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Waste Management

Agricultural, Mining, And Industrial Waste

Municipal solid waste is a relatively small part of the overall waste generated in the United States. More than 95% of the total 4.5 billion tons of solid waste generated in the United States each year is agricultural, mining, or industrial waste.

These wastes do not receive nearly as much attention as municipal solid waste, because most people do not have direct experience with them. Also, agricultural and mining wastes, which make up 88% of the overall total of solid waste, are largely handled at the places they are generated, that is, in the fields or at remote mining sites.

Mining nearly always generates substantial waste, whether the material being mined is coal, clay, sand, gravel, building stone, or metallic ore. Early mining concentrated on the richest lodes of minerals. Because modern methods of mining are more efficient, they can extract the desired minerals from veins that are less rich. However, much more waste is produced in the process.

Many of the plant and animal wastes generated by agriculture remain in the fields or rangelands. These wastes can be beneficial because they return organic matter and nutrients to the soil. However, modern techniques of raising large numbers of animals in small areas generate huge volumes of animal waste, or manure. Waste in such concentrated quantities must be managed carefully, or it can contaminate groundwater or surface water.

Industrial wastes that are not hazardous have traditionally been sent to landfills or incinerators. The rising cost of disposal has prompted many companies to seek alternative methods for handling these wastes, such as waste prevention and recycling. Often a manufacturing plant can reclaim certain waste materials by feeding them back into the production process.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Verbena Family (Verbenaceae) - Tropical Hardwoods In The Verbena Family to WelfarismWaste Management - History Of Waste Management, Municipal Solid Waste, Agricultural, Mining, And Industrial Waste, Hazardous Waste