganisms, are used to produce energy and compost. The biodegradable substances are not accumulated in the environment and become a part of biochemical and biogeochemical processes happening in the ecosystem.

On the other hand, non-biodegradable process is extremely slow and does not involve microbes and microorganisms. The waste is often accumulated in the environment and is toxic for the biochemical and biogeochemical processes. Non-biodegradable waste can be separated but the process itself is extremely time consuming and expensive. 

Why should the non-biodegradable waste be recycled?

The non-biodegradable waste should be recycled because they can block the waterways and if consumed by animals or humans either directly or indirectly can prove to be fatal. If recycled, they can reduce the pollution. 

How to reduce generation of waste?

Reduction of waste generation is necessary and the most effective way to decrease waste generation is reduce, reuse and recycle. By decreasing the amount of waste being generated there will be less accumulation of waste in the environment. This can be done by using paper packaging of products, utilization of paper napkins and buying things which are necessary.

Most of the items in our everyday life can be reused. By reusing them we can reduce the production of the waste. This can be achieved by reusing old clothes to make cloth bags or cushion covers, using old toothbrushes as cleaning brushes, juice bottles can work as water bottles and jars can be used as storage materials. 

Recycling is the best way to protect the environment and to reduce waste. Through recycling we can use plastic more frequently which on the other hand is prone to slow rate of decomposition. 

What more can we do to reduce non-biodegradable waste?

Following are the steps to reduce non-biodegradable waste: 

  • Be responsible and aware. There are several ways as an individual to promote and adapt waste management systems and to protect the environment.
  • Promote segregation of waste by planting different colored baskets allotted for different types of non-biodegradable waste. 
  • Process of incineration should be promoted and adopted by industries. 
  • Promoting the use of bioplastics instead of conventional plastics. 
  • Proper storage houses should be installed for disposing the waste properly. 
  • Hotels and industries should properly treat waste before discarding them.
  • Waste above a certain weight should be used for energy recovery. 
  • Promoting and using food packaging which is environmentally friendly such as papers or kraft paper boxes instead of plastic. 

What are bio-plastics?

Bioplastics are biodegradable in nature and come from renewable sources and can be used as a substitute for the conventional plastic which is suffocating the planet by not decomposing. 

Over the years, thanks to raising environmental awareness the use of bioplastics is being promoted. The bio-plastics can be obtained from natural plant sources such as starch and cellulose. 

They are completely degradable, versatile and resistant and are currently being used in the agricultural, packaging and textile industry. 

The bio-plastics help in reducing the carbon footprint, saves energy, do not involve the use of non-biodegradable raw materials and are environment friendly because they do not contain any additives.

Naturally it takes almost three to six months for the bioplastics to be decomposed, however it lacks the characteristics to become a compost. 

What are the names of some biodegradable and non-biodegradable fibers?

The name of some biodegradable fibers are:

  • Hem
  • Jute
  • Silk
  • Remie

The name of some non-biodegradable fibers are:

  • Nylon
  • Acrylic
  • Polyester  

References:

  • Tatyana I. Poznyak, Isaac Chairez Oria, Alexander S. Poznyak, Ozonation and Biodegradation in Environmental Engineering, Elsevier, 2019, Pages 353-388,
https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-812847-3.00023-8.
  • Fleming, E. (2021, March 11). How long do bioplastics take to decompose naturally?. SidmartinBio. Retrieved From
  • Greenord. (2021, August 21). How Is Non Biodegradable Waste Harmful To The Environment? Thinking Sustainably. Retrieved From:

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