While agriculture produces food, it also produces waste. Agricultural Waste management is a necessary step in ensuring that the waste does not harm living creatures and the environment.
There is natural, animal, plant and chemical waste.
Since the quantity is usually huge and it is generally hazardous, then farmers have to follow the regulations set in Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH).
If no one manages the waste, then it can not only pollute water and air but also disrupt the process of farming.
During waste management, the waste is either reduced, recycled or repurposed.
This article discusses how you can manage waste and reduce it for the safety of the environment.
What Classifies as Agricultural Waste?
Farming activities produce waste, however, it is not the only source.
In fact, food chains, and other farming techniques can produce agricultural solid wastes.
At every step of the food chain, there will be wastage.
- Food and Meat Processing
Crop and animal production results in some waste in abattoirs.
So things like bones, banana peels, feathers and hoofs categorize as solid wastage.
This solid waste comes from the maintenance and cultivation of plants for aesthetic purposes.
Basically, they are a greater part of garnering than farming.
The waste is by pruning and grass cutting.
- Animal Production/Livestock
Livestock will inevitably produce solid waste.
If you use livestock for farming then there will be animal litter, water, trough, animal carcasses.
- Crop Production
Agricultural crop production does lead to wastes such as crop residues and husks.
This happens when you farm crops for food or domestic production.
- Industrial Waste
Besides food production, farming produces industrial raw materials and domestic products.
As a result, they also lead to wastage.
The production of paper utilizes agricultural products, hence, it produces waste.
Wood cuttings and processing produce it too.
- On-Farm Medical
This kind of wastage is due to the use of drugs, vaccines and insecticides on animals.
Disposable needles, syringes or wrappers left from vaccines contribute to it.
This is one of the most likely wastages on agricultural land.
For instance, farmers do not completely empty the pesticides and insecticides rather mishandle the containers and spill these chemicals in nearby ponds or fields.
This poses environmental hazards, food poisoning risks and water pollution, harming animals, humans and sea life.
There are other more common wastages such as:
- Kitchen waste
- Organic Fertilizer bags
- Waste oil
- Manure and litter
Importance of Agricultural Waste Management
Improper disposal of waste can cause an environmental impact as well as affect humans and animals alike.
There is a need to manage waste disposal as seemingly harmless things can get harmful if not disposed of responsibly.
For instance, it can give rise to the problem of landfills and the emission of toxic gases from that area.
Moreover, if pesticides and insecticides end up in rivers instead of fields then they can kill aquatic life.
Though, they can also pollute drinking water, and kill animals who will drink from it.
So animal agriculture, crop production, animal production and the use of pesticides all result in environmental damage if you do not manage the waste.
The world is shifting towards reducing the emissions of greenhouse gas.
Animal production releases about 65 percent of nitrous oxide and 37 percent of methane.
These are harmful greenhouse gases.
It is a cycle.
The burning of agricultural solid waste produces in a waste incinerator harmful emissions that result in climate change.
Climate change decreases food production.
Therefore, there are implications regarding food production, health and environmental concerns.
All of which are relevant to life on planet Earth.
Health and Environmental Concerns
The agricultural wastage ends up being dumped in landfills.
Eventually, it burns and emits a high amount of gases that pollute the environment and contribute to climate change.
Moreover, these emissions also harm human health.
What’s surprising is that this waste can be easily recycled and it is also beneficial for soil fertility because of its high nutrient content.
Therefore, recycling can contribute towards sustainable agricultural production.
There is another important environmental concern due to the accumulation of wastage. Floods!
Solid wastes from agriculture, livestock and farming block waterways.
Farmers may carelessly dump solid wastes in waterways but blockage gives rise to floods.
Municipal solid waste and sewage sludge is hazardous waste that harms public health but also puts everyone in danger.
Consequently, there is huge damage to lives and properties.
Food Security Concerns
As the world population increases, the need for agriculture and food production increases too.
So does agricultural and food waste.
There is increasing food insecurity in the world.
Though, it is certainly not because of enough food production but because of food wastage.
