Inorganic waste

paper and paperboard

Human activities produce inorganic waste, which are non-biological waste. These wastes are either non-biodegradable or biodegradable over an extended period of time. Examples of this type of waste include chemical waste, electronic waste, metal waste, plastics, paper, cardboard, glass, synthetic fabrics and tires, among several others.

In this article we are going to tell you what the most important inorganic waste is, its classification and its characteristics.

Inorganic waste

plastic inorganic waste

There are multiple ways to categorize inorganic waste, such as its physical form, where it comes from, or what it is made of. In terms of physical form, inorganic waste can be solid, liquid or gaseous. In terms of origin, can come from urban areas, industrial environments, mining activities, etc.

When it comes to the composition of inorganic waste, there is a wide range of classifications. Plastics, paper and cardboard, glass and radioactive waste are just some examples. Adequate treatment of polluting waste is essential, categorizing it into recyclable or reusable materials and those that are not.

To minimize the harmful effects of inorganic waste on the environment, it is essential to process and dispose of it properly. The specific treatment methods used depend on the characteristics of the inorganic waste in question. For example, glass is crushed and melted to facilitate recycling, while radioactive substances are securely sealed within containers and stored in geological repositories.

Before any treatment can begin, it is essential to correctly sort and dispose of inorganic waste. To do this, specific containers are designated for each type of waste or designated areas, such as clean points, are set up for proper disposal.

The selection, disassembly, extraction and fusion processes are applied to inorganic waste found in electronic waste. Subsequently, components are reused, recycled or disposed of.

Key features

The main distinguishing characteristic of these substances is their lack of organic origin, which means that they are not derived from living organisms and cannot undergo fermentation. Consequently, They cannot be reintegrated into natural cycles or, if they do, they require long periods of time.

To avoid any harmful effects on the environment, it is necessary to administer specific measures to deal with these substances. Oil remains, being classified as inorganic, have the potential to undergo biodegradation through the activity of specific bacteria.

Plastics and other derivatives, on the contrary, They take hundreds or even thousands of years to decompose.

When non-organic substances are introduced into natural environments, they often cause significant pollution due to their synthetic composition. Conversely, when elements are removed from their natural cycles and reintroduced into the environment, harmful imbalances are created.

Classification and examples of inorganic waste


The classification of inorganic waste can be based on its state, source of origin or composition.

According to your status

Solid inorganic waste

For example we have plastic materials, paper and cardboard, pieces of glass, debris, electronic waste and batteries.

Inorganic waste in liquid form

All forms of non-organic waste generated in domestic, industrial, mining, agricultural and livestock activities are included within its scope of application.

Inorganic waste in its gaseous form

The gases in question are produced through industrial processes, the operation of combustion engines or the incineration of inorganic waste.

Depending on your point of origin

Waste in urban areas

Various types of waste are generated in residential homes, offices, restaurants and educational institutions, such as paper, cardboard, glass, bottles, ceramics and lamps. These materials constitute inorganic waste.

In addition, a wide range of plastic and metal materials are found in electrical and electronic devices. Similarly, various plastic objects such as cutlery, plates, bottles and bags are predominantly made of plastic.

In domestic effluents residual traces of various chemical elements can be found, such as detergents, chlorine, thinners, paints, oils (including previously used motor oils) and pesticides.

Waste generated by industries

dangerous residues

The scope of this category is extremely broad and can be further classified based on various industrial sectors, each of which generates its own distinct type of inorganic waste. In general, the industry is responsible for producing inorganic solid waste, effluents and gases, many of which have a significant impact on pollution levels.

Blast furnace smelting sludge, known for its abundance of heavy metals and other harmful substances, poses a significant risk as a form of hazardous industrial waste. Similarly, the disposal of radioactive waste from thermonuclear power plants presents serious environmental concerns.

Waste generated by mining operations

Among the most problematic types of waste generated by mining activities are heavy metals such as mercury, lead and arsenic, known for their significant environmental pollution.

