ICSE Revision Notes for Waste Generation and Management Class 10 Geography

Chapter Name

Waste Generation and Management

Topics Covered

  • Types of Waste
  • Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming
  • Depletion of the Ozone Layer
  • Aicd Rain
  • Impact of Waste Accumulation
  • Effects of Waste Accumulation on Terrestrial Life 
  • Safe Disposal of Wastes 
  • Pollution Control Devices and their Functioning 
  • Reduce, Reuse and Recycle 

Related Study


Waste refers to any discarded material which no longer remains useful. According to the Environment Protection Act, 1990, waste is any substance which constitutes a scrap material, or an effluent or an unwanted surplus which arises out of the application of any process. 

There are three types of wastes—solid, liquid and gaseous wastes.

  • Solid Wastes: It include garbage, food leftovers, decaying fruits and vegetables, cans, bottles and ashes. 
  • Liquid Wastes: It refers to sewage discharged from houses, hospitals, restaurants, offices and factories. Oil spill is also a liquid waste. 
  • Gaseous Wastes: It includes fuel exhausts containing carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide etc. Smog is an example of gaseous waste.

Differences between toxic and non-toxic wastes:

Toxic Wastes

Non-toxic Wastes

These are dangerous wastes which can pose grave health hazards to humans and animals.

These wastes do not cause any serious health hazards to humans and animals.

These wastes are produced as a result from industrial processes, use of chemical fertilisers, biomedical wastes generated from hospitals and nuclear activities.

These wastes are mostly domestic wastes.

These wastes include chlorinated solvents, asbestos, organochlorine pesticides, waste paints and release of large amounts of sulphur and nitrogen.

These include food leftovers, fruits and vegetable peels etc.

Sources of Wastes 

Wastes are classified into the following categories depending on their source of origin: 

Domestic Wastes 

Wastes generated as a result of domestic activities are known as domestic wastes. It includes polythene bags, toilet sewage, batteries, expired medicines and scrap metals. 

Industrial Wastes 

Wastes emanating from various large and small-scale industries are known as industrial wastes. Industrial wastes can be categorised into the following groups depending on the nature of industry: 

  • Mining: Wastes generated during mining activities are known as mining wastes. Many chemicals and liquids get discharged leading to the deterioration of land and water resources. 
  • Cement Industry: These industries discharge fine dust particles which can cause serious health hazards. 
  • Oil Refineries: These industries cause serious environment problems. They generate wastes such as organic sulphur compounds, hydrocarbons and organic acids. 
  • Construction Sites: The wastes include bricks, plastics, pipes, roofing and insulating materials. 
  • Paper Industry: The effluents of the industry include sulphur dioxide and chlorine which can endanger the lives of aquatic organisms. 
  • Textile Industry: Its wastes include effluents resulting from boiling and processing of fibres.
  • Chemical Industries: These industries include manufacturing industries and fertiliser and pesticide industries. 
  • Metal industries: These industries produce wastes containing copper, lead, acids, chromium and zinc which can affect the life of aquatic animals. 

Agricultural Wastes 

The following table shows the nature of agricultural wastes: 

Classification of Wastes


Plant Remains or Crop Residues

Field Residues: Wastes left in agricultural fields after harvesting, straw of barley, wheat, sorghum and rye.

Process Residue: These are the remains discarded after the crops are processed. It includes husks, seeds and bagasse.

Animal wastes

Slurry, poultry litters

Processing Wastes

Wastes produced by agro-based industries. It includes stalks and press mud (wastes produced during the process of purification of sugar to make it free from dirt and colour).


Components of fertilisers such as nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium

Pesticides and Insecticides

Contains dangerous chemicals such as nitrogen. Sulphur and DDT affect humans by entering the food chain.

Municipal Wastes 

Waste generated in a municipality or a local area is known as municipal waste. It is discharged by shops, offices, banks, hospitals and schools. It can be divided into the following categories: 

  • Sewage: It is a liquid waste which is discharged from kitchens, bathrooms, lavatories, laundries and laboratories. It includes mineral and organic matter, wastewater and human excreta. As municipal sewage contains large quantities of nitrogen and organic matter, it can affect the ecosystem if it is not treated. 

