Updated: Jun 12
Article Written by Jack Vanourny
While the advent of global industrialization presents opportunities for economic development, the widespread negligent management of industrial waste culminates in a significant climate and biological crisis. Industrial waste is characterized as waste from the “production of consumer goods, mining, agriculture, and petroleum extraction and refining”(Municipal and Industrial Waste, n.d.) and is often split into two categories: solid waste and hazardous waste. The former refers to non-hazardous materials that might be considered ‘garbage’ while the latter describes substances that the EPA describes as either ignitable, corrosive, reactive, or toxic.
The most destructive and widespread way industrial waste affects the environment is through wastewater pollution. Industrial pollutants are often close to coastal regions. Due to their geographical proximity, the negative effects of wastewater are particularly evident in marine environments, estuaries and coastal areas. The main issue with wastewater in these environments is that it is often left untreated, causing pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus to be excessively incorporated into coastal waters. These pollutants are key instigators in eutrophication, a process in which algae grows extensively to the point where it blocks sunlight for plants and wildlife underwater. The results of eutrophication cause significant deterioration to coastal ecosystems; in the United States, roughly 65% of the coastal water is “moderately to severely degraded by excessive nutrient inputs”(What Is Eutrophication?, 2021).
Industrial waste is emerging as an issue in economically developing nations as well. A study of the U-tapao river in Thailand showed that due to recent industrialization in the area, the river has reached a point where it is too dangerous for human consumption. Local corporations are strongly recommended to stop releasing disposable untreated wastes into the river in order to prevent long-term deterioration.
The effects of industrial waste have shown to be incredibly damaging to ecosystems all over the world. As corporations continue to exploit cheap labor abroad, further negligence to responsibly take care of waste will have a disastrous impact on thousands of communities.