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Solid waste Pollution:

Solid waste is that material which arises from various human activities and is
normally discarded as useless or unwanted. It consists of discarded materials
from the urban community as well as accumulation of agriculture, industrial, and
mining wastes. The quality of solid waste generated in some major cities of India
is very high. Thus crores of rupees are being spent on solid waste management.
Moreover, in some cases such as cans, bottles, plastic containers, tyres etc. are
considered cheaper to throw away than to reclaim. This has increased the
generation of solid waste many folds.


Solid waste can be classified on the basis of content or moisture basis or on the
basis of heating value.

A typical classification is given:

1. Garbage:
This is the putrescible solid waste produced during the preparation or
storage of meat, fruit, vegetables, etc. This waste has a moisture content
of about 70% and heating value of around 6 X 106 J/kg. It may contain
valuable minerals and nutrients.
2. Rubbish:
It is a non-putrescible solid waste. It can either be combustible (such as
paper, wood, rubber, etc.) or non-combustible (such as metals, glass,
ceramics, etc.) The water content is about 25% and the heating value of
the waste is around 15 X 106 J/kg.
3. Pathological waste:
Dead animals, humans etc constitute pathological waste. It has a moisture
content of 85% and a heating value of around 2.5 X 106 J/kg. The waste
may also include hospital waste which comprises of disposable syringes,
swabs, bandages, body fluids etc. This kind of waste is highly infectious.
4. Industrial waste:
The industrial waste includes the waste from industries. The industrial
wastes include waste from coal or ore mines, electroplating works, textiles
industries, paper industries, oil refineries etc. Industrial waste contains
inorganic or organic pollutants which may or may not be soluble.
5. Agricultural waste:
It includes animal manure, crop residue etc. Herbicides, fungicides, etc
also contribute to agricultural waste.


The principle sources of solid waste are domestic, commercial and industrial and
agricultural activities. Sometimes domestic and commercial wastes are
considered together and called urban wastes. The composition of urban waste
remains similar throughout the world but the amount generated, ratio and the
density of the constituents vary widely from place to place.
On the other hand, agricultural wastes amount to around 2 kg per person per
day in India. Waste is referred to as trash, junk, refuse etc.

Treatment and disposal methods:

The composition of solid waste is not the same everywhere, so the process of
selection of the right solid waste disposal method is a complex one. In rural
areas, agricultural waste forms the major potion of solid waste, whereas in urban
areas, plastic, paper, glass, metal, chemical, food waste etc. are found in large

Several disposal methods are being used in various parts of the world and the
most prominent of these are discussed below:

1. Sanitary Landfills:
Historically landfills have been the main method used to dispose of solid
waste because of their convenience and low maintenance costs.
Landfills are generally located in urban areas where a large amount of
waste is generated and has to be dumped in common place. Unlike an
open dump, it is a pit that is dug in the ground. The garbage is dumped
and the pit is covered thus preventing the breeding of flies and rats. At the
end of each day, a layer of soil is scattered on the top of it and some
mechanism is used to compress the garbage forming a layered structure
which is usually called a cell. After the landfill is full, the area is covered
with a thick layer of mud and the site can thereafter be developed as
parking lot or park.
Landfills have many problems. All types of waste are dumped in landfills
and when water seeps through them, it gets contaminated and in turn
pollutes the surrounding area. This is known as leaching.
Sanitary landfill solves the problem of leaching to some extent. It is more
hygienic and built in methodical manner. These are lined with materials
that are impermeable such as plastics and clay, and are also built over
impermeable soil. The lining materials are called liners.
Drainage systems are setup around and beneath the liner to collect liquids
leaching from garbage and waste. Collected liquids are treated to make
them more environmentally safe.
The landfill operation is essentially a biological method of waste
treatment. The whole process takes place in five phases
• In the first phase aerobic bacteria deplete the available oxygen as a
result of aerobic respiration.
• In second phase anaerobic conditions prevail and H2 and CO2 are
• In phase three and four methane forming bacteria decompose the
matter to methane and CO2. That is why escape vents for gases are
provided in the landfills.
• In phase five the methanogenic activity decreases, representing the
depletion of organic matter and ultimately the system returns to
aerobic conditions within the landfill.

• Infectious diseases are minimized because flies, rats and other

pests are unable to breed in covered pits.
• No air pollution from burning
• Fire hazards are minimal
• Some countries tap methane and sold as fuel.


• Sanitary landfills are very costly.

