• Written By Ankita Sahay
  • Last Modified 27-01-2023

Industrial Waste: Management, Causes, Effects


There are many causes of Industrial waste. Although industries have proved to be very helpful to our society, it has various drawbacks, and one of the most important ones is pollution caused by Industrial waste! So, what is Industria waste? The waste produced by the factories, mills, and mining operations to name a few and has been rendered useless.

Wastes generated by manufacturing or various industrial processes are known as industrial wastes. The waste produced is of three kinds – solid, liquid and gas. Some industrial wastes may be toxic and hazardous like industrial effluent, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. Hence, we need proper management for their disposal. In this article, we will talk about industrial waste management in detail. Read further to know more about it.

What is Industrial Waste?

Industrial wastes can be defined as the term used for such substances or materials that are produced as a by-product and are of no further use after the manufacturing process is over.

Industrial wastes are posing a threat in today’s world as they have become one of the major causes of pollution. The three types of industries that generate a majority of industrial waste are:

  1. Metallurgy,
  2. Non-metallurgy, and
  3. Food processing industries
What is Industrial Waste?

According to the raw materials used in a particular industry, the waste produced by them may differ from industry to industry, the manufacturing processes, and the types of product outlets.

These kinds of industrial wastes can be categorized into three forms: solids, liquids, and gases. Most of the wastes are disposed into the water bodies that pollute them making the water unfit for drinking and other domestic purposes. Thus industries should implement proper disposal management steps to clean and treat such wastes to avoid any harmful effects.

Types of Industrial Waste

Factories produce countless wastes after the manufacture of desired products. Based on how these industrial wastes are decomposed, there are two types of industrial waste:

  1. Biodegradable Industrial Waste
  2. Non-biodegradable Industrial Waste

Biodegradable Industrial Waste

Those industrial waste materials which can be broken down or decomposed to non-toxic substances in nature with time by the action of micro-organisms such as certain bacteria are called biodegradable industrial waste.

In short, we can say that a biodegradable waste decomposes naturally and becomes harmless or non-toxic after some time. Common biodegradable industrial waste examples are cattle dung and compost, animal bones, tea leaves, wool, paper, leather, etc.

Many industrial wastes are biodegradable but some are not. Thus, all the biodegradable industrial wastes should be treated to make them harmless before disposing of them in soil or water.

Biodegradable Industrial Wastes

Non-Biodegradable Industrial Waste

The industrial waste materials which cannot be broken down or decomposed into non-toxic or harmless substances in nature are called non-biodegradable industrial waste.

Since these wastes cannot be decomposed easily by micro-organisms like bacteria; hence they are major pollutants to the environment. These non-biodegradable substances accumulate in the ecosystem and finally get absorbed by the plants and animals. The chemicals absorbed are retained in our bodies. They can enter into the living organisms through respiration, intake of food or drink, or even by direct absorption through the skin.

The phenomenon of deposition of pollutants in the tissue of living organisms is known as the biological concentration of the pollutants. Non-biodegradable industrial waste examples are plastics, ball-point pen refills, synthetic fibres, glass materials, and metallic substances like aluminium cans, iron nails, silver foil, and other radioactive wastes. All such wastes are adversely affecting our environment as well as our ecosystem at an alarming rate.

Non-Biodegradable Industrial Wastes

Industrial Solid Waste

Industrial solid wastes may include trash, the garbage that includes medical equipment, abandoned automobiles, construction debris, electrical equipment, and many more. They lead to long-term pollution issues in the environment. Therefore, efforts are necessary to be made for controlling pollution that arises due to the disposal of wastes by conversion of these unwanted wastes into utilizable raw materials for various uses.

The large and medium scale industries still have some arrangements to dispose of their solid waste. But, the small-scale industries have no such planning. Such industrial wastes along with domestic wastes are intermingled and disposed of here and there in local bodies. Thus, a proper strategy for organising proper collection and disposal of industrial solid waste is needed by municipal bodies.

Industrial Solid Waste

Industrial Waste Management: How to Reduce Solid Waste?

Industrial solid wastes can be reduced by taking the following measures:

  1. Recycle and Reuse the wastes – Most of the solid wastes produced by industries, household activities, paper wastes, etc., should be recycled and reused to reduce solid wastes.
  2. We should promote the use of reusable bags instead of plastic bags for shopping for vegetables, groceries, etc.
  3. Avoid using packaged water bottles made up of plastic.
  4. Contact local repair shops for reusing your old appliances instead of throwing them as thrash.

Industrial Waste Water Pollution

Most of the wastes, whether it is industrial or domestic are decomposed into the water bodies making them unfit for consumption. Industrial waste water is not only produced as a by-product of oil and gas or mining and chemical manufacturing industries but also a by-product of food and beverage processing industries, chemicals, power plants, fabric, leather, automobile, and many other industries.

Both organic and inorganic waste matter is disposed of by the factories which should be treated properly before discharging them into the rivers, oceans, etc.

Industrial Waste Water Pollution

How to Reduce Industrial Waste Water Pollution?

To treat industrial wastewater and effluent wastewater across a wide range of industries, some of the techniques such as Filter presses along with filter plates and filter cloth are used. These industrial filter press technology can stop the flow of solid wastes such as plastics, metals, etc., into the water bodies and will minimize environmental impact and help in reusing/conserving our precious water resources.

Industrial Waste Gases

Toxic gases released by factories into the atmosphere such as oxides of sulphur, nitrogen, carbon monoxide and many more are known as industrial waste gases.

The various causes of such waste gases include:

1. Use of outdated technology in industries to reduce production costs. But these old techniques generate a large number of waste gases.
2. Inefficient burning of fuel generates a large number of toxic gases.
3. Unplanned use of raw materials is also a serious cause of waste gas production. Many of them contain elements like sulphur, lead, etc., and when they are burnt, harmful gases are released.

