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What is solid waste and how is it classified?

A material that has already done its job or fulfilled its mission is disposed of as waste. Therefore, a waste becomes useless and of no economic value for most people. This waste can be disposed of, going to landfills or burial, or recycled for reuse.

In this AgroCorrn article we speak specifically about one type of waste: solid waste. Read on and discover what solid waste is and how it is classified to properly dispose of it.

You may also be interested in: How to treat solid household waste
  1. What is solid waste and examples
  2. How solid waste is classified
  3. Where solid waste is dumped and recycled
  4. Consequences of poor solid waste management

What is solid waste and examples

The waste can be liquid, gaseous or solid. Under the denomination of solid waste, only waste that is in a solid state is grouped , leaving out those that are in a liquid and gaseous state. The term urban solid waste is used to refer to those that are produced specifically within urban centers and their areas of influence. These wastes are usually produced in private homes (houses, apartments, etc.), offices or shops.

Examples of solid waste are used paper, a glass or plastic bottle, or a cardboard container. On the other hand, waste such as oil from a vehicle or smoke from a chimney are not classified as solid waste.

How solid waste is classified

Solid waste can be classified into two large groups, hazardous and non-hazardous solid waste . Hazardous, as its name indicates, group those wastes that may pose a danger to the citizen or the environment, due to their corrosive, explosive or toxic properties. While non-hazardous waste does not pose a danger to the citizen or the environment. These, in turn, can be subdivided into:

  • Ordinary: this waste is generated during the daily routine in homes, schools, offices or hospitals.
  • Biodegradable: these wastes are characterized by being able to disintegrate or degrade quickly, turning into another type of organic matter. Examples of this type of waste are food scraps, fruits and vegetables. You can learn more about how long it takes for waste to degrade here.
  • Inert: these wastes are characterized in that they do not decompose easily in nature, but rather take a long time to decompose. Among these waste we find cardboard or some kinds of paper.
  • Recyclable: these wastes can undergo processes that allow them to be used again. Among these we find glass, cloth, some kinds of plastics or papers.

In addition to this classification, solid waste can also be grouped into organic and inorganic :

  • Organic: in this classification, biodegradable waste would be grouped.
  • Non-organic or inorganic: they are residues that due to their chemical characteristics undergo a very slow natural disintegration. Many of these wastes are recyclable by complex methods such as cans, some plastics, glass or rubbers. In other cases their recycling or transformation is not possible, this is the case of batteries, which are dangerous and polluting.

The management of urban solid waste is carried out in several stages: a first stage prior to collection (including separation and storage), the collection itself, the transport from the collection point and, finally, its disposal or transformation.

Where solid waste is dumped and recycled

Once collected, the destinations of solid waste for disposal can be:

Disposal in the landfill

The sanitary landfill is a method of disposal of solid waste that consists of depositing it on the ground, in a scattered and compacted way. This is mostly done with hazardous waste.


A waste incinerator is a system for treating garbage consisting of burning this waste at high temperatures, which reduces its volume by up to 90% and its weight by 75%. The disadvantage of this system is that ash, inert waste and gases are generated that can be toxic to people.

Separation and use

This system classifies solid waste in the place where it is produced in order to later recover it. To recover them, processes, techniques and operations are applied that manage to give these materials the possibility of reusing them in their original or similar function.

You can learn more about these wastes in this other AgroCorrn article on How to treat solid household waste .

Consequences of poor solid waste management

The mismanagement of solid waste can have consequences , which we can consider really serious, such as:

  • Health risks: in the form of diseases, both directly and indirectly. Many of these effects are being investigated.
  • Detrimental effects on the environment: such as the aesthetic deterioration of cities and natural landscapes, which can be considered a form of transformation of nature by man .
  • Water pollution: as leachates or discharges to rivers and streams. This leads to eutrophication , with its dire consequences.
  • Soil contamination: such as land abandonment or landfills.
  • Air pollution: smoke and gas emissions lead to a reduction in the quality of the air we breathe.

Finally, we recommend you watch this video about solid waste , which you can also find on our YouTube channel.

If you want to read more articles similar to What is solid waste and how is it classified , we recommend that you enter our Recycling and waste management category .

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Hello, I am a blogger specialized in environmental, health and scientific dissemination issues in general. The best way to define myself as a blogger is by reading my texts, so I encourage you to do so. Above all, if you are interested in staying up to date and reflecting on these issues, both on a practical and informative level.

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