Difference between Biodegradable Pollutant and Non-biodegradable Pollutants

Biodegradable Pollutants

Non-biodegradable Pollutants

Biodegradable wastes decompose into the soil.

Non-biodegradable pollutants take a fairly long time (or never) to decompose into the soil.

They do not pose a very serious challenge to the environment.

These wastes pose a serious challenge to the environment because they do not decompose into the soil.

Examples: Paper, egg shells

Examples: Metal cans, plastic products

Biodegradable wastes can be further classified into simple biodegradable wastes and complex biodegradable wastes. While biodegradable wastes can be easily broken down by natural processes (Examples: Leaves, vegetable peels), non-biodegradable wastes cannot be easily decomposed (Examples: Leather shoes, tin cans).

Biomedical Wastes 

Wastes which are generated during medical treatment, diagnoses and immunisation of humans and animals are known as biomedical wastes. It also includes wastes generated during research and experiments conducted in laboratories. These wastes include needles, syringes, tissues, parts of the body, chemicals used during pathological tests and polythene bags. 

Nuclear Waste 

Radioactive wastes which are generated from nuclear reactors, nuclear power plants, trident submarines and X-ray machines are known as nuclear wastes. They are the most hazardous of all as they emit radiation which can cause several diseases, cancer and genetic disorders. 

Medical X-rays constitute about 18% of artificial radiations used in radiotherapy for diagnostic purposes. 

Need for Management of Wastes 

It is important to dispose wastes safely and scientifically. This is because wastes can result in the spread of many diseases.

Waste on Lands

There are dangers of spreading many diseases when wastes get accumulated on land and water bodies. The following table shows the lists of common diseases spread by various insects and organisms: 


Diseases Spread


Typhoid, diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera

Sand fly

Kala-azar, sand fly fever

Tsetse fly

Sleeping sickness


Malaria, yellow fever, chikungunya, dengue


Plague, salmonellosis


Rabies, hydrated diseases

Wastes in Water 

Industrialisation and urbanisation pollute water in the following ways: 

  • Sewage has pathogenic agents. A pathogen is a microorganism which can cause disease. 
  • Effluents discharged by water include metal salts and complex organic chemicals. 
  • Fertilisers and pesticides can pollute water resources. 
  • Radioactive substances can affect reproductive organs in humans and can cause several diseases, cancer and genetic disorders. 

Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming 

The Earth receives sunrays which keep it warm. The Earth does not absorb all the heat but emits a part of the heat back into space. This helps in maintaining uniform temperature on the surface of the Earth. A greenhouse is a building made of glass in which plants are grown. The building made of glass absorbs the heat of the Sun but does not allow it to go out. This increases the temperature inside the glass building. Similarly, many greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere (such as carbon dioxide) absorb the Sun’s energy and do not reflect it into space, leading to the increase in the temperature of the Earth. Four gases are mainly responsible for creating the greenhouse effect on the Earth. These gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). 

Many human activities such as burning of fossil fuels and deforestation have resulted in global warming. 

Effects of Global Warming 

  • The temperature of the Earth is likely to increase by 2°C to 5°C in the next hundred years. 
  • This increase in temperature will result in the melting of snow in the polar regions of the Earth. This will result in the rise of the sea level leading to the submergence of coastal lands.
  • Increase in temperature will result in changes in climatic conditions all over the world by influencing the wind and rain patterns.
  • Rise in temperature will result in an increased rate of transpiration which will lead to the depletion of the groundwater table.

Depletion of the Ozone Layer 

The ozone layer lies in the stratosphere. It absorbs the ultraviolet rays of the Sun and protects the Earth from its harmful effects. 

The ozone layer has been depleting because of the emission of nitrogen oxide and CFCs. Supersonic jets release nitrogen gas which depletes the ozone layer. CFCs are used in many countries today. During the use of materials such as paints, foam and thermal insulating materials, CFCs escape into the atmosphere and harm the ozone layer. 

A hole in the ozone layer has been discovered over Antarctica. Without the ozone layer, exposure to sunrays can cause diseases such as skin cancer and cataract in humans. Ultraviolet rays can cause genetic disorders. It also disturbs the ecological balance in the marine ecosystem.