How to Reduce Industrial Waste Gases Pollution?

In order to prevent industrial waste gases, the use of fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, etc. should be avoided as they produce harmful gases on burning. Industries should switch to renewable sources of energy like solar energy, wind energy, and hydro energy. Catalytic oxidizers should be used to break the pollutants into their constituent particles and then released as harmless gases. Finally, industries should try to use non-toxic starting materials for manufacturing goods and stop the pollution at the source only.

Industrial Waste Disposal

Industrial waste disposal can be done in numerous ways based on their types. Solid waste can be collected by regular waste disposal and collection methods, though it should be ensured that solid waste is recycled, wherever possible.

Chemical wastes should be disposed of by following all legal guidelines by the municipality. Failing to do this we can be responsible for contributing hazardous and toxic chemicals to our environment. Some of the most predominant and commonly practised methods for industrial wastes disposal are:

1. Landfill (for solid wastes)
2. Incineration (for medical wastes)
3. Composting (for organic wastes)

Industrial Waste Management

As a consequence of industrial activities, a wide range of industrial wastes is generated which needs to be disposed of properly. Most industries dispose of their wastes in the water bodies resulting in industrial waste water pollution. But before this, proper sustainable treatment of wastes is necessary to avoid any toxic substances being introduced into the water bodies. Some of the industrial waste management techniques are:

  1. Biological Treatment – Biodegradable wastes containing elements like nitrogen, phosphorus, etc. can be removed by this technique which is a very efficient and low-cost technique. Treatment may be aerobic as well as anaerobic.
  2. Vacuum Evaporation – Liquid industrial wastes can be treated by the vacuum evaporation technique. It is a wastewater treatment method that separates water from the contaminants having high boiling points. In this method, wastewater is fed into a hot boiling chamber and heated until the water molecules vaporize.
  3. Physicochemical Treatment – Physicochemical treatment involves a combination of processes that may be performed in a single unit or separate units consecutively. These processes include coagulation, flocculation, and sedimentation.
Industrial Waste Treatment

Effects of Industrial Wastes

  1. Water Pollution – Liquid wastes containing toxic substances are discharged into the water bodies without any treatment. One of the famous examples of this is ‘Minimata disease’ in Japan! This is a neurological disease and the root cause of it was the disposal of mercury in the sea by chemical industries that got accumulated in the body of shellfish. Thus, when people consumed these fishes, the toxic metal contaminates their bodies and lead to this disease.
  2. Air Pollution – Industries release various harmful gases such as oxides of sulfur, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and many more that cause air pollution. Various breathing diseases and lung diseases are caused due to increasing air pollution.
  3. Global Warming is caused due to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by the industries.
  4. Wildlife Extinction is a major effect of industrial waste. For example, due to oil spills into the water bodies, radioactive materials leakage, fire, etc. aquatic as well as non-aquatic animals died and reached the verge of extinction.
  5. Soil Pollution leads to the death of plants as well as microorganisms dwelling in the soil. This leads to a huge loss in agricultural yields.
Effects of Industrial Wastes

Methods of Industrial Waste Management

Various prevention methods of industrial wastes mainly include the ‘three R’s rule’ that stands for Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Let us discuss the various prevention methods in detail.

  1. Firstly, we should try to reduce the amount of waste we throw away and reduce landfill space, natural resources as well as energy.
  2. New upgraded equipment should be used by industries that produce less scrap.
  3. Good quality raw materials should be used as starting materials as they will not produce harmful gases on combustion or further reactions.
  4. Packaging materials should be minimized. Packing tiny objects in a large box is useless and will increase solid waste.
  5. Unnecessary steps in the manufacture of products should be cut off and this will help to minimize wastage.


Thus, we have learned that industrial wastes can be hazardous or non-hazardous. They are the mere cause of several pollutions, i.e., air pollution, water pollution, and soil pollution. Hence, their proper disposal is very important. Biodegradable wastes can be easily decomposed but the real problem exists with the non-biodegradable wastes. Better industrial waste management techniques are needed for the proper disposal and recycling of waste. But above all these, the best solution to this problem is to reduce wastage from industries.


Q.1: How many types of industrial waste are there?
Once the desired products are manufactured, based on how these industrial wastes are decomposed, they are classified into two types: Biodegradable Industrial Wastes (mostly non-toxic) and Non-Biodegradable Industrial Wastes (including toxic substances also).

Q.2: Give some industrial waste examples?
Some industrial waste examples are garbage, dirt, and gravel, concrete wastes, scrap metals, trash, oil, solvents, chemicals, leather, heavy metals, wood, etc.

Q.3: Why is industrial waste a problem?
Industrial waste is a big problem as it may be toxic, flammable, corrosive, or reactive. Some toxic contaminants have been found in living organisms both animals as well as human beings, particularly farmworkers and oil and gas workers, who are continuously exposed to such waste.

Q.4: What’s considered industrial waste?
Wastes produced by industrial activity which includes waste products of mills, factories, mining operations, fabric, leather industries, and many more are considered industrial wastes.

Q.5: What is prescribed industrial waste?
Prescribed Industrial Wastes (PIW) include some special hazardous chemicals or wastes that must be handled and disposed of in specific ways prescribed according to the law.

Q.6: What is agro-industrial waste?
Agro-industrial wastes are the wastes produced after various agricultural activities. Agro-industrial wastes are used for the production of biofuels, enzymes, antioxidants, animal food, antibiotics, and many more.

Q.7: What are the effects of industrial waste?
Some of the effects are industrial waste water pollution, air pollution, soil pollution, global warming, wildlife extinction, etc.

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