• Plastic liners may crack as it reacts with various chemical solvents
present in the waste.
• Some biodegradable materials do not decompose in landfills as less
oxygen is available.
• Methane gas is developed during anaerobic decomposition.
1. Incineration:
The process of burning waste in large furnaces is known as incineration. In
these plants the recyclable material is segregated and the rest of the
material is burnt. At the end of the process all that is left behind is ash.
During the process some of the ash floats out with hot air. This is called fly
ash. Disposing of this ash is a problem as it contains toxins such as dioxins
and heavy metals.
Burning garbage is a not clean process as it produces tones of toxic ash
and pollutes the air and water. In fact, at present, incineration is kept as
the last resort and is used mainly for treating the infectious waste.
A variety of pollution control technologies reduce the toxic materials
emitted in combustion smoke. Among these are scrubbers and filters.
• Useful material and energy can be recovered, if incineration is done
in properly equipped incinerators.
• Varying solid wastes loads are converted into small volumes of ash
which can be handled.
• Burning garbage produces tones of toxic ash and pollutes air and
• A large amount of waste that is burnt could be recovered and
1. Composting:
Organic matter constitutes 35-40% of the municipal solid waste generated
in India. This waste can be recycled by the method of composting, one of
the oldest method of disposal. In contrast to landfill, it is an aerobic
method of decomposing. It is a natural process of decomposition of
organic waste that yields manure or compost, which is very rich in
Initially the process starts with oxidization of organic matter in the waste
to produce CO2and liberate heat. The temperature rises to 45⁰C and at this
point, the thermophilic bacteria take over and continue decomposition.
After about three weeks composite is stabilized. The compost should have
an earthy smell and a dark brown colour. This finished product, which
looks like soil, is high in carbon and nitrogen and is an excellent medium
for growing plants.
The composting process is generally carried out in three steps:
• Waste Preparation:
The solid waste is placed on slow moving conveyer belts. Materials
like corrugated paper are hand picked and iron material is removed
by magnetic separation. The waste is grounded to the desired size.
A nutrient source is mixed in it along with water to provide 50%
• Digestion:
The mixture is subjected to digestion by microorganisms for 4/6
• Product Upgradation:
Sometimes the resulting compost is upgraded by operations such as
curing, grinding etc. for better market prospects.


• The process of composting ensures the waste that is produced in

the kitchens is not carelessly thrown and left to rot.
• It recycles the nutrients and returns them to soil.
• Apart from being clean, cheap and safe, composting can
significantly reduce the amount of disposable garbage.
• These organic fertilizers can be used instead of chemical fertilizers
and is better specially when used for vegetables. It helps reduce the
adverse effects of excessive alkalinity, acidity or the excessive use
of chemicals.
• It increases the soil’s ability to hold water and makes the soil easier
to cultivate. It helps the soil to retain more of the plant nutrient over
a longer period.
• It helps to keep soil cool in summer and warm in winter.
1. Recycling and Reuse:
Solid wastes contain significant amounts of valuable materials like steel,
aluminium, copper and other metals which can be recovered or reused.
This will reduce the volumes of the wastes to be collected and at the same
time would yield significant resale value. Recycling involves the collection
of used and discarded materials, processing these materials and making
them into new products. It reduces the amount of waste that is thrown
into the community dustbins thereby making the environment cleaner and
the air fresher to breathe.

The steps involved in the process prior to recycling include:

• Collection of waste from doorsteps, commercial places, etc.
• Collection of wastes from community dumps.
• Collection/packing up of waste from final disposal sites.
Most of the garbage generated in the household can be recycled and
reused. Organic kitchen waste such as leftover food stuff, vegetable peels,
and spoilt or dried fruits and vegetables can be recycled by putting them
in the composite pits.


• Leads to less utilization of raw materials.

• Reduces environmental impacts arising from waste treatment and
• Makes the surroundings cleaner and healthier.
• Saves money.
• Reduces the amount of energy required to manufacture new
• Prevent creation of waste at source.

Although the legal definition of hazardous waste is complex, the term generally
refers to the waste that could pose a threat to human health and the
environment, if managed improperly. It can be defined as ‘any waste which
because of its quantity, concentration or physical, chemical or infectious
characteristics may cause significant hazard to human health and environment
when improperly treated, stored, transported or disposed of.’

More specifically, a substance is defined as hazardous if it posses any of the

following characteristic attributes:

1. Reactivity:
Any waste which is not stable at normal conditions and hence can cause
explosive reactions or liberate toxic fumes, gases and vapours, reacts
violently when mixed with water. Example of reactive waste include,
sodium and potassium metal, dry picric acid, compounds that form
explosive peroxides, cyanide plating operations etc.
2. Ignitability:
Wastes which easily ignite and burn vigorously at or below 60⁰C are
considered hazardous. Examples include volatile liquids such as solvents.
3. Corrosivity:
Wastes which include liquids with pH less than 2 or greater than 12.5 and
those which are capable of corroding metal containers. These include
H2SO4, HCL, NaOH, OH, lime, battery acid etc.
4. Toxicity:
Toxic substances are harmful or fatal when ingested or absorbed. The
wastes which release toxic materials on leaching in excess of the
permissible concentration pose a substantial hazard to human health and
are termed as toxic. Examples are products that contain benzene,
cadmium, silver, chromium, rat poison and anti-freeze etc.

The hazardous wastes have been classified into the three categories:

1. Radiochemical Wastes:
Radioactivity arises naturally from the decay of particular forms of some
elements, called radioactive isotopes.

The radioactive waste is generated in

• Discharges from nuclear reactions contain a number of radio-
nuclides. These nuclides emit radiations harmful to living
• Use of radioactive materials in nuclear weapons.
• Mining and processing of ores.
• Emissions from industrial use of nuclear energy.
• Leakage from underground nuclear detonations.