Acid Rain 

Pollutants present in the air such as sulphuric acid and nitrogen oxides (released by burning of fossil fuels and industrial emissions) combine with the droplets of water in the air and come down as rain; this is known as acid rain.

Effects of acid rain are 

  • Affects the human nervous system by causing neurological diseases 
  • Affects the lives of aquatic animals 
  • Leads to the corrosion of buildings, monuments and bridges 
  • Increases acidity of soil, leading to reduced fertility 

Soil Pollution 

Acid rain can cause soil pollution. Soil pollution leads to reduction in mineralisation and decomposition. It also reduces soil fertility and soil aeration. Further, it is important to check the accumulation of wastes and reduce soil pollution.

Waste Management 

It is thus required to effectively manage wastes. One of the easiest ways of managing wastes is following the 3-R system—reduction, reuse and recycle. We should reduce the use of resources by not overusing and overexploiting them. Materials should also be used several times to conserve resources. Materials such as glass and paper should be recycled to make new materials. This helps in protecting our environment.

Impact of Waste Accumulation 

If wastes are allowed to accumulate and are not disposed carefully, then they will not only affect our environment but will also affect our health.

  • When accumulated wastes are left opened and unattended, they begin to decompose. This results in the growth and multiplication of number of pathogenic bacteria, viruses and fungi which carry germs of various diseases to human settlements.
  • Decomposition of wastes also produces various gases which pollute the air around us. 
  • During the rainy season, rainwater takes various decomposed wastes containing pathogens to water bodies causing water pollution. 

Spoilage of Landscape 

  • Waste accumulation ruins the natural beauty of the landscape. Apart from this, it also becomes the thriving ground for rats and other disease-carrying germs.
  • Burning of coal, fuel or wood produces sulphur and nitrogen which react with oxygen to form sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide, respectively. When these gases react with water vapour, sulphuric acid and nitric acid are formed. Precipitation of water along with these acids forms acid rain. 
  • When monuments come into contact with acid rain, gypsum and calcium are washed away leading to their corrosion. Examples: The Parthenon of Athens, the Colosseum of Rome, the Taj Mahal of Agra 


  • Pollution is caused by the introduction of harmful substance in the atmosphere. It is caused by the addition of waste toxic chemicals or gases into the atmosphere.
  • Accumulation of waste leads to pollution. Industries, household activities, hospitals, restaurants and agricultural practices (such as the use of fertilisers) are the main sources of pollution. 
  • In open dumping, wastes are dumped in open spaces located far away from the limits of the city. This kind of waste disposal is not safe and has many limitations. The dumping of different types of wastes makes such dumping grounds the breeding ground of mosquitoes and flies. When these wastes are carried by rainwater to nearby lakes, rivers or ponds it results in water pollution. 
  • Industrial wastes contain harmful chemicals such as lead and mercury. These chemicals enter animal and human bodies by the food chain. 


It is a process in which oxygen begins to deplete from water bodies either naturally or because of human activities. Nutrients and chemicals are discharged into water bodies through sewage and effluents. Accumulation of these in water bodies results in the growth of phytoplankton and algae. This obstructs the penetration of oxygen and sunlight into water bodies which may result in the death of aquatic organisms. 

Health Hazards 

  • Respiratory infections and irritation in the eyes, nose and throat. It causes headaches, nausea, dizziness and allergic reactions. 
  • Air pollution may also cause chronic respiratory diseases, lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases and even damages the nerves, kidneys and liver.
  • Pathogens are disease-causing bacteria which are present in wastewater. When contaminated water is consumed, pathogens enter the human body. It may cause various water borne diseases such as typhoid, cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery and jaundice. 
  • Metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium dissolved in water may cause several diseases if they enter the human body. When water contaminated with cadmium was consumed by people in Japan, they were affected by a disease called Itai-Itai. Similarly, a disease known as Minamata affected the Japanese after they consumed fish which had large concentrations of mercury. Lead can affect the blood system and can lead to behavioural disorders. 
  • Radiations are extremely dangerous for human health as they produce harmful changes in the body cells and affect the genes. 
  • When people are exposed to radiations, their offspring may also be affected and gene mutations may be transmitted to future generations. This is known as genetic variations.
  • When a person is exposed to radioactive pollution, damage may be caused to the body organs. It may result in lung cancer, brain cancer, thyroid cancer, sterility and reduced or defective eyesight. 

