Land Pollution – Destruction of Earth’s Land

What is land pollution?

Land pollution is the deterioration (destruction) of the earth’s land surfaces, often directly or indirectly as a result of man’s activities and their misuse of land resources.

It occurs when waste is not disposed of properly, or can occur when humans throw chemicals onto the soil in the form of pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers during agricultural practices. Exploitation of minerals (mining activities) has also contributed to the destruction of the earth’s surface.

Since the Industrial Revolution, natural habitats have been destroyed, and environments have been polluted, causing diseases in both humans and many other species of animals.

It is important to understand that land pollution is not just littering, although it is a part of the issue. Land pollution is a way bigger issue. It is more of an industrial issue, involving big oil refineries, industries that manufacture chemicals, herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers used in farming. It also involves illegal dumping of waste in landfills and so on.

Human actions have also caused many large areas of land to lose or reduce their capacity to support life forms and ecosystems. This is known as land degradation. Note that land degradation can result from many factors, and land pollution is only one of them.

Types of land pollution

There are different types of land pollution. Many publications group them differently. Let us see these four main types:

Solid Waste

These include all the various kinds of rubbish we make at home, school, hospitals, market and workplaces. Things like paper, plastic containers, bottles, cans, food and even used cars and broken electronic goods, broken furniture and hospital waste are all examples of solid waste. Some of these are biodegradable (meaning they easily rot or decay into organic matter). Examples include food droppings, paper products as well as vegetation (like grass and twigs). Others are not biodegradable, and they include plastics, metals and aluminum cans, broken computer and car parts.

Pesticides and Fertilizers

Many farming activities engage in the application of fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides for higher crop yield. This is good because we get more food, but can you think of what happens to the chemicals that end up on the crops and soils? Sometimes, insects and small animals are killed and bigger animals that eat tiny animals (as in food chains) are also harmed. Finally, the chemicals may be washed down as it rains and over time, they end up in the water table below (causes water pollution).

Introduction — all about waste.

Waste has been a major environmental issue everywhere since the industrial revolution. Besides the waste we create at home, school and other public places, there are also those from hospitals, industries, farms and other sources. Humans rely so much on material things and they all (almost) end up as waste. And hey — where does the waste end up?

What is the difference between trash and garbage?

Trash: Solid waste form places like your atic, backyard or study. Trash items include paper and card boxes and the like.

Garbage: This is waste from kitchen and bathroom. They also include waste from cooking food and from food storage facilities. 

Waste are items we (individuals, offices, schools, industries, hospitals) don’t need and discard. Sometimes there are things we have that the law requires us to discard because they can be harmful. Waste comes in infinite sizes—some can be as small as an old toothbrush, or as large as the body of a school bus. 

Everyone creates waste, although some people are very environmentally conscious and create very little. Likewise, some countries do a very good job creating less waste and managing the rest. Others are pretty horrible and have created huge environmental problems for the people and animals living there.

Did you know? 

Europe creates about over 1.8 billion tonnes of waste each year. This means each person creates about 3.5tonnes on average.

Did you know? 

In 2010, Americans generated about 250 million tons of trash and recycled and composted over 85 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 34.1 percent recycling rate (see Figure 1 and Figure 2). On average, we recycled and composted 1.51 pounds out of our individual waste generation of 4.43 pounds per person per day. —EPA, USA.

All over the world, communities handle their waste or trash differently. Some common methods of managing their waste include landfilling, recycling and composting. Other communities strongly embark on waste reduction and litter prevention/control aimed at reducing the production of waste in the first place. Some communities also engage in waste-to-energy plants and hazardous waste disposal programs.

Now, let us get into a bit more detail.

Types of waste

Generally, waste could be liquid or solid waste. Both of them could be hazardous. Liquid and solid waste types can also be grouped into organic, re-usable and recyclable waste. 

Liquid type:

Waste can come in non-solid form. Some solid waste can also be converted to a liquid waste form for disposal. It includes point source and non-point source discharges such as storm water and wastewater. Examples of liquid waste include wash water from homes, liquids used for cleaning in industries and waste detergents.

Solid type:

Solid waste predominantly, is any garbage, refuse or rubbish that we make in our homes and other places. These include old car tires, old newspapers, broken furniture and even food waste. They may include any waste that is non-liquid.

Hazardous type:

Hazardous or harmful waste are those that potentially threaten public health or the environment. Such waste could be inflammable (can easily catch fire), reactive (can easily explode), corrosive (can easily eat through metal) or toxic (poisonous to human and animals). In many countries, it is required by law to involve the appropriate authority to supervise the disposal of such hazardous waste. Examples include fire extinguishers, old propane tanks, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment (e.g, thermostats) and lamps (e.g. fluorescent bulbs) and batteries. 

Organic type:

Organic waste garbage 
Organic waste comes from plants or animals sources. Commonly, they include food waste, fruit and vegetable peels, flower trimmings and even dog poop can be classified as organic waste. They are biodegradable (this means they are easily broken down by other organisms over time and turned into manure). Many people turn their organic waste into compost and use them in their gardens.

Recyclable type:

Recycling is processing used materials (waste) into new, useful products. This is done to reduce the use of raw materials that would have been used. Waste that can be potentially recycled is termed “Recyclable waste”. Aluminum products (like soda, milk and tomato cans), Plastics (grocery shopping bags, plastic bottles), Glass products (like wine and beer bottles, broken glass), Paper products (used envelopes, newspapers and magazines, cardboard boxes) can be recycled and fall into this category.

Chemicals:

Chemical and nuclear power plants produce waste materials that have to be stored somewhere. Fertilizer, insecticides, pesticides, pharmaceuticals manufacturers also produce lots of solid and liquid waste. In many cases, they are stored in an environmentally safe way, but there are some that find their way into landfills and other less safe storage facilities. Sometimes they also find their way into leaking pipes and gutters. They end up polluting soils and making crops harmful to our health. 

Deforestation:

Humans depend on trees for many things including life. Trees absorb carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) from the air and enrich the air with Oxygen, which is needed for life. Trees provide wood for humans and a habitat to many land animals, insects and birds. Trees also, help replenish soils and help retain nutrients being washed away. Unfortunately, we have cut down millions of acres of trees for wood, construction, farming and mining purposes, and never planted new trees back. This is a type of land pollution.

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