What is Global Waste?

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  • Written By: Debra Durkee
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 07 December 2019
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Global waste is the amount of unusable, leftover remains from items that the world's population finds useful. This includes the hazardous, non-biodegradable waste from chemical and manufacturing processes as well as all the garbage that ends up in landfills around the world. As the global civilization becomes more and more wasteful, the problem of what to do with all the refuse is an increasingly concerning one.

Municipal solid waste is perhaps the best known of all types of global waste, as this is the kind that is produced in homes and workplaces. Agricultural waste is another type and is produced by farms and gardens, while industrial waste is created by commercial manufacturing processes. Radioactive waste is created from materials used in chemical processes that are dangerous to human health. Exposure to this waste causes illness at best and death at worst.

Other categories of global waste include medical waste and solid waste. Medical waste is the garbage material left over from human or animal medical treatments; this is mostly biological waste material. The name of solid waste can be deceiving, as this includes the material that is extracted from sewage, water treatment plants, and other solid materials that are removed from a liquid substance.


Global waste refers to the different types garbage produced collectively by all countries, and since different countries have different laws governing the disposal of waste, the impact on the environment is wide and varied. Some countries ban items that can be put in a landfill, while others have advanced recycling programs. Not all countries are forward thinking, though, and have less than environmentally friendly ways of getting rid of waste.

Whether it ends up in landfills, in the ocean or incinerated, global waste has a definite impact on the world's environment. Solid waste that accumulates in landfills not only leaks fluids into the ground as it decomposes, but those portions of the garbage that do not decompose readily can remain in the ground for decades. Gases released by landfills also impact the delicate balance of the atmosphere and the ozone layer. Likewise, hazardous chemical waste leaks into the ground and contaminates ground water.

There have been a number of schools of thought about the recycling of global waste materials. Burning waste to convert it into a form of raw energy presents the problem of releasing other chemicals into the atmosphere. The larger the world's population gets, the more global waste is produced, and the more important it is to find new, safer ways to dispose of or recycle the waste, or to lessen the amount that is produced in the first place.



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