Waste and Sustainability - Biodegradable and
Non-Biodegradable Materials  
by Trudy Slabosz
our product choices and our waste disposal.

Biodegradable Materials
Biodegradable matter is generally material from an organic origin that when disposed
of will decompose by a natural process. This means it will breakdown and decay into
simpler forms of matter.

The process of decomposition is essential within the natural environment for new
growth and development of living organisms; it is the way nature is able to recycle
the finite matter of the living world. When organic matter breaks down it returns
energy and materials used by nature to generate more energy and organic materials.
This is the process by which the planet is able to sustain life.

Biodegradable matter is any food scraps, garden waste, or materials or products
made from plant or animal derived substances or artificial/man-made materials that
are similar enough to organic matter and thus can still be broken down by a natural

Non-biodegradable Materials
Non-biodegradable material is in-organic or man-made matter that will not
decompose. Any material that is non-biodegradable does not decay or breakdown
into simpler forms of matter.

This means that when disposed of by us, nature cannot reuse these materials to fuel
the cycle of life and it will remain as pollution in the environment. It also means, all
the resources and energy used to make the material in the first place, are trapped
within the waste. Because nature cannot breakdown the material; the matter and
energy cannot be reclaimed and reused by the environment to generate more
organic matter and energy.

Relying on non-biodegradable materials and ingredients is an unsustainable and
polluting practice. It traps resources and energy that can not be re-claimed in
materials that cannot be broken down. Resulting in masses of polluting substances
and rubbish that cannot every truly be digested by the planet.

Fortunately we are able to recycle some non-biodegradable waste. Meaning the
materials can be reused to make new products and materials. This saves natural
resources and reduces the impact of the vast amounts of in-organic waste ending up
as landfill and pollution throughout the world.

Where does our waste go?
Our waste can end up in a number of places; landfill and incineration, recycle centres,
sanitary sewers or septic tanks, as compost or as litter and pollution in both our
natural environment and urban towns and cities. In order to reduce the negative
environmental impact of our waste we need to consider where and how we dispose
of things.

When we clean our homes and ourselves the products we use end up as waste
washed down the drains and into sewers or septic tanks. Sewerage waste is treated
which changes most of that waste to carbon dioxide and water with some minerals,
waste elements and non-biodegradable materials left over. The treated water is then
pumped back into a river or ocean. This means that the non-biodegradable matter in
the products we use may eventually end up as pollution in our waterways.

A great deal of our household and commercial waste ends up in landfill sites which
are large holes in the ground filled with all kinds of rubbish. Or in certain areas where
there is no space for landfill waste is burned, both practices are damaging to the
environment. Luckily we are able to reduce the amount of waste that ends up as
landfill or in incinerators by recycling and composting.

But this means we must dispose of our rubbish thoughtfully. When recyclable or
biodegradable materials are not disposed of properly and end up as landfill or
incinerated they contribute to the mass of non-biodegradable and polluting waste;
their potentially reusable and sustainable properties lost.

It is important to try and ensure any biodegradable waste is composted and does
not end up in landfill. Landfill is designed to inhibit the natural process of decay as
uncontrolled decomposing waste can contribute to ground water pollution, methane
gas emission and unstable sub-soil conditions. It has been discovered that many
organic materials are "mummified" by the conditions of landfill and do not appear to
breakdown or only at a vastly diminished rate.

How can we improve our methods of waste disposal?

By moving away from a reliance non-biodegradable ingredients and materials we can
reduce the amount of toxic waste clogging up the Earth. If we consider the impact of
our product choices and dispose of our waste with a little more care, we can improve
the sustainability and limit the negative effects of our modern disposable lifestyle.

About The Author

Trudy Slabosz

Happy and Healthy, Ethical and Sustainable Living
Rubbish, garbage, trash, junk, litter,
refuse; we throw stuff out every day
and nearly every aspect of our
modern life creates some form of
waste. We throw waste in the bin and
we wash waste products down our
drains when bathing and cleaning.
But, we live on a finite planet and all
the waste we are creating is having a
very real and negative impact on the

Our waste can be recognised as
either biodegradable or
non-biodegradable and this can be a
useful distinction when we consider
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