Effects of Waste Accumulation on Terrestrial Life 

Effects of waste accumulation on human health have already been discussed above. 

Its effects on plants are 

  • Nitrogen dioxide leads to the premature falling of leaves. It also affects the growth of plants which result in low crop yields.
  • Ozone enters the leaves of plants through stomata. It then dissolves with water within the plant and reacts with other chemicals damaging its leaves. Plants weakened by ozone may become more susceptible to various diseases, pests and droughts.
  • Peroxyacetyl nitrate causes premature falling and discolouring of leafy vegetables. 
  • Sulphur dioxide has a bleaching effect on plants. It results in the loss of chlorophyll. Many leafy vegetables become yellow because of the effect of the gas. 
  • Radioactive pollution affects our environment. Radioactive wastes cannot be destroyed, and hence, they remain in our environment for a long period of time. They cause the discolouring of trees in the forests. After the Chernobyl nuclear accident, a pine forest cover near the power plant turned reddish brown. 

Effects on Animals and Birds

  • Animals may consume toxic materials or polythene bags from wastes. This results in the spread of diseases among them. 
  • The underground disposal of radioactive wastes may contaminate the drinking water which may be harmful for plants, animals and humans. 
  • Birds consuming agricultural wastes produce defective egg shells and show increased mortality. 

Effects on Aquatic Life 

When the quantities of harmful substances such as pesticides and insecticides increase in the food chain of marine and aquatic organisms who are then consumed by other living beings, it is known as the process of biomagnification. The phenomenon of concentrated toxic deposition at the higher trophic level in the food chain is known as bioaccumulation

Minamata Tragedy 

Minamata is a coastal town in Japan. It had a vinyl chloride factory which used to discharge effluents contaminated with methyl mercury into the sea. This was consumed by fish. When these fish were caught and consumed by the people, it caused Minamata disease. The disease affected the central nervous system resulting in difficulty in walking and speaking among humans. Under extreme circumstances, the disease also resulted in death among people. Fishing in Minamata Bay was later banned by the Japanese authorities. 

Safe Disposal of Wastes 

It is important to safely dispose wastes. Wastes can be safely disposed in the following ways: 


This is a method in which wastes are segregated. Biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes are segregated into different bins. Biodegradable wastes are then converted to useful products like biogas. 

Open Dumping 

In open dumping, wastes are dumped in open spaces located far away from the limits of the city. This kind of waste disposal is not safe and has many limitations. The dumping of different types of wastes makes such dumping grounds the breeding ground of mosquitoes and flies. Burning of these wastes also pollutes the air. The situation can become worse during the rains. Rainwater may carry these wastes to nearby lakes, rivers or ponds and pollute them. 

Sanitary Landfills 

In sanitary landfills, the wastes are disposed away from the city. The waste is first spread in layers and then is compacted tightly so that their volume is reduced. The waste is then covered by soil. The waste is then subjected to bacterial decomposition. Sanitary landfills are useful as the wastes are not attacked by rodents or insects. Sanitary landfills are planted with vegetation. It has to be taken care that the roots of plants which are grown should not penetrate more than 30 cm into the soil. Further, only those plants should be grown which have the ability to thrive on low nutrient soil. 

One precaution which needs to be taken care is that landfills should not be located in areas which have high underground water level as it may get polluted. 


In composting, household and municipal wastes are decomposed by the aerobic method. The wastes are decomposed by microorganisms.

This is a useful method of waste decomposition as wastes are decomposed by microorganisms into humus which adds fertility to the soil. Advantages of composting are 

  • Enhances soil nutrition and soil water retention capacity 
  • Checks soil erosion 
  • Increases the soil fertility by adding humus 


In the process of incineration, municipal wastes are burned at a very high temperature. Many materials like metal do not get completely burnt. These may be then recycled. This method however also pollutes the air with fly ash and sulphur dioxide. 

It is also an expensive process as the installation of proper devices for controlling air pollution need to be installed. This method is useful because 

  • It kills pathogenic organisms and reduces the volume of wastes. 
  • It is useful for disposing petroleum and plastic wastes in chemical industries.