Waste generated from oil and its derivatives

During the entire oil exploitation process, a byproduct known as extraction sludge is produced, which contains high concentrations of heavy metals. Besides, Oil waste is generated at various stages of the process.

The petrochemical sector also generates waste that is extremely harmful to the environment, and oil serves as a source of both plastic waste and discarded tires.

Waste generated from agriculture and livestock

Serious pollution problems arise from the use of non-recyclable inorganic products such as pesticides and fertilizers in agricultural and livestock practices.

Sanitary waste

Given the nature of their operations, hospitals and medical centers generate a wide range of organic and inorganic waste, which requires special attention and management.

Various types of inorganic materials are generated as part of the waste stream, such as syringes, scalpels and remains of pharmaceutical substances. Besides, The disposal of electronic waste contributes to the presence of highly dangerous radioactive components.

Waste generated in construction projects

These are various materials, such as construction waste and metal scraps, which are usually challenging to dispose of due to their size.

According to its composition


Plastic, being the epitome of versatility, has become the go-to material in the modern era, making it a fundamental component of most manufactured items. When it comes to inorganic waste, plastics dominate and They rank first in terms of composition.

Most plastic waste consists of bottles, bags and cutlery, but it can also be found in electronic waste, scrap cars and various types of utensils.

Pollution caused by plastics is significant due to their incredibly long degradation period, spanning hundreds and even thousands of years. Besides, Even in its fragmented state, plastic continues to pollute and pollute the environment.

The main element found in the so-called garbage islands scattered throughout the oceans consists of tiny fragments of plastic. In 2010, it is estimated that a staggering 275 million tonnes of plastic waste was produced in 192 coastal countries.

Paper and cardboard

In terms of proportion, they occupy the second position in terms of inorganic waste. A good example of this is the important production of waste paper in the administrative and educational sectors.

Cardboard, mainly used as packaging material (boxes), constitutes an important part of waste. However, The notable advantage of this particular form of inorganic waste lies in its recyclability, since it can be reused without effort.

Related materials such as glass, crystal and porcelain

Silica, sodium carbonate and limestone are part of the composition of glass, while crystal contains potassium hydroxide and lead oxide. On the other hand, porcelain is composed of kaolin, feldspar, quartz and water.

Glass, crystal and porcelain experience different melting temperatures during their production, so it is imperative to avoid mixing them in the residual phase. Glass requires dedicated containers, while porcelain and crystal typically do not undergo recycling processes..

Recycling becomes a challenge due to the presence of glass containers and containers containing hazardous materials. Within this category, broken thermometers stand out for their mercury content, while bottles of laboratory chemicals can contain toxic substances.


Recycling covers not only metal components found in equipment and various metal scraps such as copper and tin, but also kitchen utensils, cans and automobiles.


Chemical waste that is not of organic origin presents a wide diversity and is produced in various sectors of human activity. This includes household cleaning products, pigments for textile printing, as well as waste materials from the chemical manufacturing sector.

Oils and paints

This category includes various substances such as paints, stains, varnishes, lacquers, sealants, enamels and inorganic oils, which may also include used motor oil. Most of these items contain elements that come from petroleum.

Energy storage devices and energy cells

A wide range of materials are used in its production, such as copper, zinc, aluminum, lithium, manganese dioxide, mercury and acids. These batteries have a significant environmental impact, as demonstrated by the fact that a single alkaline battery has the potential to contaminate up to 175 thousand liters of water.


The issue of discarded tires raises a significant environmental concern due to the significant amount of oil used in their production. For example, Manufacturing a single truck tire requires the consumption of approximately half a barrel of crude oil.

Additionally, the composition includes additional components such as carbon, fabric, chemical additives, natural rubber and steel.

Electronic waste

The structure and composition of these devices are complex and consist of a wide range of materials and components such as metals, plastics, gases and liquids. Therefore, when these devices are removed, they require specific management and treatment.

Materials that emit radiation

Radioactive waste materials or equipment, from various sectors such as industry, research and medicine, contain radioactive elements. These materials require specific handling protocols depending on their level of radioactivity, due to the inherent risks they pose.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about inorganic waste and its characteristics.

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