Radiations damage the living organisms. The damage can be classified as:

i) Somatic Damage:
It is the damage to the organism itself, resulting in sickness and
death. The result may appear immediately or years later in form of
ii) Genetic Damage:
It is the damage which passes from one generation to another. The
radiations affect the chromosomes causing mutations in the genes.
1. Biomedical Waste:
It is the waste that is generated by human or animal health care facilities,
medical or veterinary and teaching establishments, health care teaching
establishments, clinical testing laboratories etc. It includes:
i) Human anatomical waste that consists of tissues, organs or body
parts, but does not include teeth, hair and nails.
ii) Animal waste that consists of tissues, organs, body parts, fluid
blood and blood products etc.
iii) Microbiology laboratory waste that consists of laboratory cultures,
stocks for specimens of microorganisms, live or attenuated
vaccines, human or animal cell cultures used in research.
iv) Waste sharps that are clinical and laboratory materials consisting
of needles, syringes, blades capable of causing punctures or cuts.
Hazardous Waste Treatment Technologies:
The following treatment processes are available for treatment of hazardous

1. Physical Processes:
These include gravity separation, phase change systems, and various
filtering operations such as carbon adsorption, reverse osmosis etc.

Some of the methods have been discussed below:

i) Sedimentation: This is the simplest physical treatment system that
separate solids from liquids. It involves gravity settling and natural
floating. The solids in the hazardous wastes are made to settle in
specially designed sedimentation tanks, where they are collected as
ii) Adsorption: Dissolved hazardous substances that would never settle
out can be removed by this technique of adsorption. The chemicals
are adsorbed onto the adsorbent. The most commonly used
adsorbent is granular activated carbon (GAC).
iii) Aeration: this process typically uses the process of aeration to drive
the contaminants out of the solution. The air or steam is used in the
process. Contaminated waste is sprayed downward through a
packing material in a tower, through which air is blown upward
carrying away the chemicals that are relatively volatile.
iv) Reverse Osmosis: the contaminated water is forced against a semi-
permeable membrane, which acts as a filter. The water passes
through the pores, and the hazardous chemical substances are left
v) Ion Exchange Process: Special exchange resins are used to remove
toxic substances from waste water.
vi) Electro dialysis: Metal salts from electroplating rinses are removed
this way.

1. Chemical Process:
In chemical treatment methods the hazardous waste is converted into a
less hazardous form and sometimes useful products are also formed.

The various chemical techniques are:

i) Neutralization: It converts hazardous materials to less hazardous by
changing their pH
Acidic waste water is neutralized with Ca(OH)2, alkaline waste water
is neutralized by adding acid directly or by bubbling CO2.
ii) Chemical Precipitation: this is a common method for removing
heavy metals from a liquid waste. This method is again pH
dependent. The pH of the waste waters is so adjusted that the
solubility of the toxic metals is decreased, leading to formation of
precipitate that can be removed by settling and filtration.
iii) Oxidation-Reduction Process: Certain hazardous substances have
variable oxidation states. All the oxidation states do not have the
same toxicity. Therefore, the substances can be converted to the
oxidation state which is less toxic by redox reactions. The wastes
that can be treated using redox reactions include the waters which
contain benzene, toluene, phenols, iron, manganese etc.
1. Biological Processes:
Mostly the waste water treatment plants rely on biological processes to
decompose the organic water. The biological systems use microorganisms
to oxidize the matter to CO2 and H2O.
The microorganisms get carbon and energy from the organics they
consume. These living organisms are susceptible to toxic substances in
hazardous wastes present in organics water and that the treatment of
these hazardous wastes by these organisms unlikely.
The following biological processes are common for the treatment of
hazardous wastes. Biological treatment stage utilizes processes already
described for municipal waste water treatment plants.

In situ biodegradation:
In this process the bacteria are used to degrade organic compounds in the
soil and the groundwater on site itself. The advantage of in situ
biodegradation is that the soil and the groundwater do not have to be
removed and hence there is a less risk associated with hazardous waste

In situ biodegradation can be carried out by using two approaches:

i) The population of already existing microorganisms is increased by
supplying necessary nutrients such as ammonium sulphate,
magnesium sulphate, sodium carbonate etc. to the contaminated
waste. Oxygen can be supplied by injecting an oxidant such as H2O2
or by forcing air.
ii) The underground population of microorganism is altered by seeding
with new microorganisms, which have proven to be effective to
decompose the hazardous wastes under consideration, based on
laboratory studies.

Solid Waste and

Hazardous Waste

nkit Khullar
BTech (C.S) 1st Year

• Solid Waste Pollution
○ Classification
• Treatment and Disposal Methods
○ Sanitary Landfills
○ Incineration
○ Composting
○ Recycling and Reuse
• Hazardous Wastes
○ Radiochemical Waste
○ Biomedical Waste
○ Chemical Waste
• Hazardous Waste Treatment
○ Physical Processes
○ Chemical Processes
○ Biological Processes