Management of Municipal Wastes 

  • Municipal authorities should collect solid wastes from each house. 
  • Horticultural and construction wastes should be collected separately and disposed of. 
  • Biomedical wastes and industrial wastes should not be mixed with municipal wastes. 
  • Municipal wastes should be carefully stored and segregated. 

Drainage and Treatment of Effluents 

Wastewater has to undergo three treatments during its purification. These are 

Primary Treatment 

  • In the first stage of primary treatment, large particles such as rags and sticks are removed from water. 
  • To remove inorganic solids such as silt, egg shells along with bone chips and seeds, known as grit, the wastewater is made to enter a grit chamber where the speed of water is decreased. The grit then settles and is removed manually or mechanically from the grit chamber. 
  • Water then flows into a sedimentation tank. In the process of sedimentation, water is stored in large basins where sand particles, silt and other particles settle. The impurities or sludge are then removed.
  • The process in which sedimented water is subjected to a chemical process is known as coagulation or flocculation.
  • In the process of filtration, suspended impurities are removed by making water pass through a barrier of sand matrix. 

Secondary Treatment of Water 

  • In this method, the organic matter which is present in water is biologically degraded by microorganisms. When water enters a tank, it comes into contact with microorganisms. 
  • Air is introduced into the tank through diffusers. Microorganisms in the presence of oxygen break the organic matter and the impurities then settle at the bottom of the tank which are later removed. 
  • Water is then treated with chlorine gas which then kills the rest of the harmful organisms.

Tertiary Treatment 

Tertiary treatment: In this method, nutrients such as nitrogen or phosphorus are removed. This water can be reused for industrial, agricultural and domestic purposes. 

Pollution Control Devices and their Functioning 


  • Wet scrubber is a device which is used for trapping the emissions of water-soluble gases such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and ammonia. 
  • In a wet scrubber, spray nozzles are fitted through which water is sprayed into the device in a way that it goes downwards.
  • As polluted gases rise upwards, the particulate matter present in it collides with water drops. Because of the gravitational force, the water drops containing particulate matter settle at the bottom and the pollutants are segregated.

Electrostatic Precipitator 

  • This device is used for removing fly ash after combustion of coal or other materials. The process of its working is as follows: 
  • After combustion of coal and other materials, polluted gas or smoke enters the electrostatic precipitator.
  • The devise is electronically charged. The polluted air and the impurities become negatively charged as they gain electrons on their  surface.
  • Negatively charged dust particles are then drawn towards the positive charged electrode plates and are deposited there. 
  • Impurities are then dislodged by mechanical rappers and get collected at the bottom of the unit in a hopper. 
  • An electrostatic precipitator is a very efficient device which removes more than 99% of impurities.
  • The advantages of using this device are that they are economical to operate and have high efficiency. They also do not produce moisture plume. 

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle 

Wastes should be reduced, reused and recycled. 

  • Waste can be reduced by reducing the generation of waste from industries. Wastes should also be segregated.
  • Wastes such as glass, rubber and metal pieces can be reused to produce new materials. Wastes such as fly ash produced by the paper industry can be used for making roads and filling up low-lying areas. 
  • Wastes can also be treated and recycled to make new products
    Example: The paper industry uses recycled pieces of wood from the furniture industry. Paper can also be recycled.

Government Initiatives for Protecting the Environment 

The Environment Protection Act (1986) empowers the central government to coordinate actions of the state governments and plan and execute a nationwide programme for the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution.

Environmental activists have been demanding that large and big dams should not be built, as construction of big dams submerges forested land, disrupts the ecosystem of rivers and destroys not only the aquatic life but also the terrestrial life around them. Building of large dams also displaces people in large numbers. 

Social Initiatives 

Many social initiatives are taken to protect the environment. Some of these are 

  • Air pollution can be minimised by using public transport by car pooling. 
  • People living in housing societies can initiate steps for waste management by making provisions for waste segregation and building compost pits. 
  • People should stress on making houses or residential buildings with solar panels and water recharging facilities. 

Individual initiatives

  • Use of plastic bags should be discarded, and bags made of jute or cloth should be encouraged 
  • Use eco-friendly objects 
  • Cut down on the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) 
  • Adopt and popularise renewable sources of energy 
  • Reuse and recycle wastes 
  • Use rechargeable batteries

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