Post #2 Solid Waste Management – Classification of Solid Waste.

If you have not already read our previous post in this series on Solid Waste Management please click the link below to read post #1- Why does Solid Waste Management matter? before proceeding to post #2 Classification of Solid Waste.

The proper classification of waste into groups that pose the similar risk to human health and the environment is critical to the proper and effective management and disposal of waste.  Waste is usually classified into controlled and non-controlled waste these are further discussed and defined here-under (outlined in figure 1).

Figure 1: Classification of Solid Waste

Source: EAUC; 2015


Lets begin with one of the most rapidly growing types of non-controlled waste around the world

Agricultural food waste – Any substances or object from premises used for agricultural or horticultural (illustrated at figure 2), which the holder discards, intends to discard or is required to discard. It is waste not only specifically generated by agricultural activities but also food production. Agricultural food waste is an untapped energy source that mostly ends up rotting in landfills, resulting in the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Agricultural food waste is difficult to treat or recycle because this type of waste contains significant levels of sodium salt and moisture, and is mixed with other categories waste during collection. Major generators of agricultural food wastes include hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, residential blocks, cafeterias, airline caterers, food processing industries, etc.


Figure 2: Agricultural Food Waste

Source: Bio Energy Consult; 2009



Bio waste – This waste stream includes the biodegradable parts of solid waste including food and garden waste, paper, cardboard, some textiles and wood (illustrated at figure 4).  It also includes livestock manures and slurry, treated sewage sludge, organic industrial waste and compost. This source of waste is sometimes used for renewable energy generation through anaerobic digestion plant (seen at figure 3). Renewable energies represent a sustainable alternative to dependence on rapidly depleting oil, and can adversely reduce carbon dioxide emissions producing electricity, heat and fuel.


Figure 3: Anaerobic Digestion Plant

Source: TW Services; 20125


Figure 4: Bio Waste

Source: Carbon Managers; 2012


Household waste also called domestic/residential waste – This is solid waste comprising of garbage and rubbish (such as bottles, cans, clothing, compost, disposables, food packaging, food scraps, newspapers and magazines, and yard trimmings) that originates from private homes or apartments. It may also contain household hazardous waste.

 Household waste

Figure 5: Household Waste

Source: Household Recycling Centre


Mining waste – This is waste generated from the extraction, beneficiation, and processing of minerals from the mining of metallic ores and phosphate rock (as illustrated at figure 6).

Figure 6: Mining Waste

Source: Green Solution for Acid Mine Waste, 2009


Commercial and Industrial waste – The solid component of the waste stream arising from commercial, industrial, government, public or domestic premises (not collected as municipal solid waste) these are usually collected by company contractors but makes up the largest source of packaging waste in the world.

Figure 7: Commercial and Industrial Waste 

Source: Commercial and Industrial Waste Sorting, 2015


Construction and demolition waste – The solid inert component of the waste stream arising from the construction, demolition or refurbishment of buildings (seen at figure 8) or infrastructure but does not contain Municipal Solid Waste.

Figure 8: Construction and Demolition Waste

Source: Arch Daily, 2015


E-waste – Waste that is derived from electrical and electronic equipment that is dependent on electric current or electromagnetic fields in order to function. This type of waste is usually generated in homes, hospitals, offices, factories and includes automatic dispenses, monitoring and control instruments, medical devices and toys, leisure and sports equipment (figure 9 illustrates different types of e-waste). Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) is one of the fastest growing products, produced globally with an estimated amount of 20-50 million tonnes annually.

Figure 9: E-Waste

Source: Green Citizen; 2015


Hazardous / special waste – This type of waste includes any unwanted or discarded material, which because of its physical, chemical (illustrated at figure 10, this type of waste can have adverse to not just humans bur animals also) or infectious characteristics can cause significant hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, disposed of or otherwise managed, usually generated in factories and hospitals.

Figure 10: Hazardous / Universal Waste

Source: Marine Department of Environmental Protection 2015


Separating waste into its most appropriate category has become one of the most effective way of controlling and managing waste, since, over the years solid waste management has had unprecedented growth with a number of new and evolving types of waste, these concerns have attracted the attention of residents and governments worldwide, with the issues surrounding solid waste at the forefront of major public agendas, mostly due to the fact of unprecedented levels solid waste generation has now reached in the world, with the disposal becoming a major global environmental problem.

Next post in this series: 

Environmental Impacts of Landfills



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