An Overview of Non-Biodegradable Waste Management and Solutions
Waste can be defined as discarded and useless materials which do not possess any value. Solid waste is generated from different sources such as households, industries, agriculture, commercial spaces and other human activities, and pose significant environmental and public health risks. Thus, effective solid waste management is a necessity.
As per UNICEF, solid waste is categorized into two: Biodegradable and Non-Biodegradable waste. Biodegradable waste includes kitchen waste, agricultural waste, human and animal waste, which can be decomposed by the biological action of living microorganisms. However, non-biodegradable wastes are those which cannot be decomposed biologically. It includes plastic, metal, glass etc. This is the reason why non-biodegradable waste management using different technologies and solutions have assumed greater importance today.
What is Non-biodegradable Waste?
As mentioned, any waste type which cannot be decomposed by natural or biological processes is considered as non-biodegradable waste. Besides plastic, glass and metals, it includes cardboard, paper, old clothes, thermocol sheets, cans, man-made polymer, biomedical waste, chemical waste, electronics, batteries etc.
Non-biodegradable Waste Sources
All human activities can create non-biodegradable waste, ranging from households, industries to hospitals, agriculture, construction and other fields. Generally, plastic waste, electronic waste such as discarded mobiles, laptops, batteries, steel wastes from steel utensils and glass are derived from households.
Depending on industry type, a large amount of non-biodegradable waste is generated in the form of metal waste, plastic waste, mineral waste etc. Machinery waste and packaging waste generated in agriculture and syringes, medicines, different equipment from hospitals are considered as non-biodegradable.
Problems Caused by Non-biodegradable Waste
If non-biodegradable waste is left untreated and disposed of improperly, it can deeply affect the environment. Some of the problems may include uncontrolled landfills that may cause an unhygienic environment, leading to diseases among the people residing nearby. Plastics and other such waste can cause pipe blockages and groundwater contamination. Other waste like chemicals, biomedical and plastics can pollute water bodies as well. Thus, solid waste management is essential to overcome the challenges posed by non-biodegradable waste.
Non-biodegradable Waste Management
Recycling is one of the best and popular methods employed for non-biodegradable waste management. The waste such as plastic, paper, glass, iron materials and cloth can be recycled and has economic value as well. It also helps in reducing the waste being sent to landfills, supports deforestation and saves energy.
Incineration is widely used to manage non-biodegradable waste, which is non-recyclable as well. It involves waste decomposition using temperatures above 5000 Degree Celsius and can help minimize the trash volume.
Individual management of waste is the first step to successful non-biodegradable waste management. Segregation of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste in separate bins and following recycling practices whenever possible are some measures that can be taken at the individual level.
Non-biodegradable Waste in India
Due to rapid industrialization and urbanization, the amount of waste generated in India has increased. Dumping of non-biodegradable waste on landfills has become a problem due to the growing population, and less area is left for landfills. According to a report from the Planning Commission of India in 2014, the waste generation was predicted to reach 165 million tonnes by 2031, and the land required to build landfills for two decades will be 66,000 hectares of land, which is staggering, to say the least. However, the Swachh Bharat Mission has helped the country to make great strides in non-biodegradable waste management.
According to the new Solid Waste Management Rules in 2016, segregation of waste into dry, wet and hazardous at the source is mandatory. It also says to have two bins, one for biodegradable and the other for non-biodegradable waste at residences and institutions. It empowers local rag pickers to collect non-biodegradable waste as it can be recycled. Provision for packing materials such as cardboard and plastics is made. The companies using non-biodegradable materials need to collect such waste and recycle it.
There are many innovative methods and solutions in the pipeline to achieve solid waste management goals. To manage organic waste, composting is touted as one of the best methods, which if implemented in households, can greatly reduce the waste burden. There are biological solutions such as Organica Biotech’s Soilmate, which helps in faster composting process and output.
In the case of non-biodegradable waste management, plastic roads, for instance, is a great way to solve the problem of potholes in India. The recycled plastic in combination with bitumen can be used for constructing roads. Also, the non-biodegradable waste contains energy. Various scientific research, studies and innovations are happening in this field to use this energy and replace fossil fuels with it.
As mentioned before, using effective solutions such as recycling and incineration can help in efficient non-biodegradable waste management in India. In addition, better awareness and mindset towards controlling non-biodegradable waste at an individual level will support the cause. It will further help in protecting human health as well as the environment.