6 Sources of Wastes With Examples

Waste refers to any discarded material which no longer remains useful. According to the Environment Protection Act, 1990, waste is any substance that constitutes a scrap material, or effluent, or an unwanted surplus that arises out of the application of any process. Wastes are classified into the following categories depending on their sources of origin:

Sources of Wastes #1

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.

Sources of Wastes #2

Industrial Wastes

Wastes emanating from various large and small-scale industries are known as industrial wastes.

Types of Industrial Wastes

Industrial wastes can be categorized into the following groups depending on the nature of the 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 environmental 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 the boiling and processing of fibres.
  • Chemical Industries: These industries include manufacturing industries and fertilizer and pesticide industries.
  • Metal industries: These industries produce wastes containing copper, lead, acids, chromium, and zinc which can affect the life of aquatic animals

Sources of Wastes #3

Agricultural Wastes

 Agricultural wastes are the wastes produced from agricultural operations, including waste from Plant Remains, Animal Wastes, and Fertilizers.

Classification of Agricultural Wastes

Plant Remains or Crop ResiduesField 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 wastesSlurry, poultry litters
Processing WastesWastes 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).
FertilizersComponents of fertilizers such as nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium
Pesticides and InsecticidesContains dangerous chemicals such as nitrogen. Sulphur and DDT affect humans by entering the food chain.

Sources of Wastes #4

Municipal Wastes

Wastes generated in a municipality or a local area are known as municipal wastes. It is discharged by shops, offices, banks, hospitals, and schools.

Categories of Municipal Wastes

Municipal Wastes can be categorized as:


It is a liquid waste that 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.

Biodegradable Wastes
  • Biodegradable wastes decompose into the soil.
  • They do not pose a very serious challenge to the environment.
  • Examples: Paper, egg shells
Non-biodegradable Wastes
  • Non-biodegradable pollutants take a fairly long time (or never) to decompose into the soil.
  • These wastes pose a serious challenge to the environment because they do not decompose into the soil.
  • 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).

Sources of Wastes #5

Biomedical Wastes

Wastes that are generated during medical treatment, diagnoses, and immunization 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.

Sources of Wastes #6

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.


Waste Management-I

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

Waste Management-II

If wastes are allowed to accumulate and are not disposed of carefully, then they will not only affect our environment but will also affect our health. When accumulated wastes are left open and unattended, they begin to decompose. Read more