In fact, one-third of the food produced is either lost or wasted.
Developing countries contribute to wastage during production and supply chain whereas developed ones do so on the table.
This waste can also become a recyclable material to produce feed ingredients.
It results in higher animal protein production and as a result, improves food security.
Agricultural Waste Management: Ways to Control Solid Waste
Farmers can set up regular waste collection and they can take measures to control any damage that they cause such as control fires while burning waste.
Though most of these wastes can be put into much better uses that can facilitate agricultural production and result in waste treatment and waste reduction.
Recycling and reusing them comes in handy for:
- paper making
- manufacturing glass
- making organic fertilizers
- producing ethanol
- making additives in cement
- generating biogas
- making animal feed
- removing heavy metal
- generating electricity
A popular way to recycle crop waste is by composting.
Kitchen waste or crop wastage can also come in use as animal feed, fertilizer and bioenergy.
It converts into animal feed by sterilization, bioenergy by anaerobic digestion and fertilizer by composting.
They actually make for good compost and fertilizer as they contain nutrients and organic matter.
Besides composting, there are other ways to manage wastage, recycle and reuse it. Such as:
The solid wastage from agriculture can undergo recycling to produce a cheap source of proteins and nutrients for livestock.
An example includes mycomeat which is a blend of solid wastes and fungi.
Furthermore, the feathers in poultry farms have tremendous uses as pillows, diaper filling, paper, water filtration fibers. thermal insulation but also as a feed to animals.
The solid wastes convert into good feed for animals rather than giving them separate feeds which result in more wastage.
Silica is a nonmetallic element that is great for the skin, hair, nails, bones mineralization and calcification as well as immunity.
It decreases in the body as you age.
Though, you can attain it through agricultural wastes.
Silica can be produced and extracted from corn cobs, bagasse, rice straw and husk.
This uses chemical, microbial and thermal methods.
Cocoa pods can decompose agricultural wastage.
This way they enrich the soil.
Also, they come in handy for making black soaps used in bathing and cleaning use.
Anaerobic digestion helps convert agricultural wastage into green energy.
These wastes are high in proteins and fats which can interfere with the process.
However, treatments that are mechanical, chemical and thermal ad osmotic treatments sonication, freezing and sodium chloride treatment can improve the properties of waste.
Bioenergy and Biofuel is a sustainable renewable source of energy that convert waste to energy.
Moreover, it also shows promise in reducing Carbon dioxide emissions.
The conversion of biomass into biofuel and alternative energy resources will decrease economic losses.
It will also overcome the release of gases by burning wastes as well as increase the production of energy.
Therefore, you can recycle wastes from agriculture and farming to reduce the impact waste has on the environment and humans.
Though, there are also some measures that farmers can take on their own to reduce wastage.
Let’s find out about them below!
How Can Farmers Contribute to Waste Management?
Farmers play an integral role in controlling the wastes released by their work.
It begins by knowing your capacity and not buying more than your need.
That means you should analyze what products you use or do not use and are usually left behind.
Limit the amount of product you need so that you do not need to dump it.
Furthermore, whenever you have leftover pesticides or insecticides, do not sump them in waterways.
In fact, consider selling it or giving it to another farmer.
The same goes for surplus food products.
Either sell them in bulk at a lower price or donate them to charities and food banks.
But by all means, do not render them useless.
Think carefully while planting crops.
Do not invest your time and resources on plants that will not undergo a smooth harvest.
If you cannot harvest these crops, then they will simply go to waste.
Rather get involved in managing crop growth.
You can do so by investing your resources in technologies that facilitate such growth.
Moreover, you should always think about ways to recycle wastage.
Composting too should be an essential part of crop production and farming.
Furthermore, there should be collection systems for organized waste.
This will help reduce waste generator and organize what is left to further sell, distribute or compost.
Agricultural Waste Management is crucial to saving the environment and life on this planet.
If all farmers are precautions about the wastage on farmland, only then we can control the bulk of the waste.
Though, it would require a collective effort and sense of responsibility to achieve that over time.