The world population has increased rapidly over the past century forcing the agriculture industry to increase production to meet ever-rising global food demand. Studies indicate that agricultural production has increased more than three times in the last five decades. Technological advancement in the green revolution and expansion of soil for agricultural production have also contributed largely toward an increase in agricultural production. While the agricultural sector is estimated to provide about 24 million tons of food globally, we cannot overlook the fact that it is also one of the main sectors generating the largest quantities of solid wastes. The agriculture sector is inevitable as food is a global necessity, but the health risks and the negative impact on ecosystems resulting from agricultural activities are also evident. The research has reported that agriculture contributes to about 21% of greenhouse gas emissions. The negative impact of agriculture on the environment, animals, human health and aquatic lives has put significant pressure on farmers and agribusinesses alike to make improvements in production processes, which involves implementing effective ways of handling agricultural solid wastes and improving production.
While we cannot get rid of agriculture waste completely, there are ways you can observe and reduce the total amount of waste that is produced as a result of your agriculture operations. This blog will familiarise you with those ways while explaining what agricultural waste is and why exactly it is a problem to the agriculture sector, the environment and human life.
AGRICULTURAL WASTE: OVERVIEW
Agricultural waste is defined as unusable, unwanted materials produced as a result of different agricultural activities by small or large farms, factories, dairy and poultry farms. These wastes may be intentionally or unintentionally disposed of and can be categorised into different types, including:
- Green wastes –This includes solid wastes that are typically produced from agricultural activities involving crop production, such as crop residues, husks leaves and other waste materials that decompose.
- Food and meat processing solid wastes – This category of agricultural wastes come from the processing of crop or animal products for human consumption, such as slaughterhouses. Bones, hoofs, feathers, banana peels are some examples of food and meat processing agricultural wastes.
- Pesticide, chemical and animal feces runoff– When pesticides, chemicals and manure are used extensively across land, they not only negatively affect the fertility of the soil but also cause damage to other animals, and pollute water bodies. Besides, the little amount of chemical that is still left in the packaging after use has the potential to pollute the environment if not disposed of properly.
- On-farm medical solid wastes—on-farm medical solid wastes refer to solid wastes that are generated from the use of drugs, insecticides or vaccines used on or animals. Examples of such wastes include vaccine wrappers or containers, disposable needles, syringes, etc.
- Gas emissions– Agriculture factories, farm machines and various farming practices emit gases that consist of toxic air pollutants, like ammonia, methane and hydrogen sulphide, that affect the quality of air and human health, intensify the greenhouse effect and climate change, and threaten wildlife.
WAYS TO REDUCE AGRICULTURAL WASTE
The first step in reducing the waste produced by your farm or agriculture activity is to determine what goods are being purchased and how they are used on the farm. This information will further help you to find ways to eliminate, reduce, reuse, and recycle materials that are intentionally or unintentionally produced in various agricultural processes. A good strategy is to deal with the largest components in the waste stream, and put in effect the easiest waste reduction practices first – that definitely does not mean throwing the waste away or burning it.
We have put together some steps below that will allow you to not only reduce but prevent generating waste to some extent.
- Buy items that use recycled content or refurbished parts. This can be applied to several items used regularly in farm businesses like cartons, crates, bags, office and janitorial supplies, Gaylords and Gaylord liners.
- Do proper stocktaking regularly to make sure you buy what’s absolutely necessary and avoid the waste created through overbuying.
- Repurpose plastic containers for planters or pots or feed scoops.
- Reuse feed bags for trash bags and barriers in gardens.
- Wooden pallets that come with farm shipments can be reused for fires and plot fences.
- Wherever needed, use re-refined petroleum products as they are made from crude oil which is less harmful to the environment.
- Use plant and food by-products in animal feeds and rations. Do check with local authorities if a permit is required for the same.
- Opt for cooperative purchasing whenever possible.
- Inspect and observe your bottling operations for opportunities to reduce plastic waste.
There are many items used in agricultural processes that can be recycled instead of discarded. You can reuse them for other purposes or transform them into something that will benefit your farm or operations. These items include
- Product packaging
- Consumer goods
- Old tires
- Flower cartons
- Bulb crates
- Plastic tote bags
- Organic fertilisers
In addition, be sure to separate recyclable items- such as glass, used automotive oils, fibre barrels, rubbers, batteries, metals and plastics – from other types of wastes so that they can be disposed of properly and not just thrown away in the landfills.
- Connect with your waste haulier to ask for collection service for items that can be commercially composted, such as food scraps and food-solid paper.
- You can also compost many items – which would otherwise be discarded as waste like trees, leaves, hay, animal waste, weeds and grass cuttings – in your farm to improve your soil.
When we think of or talk about pollution, climate change and global warming, we often blame large industries, corporations and vehicle emissions. However, data suggests that agriculture pollution is on the rise and accounts for about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions.