What is the effect of non-biodegradable waste on the Environment? (11 examples of non-biodegradable waste) 

In this article, the effects of non-biodegradable wastes on the environment shall be discussed and deliberated. Other than that, the following related topics shall also be explored and elucidated: 

  • What is biodegradability?
  • Types of wastes.
  • Examples of biodegradable wastes.
  • Examples of non-biodegradable wastes.
  • Trends in waste production 
  • Effects of non-biodegradable wastes.
  • Impacts of plastic on the environment
  • FAQs

What is the effect of non-biodegradable waste on the Environment?

The impacts of non-biodegradable waste on the environment are very significant since it takes hundreds of years to degrade while affecting the environment and life nearby. These wastes affect more than 700 species of animals, including endangered ones. 

Non-biodegradable wastes also affect aquatic life impacting countless aquatic species. Microplastics (produced from plastic waste) are found almost everywhere in the world and toxicate many food webs and natural processes of the Earth. 

What is biodegradability? 

Biodegradability is the process through which complex substances are broken down into simpler substances by various drivers such as moisture, microbes et cetera. It is the natural process of the Earth to deal with wastes. 

The main drivers of this process are microbes that include bacteria, fungi and various other decomposers. They decompose the natural products within months leaving negligible strain on the environment. 

However, as man advanced his understanding of nature and the various phenomena that edifice nature, he came up with many synthetic products as well under the guise of scientific revolutions and discoveries. 

These synthetic products, however, do not gel well with the Earth’s natural system of disposing of wastes and hence as a result, man-made products are not degraded for hundreds of years and are termed as non-biodegradable. 

However, it is not a rigid rule of thumb that man-made products are not biodegradable. Over the course of scientific evolution and understanding, man has created many products that can be degraded just like natural substances like eggshells et cetera. 

Examples of man-made substances that can be degraded easily may include biodegradable plastics or biodegradable packing peanuts. These substances are made from natural material and hence contain no synthetic elements in them. 

It may also be deliberated that these man-made biodegradable products may be degraded in a controlled setup with provided conditions of temperature, pressure and microbes so that any unwanted scenarios are avoided and no harm is caused to life and the environment nearby. 

What are the types of waste based on biodegradability? 

Based on the concept and edifice of biodegradability, wastes can largely be classified into two classes. One type of waste is that which can be degraded while the second type is that which can not be degraded. 

The general understanding related to this concept is that natural products are easily and readily degraded within a short span of time. That is because they contain no artificial or synthetic materials. 

Whereas, synthetic or artificial materials, which usually are man-made, can not be degraded readily and hence may require hundreds of years to degrade in the environment. This increased duration causes strain on the environment which affects life nearby. 

The tragedy today is that non-biodegradable wastes despite being dangerous to the environment and life nearby are preferred by the consumer because of their benefits and convenience of use. 

A common example can be the use of plastic bags in consumer markets. The world was introduced to the detrimental effects of plastic bags a long time ago yet even after that, plastic bags are still used because they are cheap and of good use. 

However, the situation is slowly changing. There is an increased trend toward biodegradable wastes by consumers, especially in developed regions. Other than that, many laws and policies are also being created and implemented to lessen the use of non-biodegradable wastes. 

Technological advances are also advocating in the favour of biodegradable wastes by creating products from natural materials. A good example can be biodegradable bags or perhaps biodegradable packaging materials. 

What are some examples of biodegradable wastes? 

Examples of biodegradable wastes may include: 

  • Food waste
  • Human waste 
  • Manure Sewage 
  • Hospital waste 
  • Dead animals & Plants 
  • Waste from slaughterhouse 
  • Toilet paper

What are some examples of non-biodegradable wastes? 

Examples of non-biodegradable waste may include: 

  • Plastics 
  • Hazardous substances
  • Pesticides
  • Fertilisers
  • E-wastes
  • Rubbers
  • Polymers
  • Shopping bags 
  • Packaging materials
  • Plastic bottles 
  • Nuclear Wastes

What are the trends in waste production? 

It is cited that the world at large generates about 2 billion tons of solid waste and this waste is expected to surge up to 3.5 billion tons by 2050. The per person waste generated worldwide is around 0.7 kgs. 

As per the research conducted by word bank, low-income areas create more waste as compared to high-income areas. In terms of future trajectory, waste production in low-income areas is expected to rise by 40% but in high-income areas by 19%. 

In terms of the composition of waste produced, it is seen in global trends that around 50% of the waste produced is organic while the remaining mostly is non-biodegradable. 

In regard to the processing of global wastes, it is seen that the majority of waste (both biodegradable and non-biodegradable) is simply dumped without any treatment (around 33%) while the remaining is subjected to recycling (13.5%) and then to sanitary landfills (11%). 

What is the effect of non-biodegradable waste 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. 

What is the impact of plastic on the Environment? 

Plastic is a very important example of non-biodegradable waste and perhaps the most significant too. The issue of plastic contamination and plastic accumulation has taken the entire world into its grip.

The use of plastic dates back to the start of the 20th century; however, the use was increased by manifolds after the second world war. The world recognised the importance of plastic as its uses ranged in all fields and all sciences. 

With increased consumerism, more plastic started to be used or perhaps misused. It is cited that a single plastic bag may be used for a span of some minutes to several hours yet it takes almost forever to degrade it. 

Regardless of the negative impacts of plastic, it is still used in many parts of the world largely because it is cheap and is of good use. Statistics reveal that single-use plastics amount to almost half of the total plastics production. 

As per the stats, the production of plastic is expected to rise to up to 1000 million tons by as early as 2050. However, this production figure was less than 3 million back in the 1950s. This exemplifies the extreme misuse of plastic. 

This increased use does a lot of harm to the environment at all levels. Much plastic (around 8 million tons every year) ends up in the oceans which leads to the death of millions of aquatic animals and thus disrupts the food chains. 

The plastic that ends up in the seas and oceans is converted to microplastic by sunlight, wind and water waves. This microplastic is accumulated in literally every corner of the world. It may be reiterated that plastics may take more than 400 years to break down. 

It is reported that as many as 700 species have been affected by plastic either through consumption or entanglement. The consumption of plastic results in the death of animals. The consumption of plastics also causes liver damage and reproductive complications in animals.  


It is concluded that non-biodegradable waste takes hundreds of years to degrade and causes a lot of harm to life and the environment. It causes many environmental anomalies like leeching, pH change, toxication, and species endangerment. 

Non-biodegradable wastes also cause the release of harmful gases like methane, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide that harm the atmosphere and cause global warming. 

The increased use of plastics is causing much harm to animal life affecting more than 700 species on land only. The figures rise exponentially for the case of aquatic life since earth is 70% water. 

Frequently Asked Questions: What is the effect of non-biodegradable waste on the environment? 

Can non-biodegradable waste be recycled? 

Yes, it can be recycled. Although non-biodegradable waste can not be degraded, it can be recycled. It is very important that such waste is disposed of properly to make sure it is reused and recycled. In this way, the harm to the environment can be avoided or decreased. 

Are there any laws about non-biodegradable wastes? 

Yes, every country has its own laws and regulations regarding the production and handling of non-biodegradable wastes. For example, the solid waste laws of the Environmental Protection Agency. The real challenge is the implementation of these laws to achieve the required results. 


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