Human beings are always building and manufacturing products to suit people’s needs.
The products are subject to wear and tear or even toxic chemical emissions.
Manufacturing industries use harmful chemicals and raw materials may form hazardous waste.
A study by the United States Environmental Protection Agency indicates that there has been an increase in hazardous waste since the mid-twentieth century.
But is hazardous waste biodegradable? The simplest answer is no! If hazardous waste was biodegradable, it would not be threatening the existence of any form of life as it does today.
This article will provide you with detailed answers you’re looking for; is biodegradable waste biodegradable?
What Is Hazardous Waste?
Hazardous waste is any disposable material that poses health risks to human life.
If disposed of poorly, such materials can cause environmental hazards.
According to the EPA, hazardous waste is a type of waste with distinct properties that make it toxic or possibly can cause detrimental effects on human health or the environment at large.
Hazardous waste may originate from many sources that may range from waste from industrial manufacturing processes to battery waste.
The waste may take various forms
EPA further identifies the four properties of hazardous waste:
- Ignitability: Has the ability to spark a fire.
- Reactivity: Can combine with other atmospheric compounds to produce toxic gases or fumes.
- Corrosivity: When in an aqueous state, hazardous waste has a pH value that’s less than or equal to 2. It may also have a pH value greater than or equal to 12.5. The waste can also be termed hazardous based on its ability to corrode metals like steel.
- Toxicity: It is poisonous and can cause long-term risks to human health and the ecosystem.
Examples Of Hazardous Waste?
- Medical waste
- Sharp objects
- Farm chemicals
What does Biodegradable mean?
Biodegradable is the ability of materials to decompose naturally.
It can also mean a substance that can get acted upon by natural and biological factors.
In other words, such materials can get broken down by the sun’s rays, oxygen, water, temperature, and microorganisms like bacteria or fungi.
These agents naturally degrade the materials into simple organic matter that boosts soil fertility.
Is Hazardous Waste Biodegradable?
No. Hazardous wastes are non-biodegradable because hazardous waste cannot decompose.
It means microbes like fungi and bacteria can’t break down hazardous waste into simpler molecules.
The waste is toxic and kills microbes that play a critical role in the decomposition of substances.
Other agents like moisture or oxygen can’t also degrade hazardous waste.
When poorly disposed of, hazardous waste poses a great threat to the environment and human health.
An article by Southern Methodist University says that hazardous waste management is key in today’s world.
According to Hazardous Waste Haulers, hazardous waste production is massive.
To be specific, 13 tons of hazardous waste gets generated every second.
The amount translates to 400 million tonnes every year. It also projects an increase in production of the same by 2050.
Is Hazardous Waste Recyclable?
Since it does not decompose, we have to find suitable ways to manage it in the environment.
Hazardous waste is recyclable, meaning that it can help create new substances for similar or other use.
Recycling is the best way to manage and reduce hazardous waste that would otherwise end up in our environment.
Recycling waste helps protect the environment from the threats associated with hazardous waste.
The process may involve the following steps:
- Collection of the waste.
- Processing of the collected waste.
- Manufacturing of new products.
- Sale of the new product into the market.
However, the recycling rate of hazardous waste has gone down from 39.4% in 2020 to 38.1% in 2021.
That’s because recycling toxic waste is more costly than disposing it, causing organizations to shun from the process.
As a result, the waste accumulates to toxic levels in the environment.
What are the Harmful Effects Of Hazardous Waste?
In recent years, the masses have become cautious about the risk hazardous waste poses.
Some of the effects are:
1. Increased cancer cases due to exposure to carcinogenic waste.
2. Exposure to dangerous U.V rays. It occurs as the emission of greenhouse gasses causes perforation of the ozone layer allowing U.V rays from the sun to the earth. It further causes the greenhouse effect.
3. Excess hazardous waste such as farm chemicals may contaminate the soil changing its pH level.
As a result, crops may not grow, and water running through the soil may become contaminated.
So the best way to avoid such risks is to manage and dispose of hazardous waste effectively.
How is Hazardous Waste Managed?
Hazardous waste is riskier to handle because it can be corrosive, toxic, flammable, or very reactive.
But the waste can be managed to prevent potential risks to human health and the environment.
Instead of disposing of hazardous waste, we should recycle and reuse it. Such waste may include mostly electronics and their parts.
That way, we can get the items fixed and reformed into other useful products.
Underground disposal in deep pits is also another way to get rid of hazardous waste though not fully.
This method is common for disposing of medicines and aerosol sprays.
Incineration is also another way to manage hazardous waste. The process generates energy for fuel.
Some organizations and garbage collectors have created a collection program where you collect your waste, and they sort it and dispose of them in methods they deem fit.
In some areas, people do ocean dumping.
Ocean dumping is where the hazardous waste deposits deep into the sea to avoid contamination of other water sources.
Is hazardous waste biodegradable? No. Hazardous waste involves inorganic materials that can’t degrade by the action of microorganisms like bacteria and fungi.
Even if hazardous waste could be biodegradable, it would kill these microbes before they get a chance to break them down.
The waste can also cause severe effects on human health and the environment.
That’s why we must adopt proper strategies for managing such waste to minimize its negative impacts.
And one way to do that is to recycle and reuse toxic wasteful products.