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Biogeochemical Cycles and Waste Management

Essay by   •  August 20, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,194 Words (5 Pages)  •  2,032 Views

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Waste is an issue that we all have to deal with everyday. Each person, whether they know it or not, generates waste. It is up to us to choose how we dispose of this waste, whether it is by recycling, reusing or disposing of it. The definition of waste is unused/ unavoidable materials for which there is no foreseeable economic demand [S.Knight-Lenihan (15/05/11)]. Waste management is a very important series of processes that is vital for the survival of our environment in terms of air water and land. If we did not have 'good waste management' our land, air and water quality would be heavily impacted. This essay will explain how good waste management is closely linked to understanding biological, chemical and geological cycles. The cycles this essay will elaborate on are: the water cycle, the carbon cycle and the nitrogen cycle. This essay will also include how poor landfill waste management impacts the quality of land air and water.

Through the study of the carbon cycle, understanding the relationship between the carbon cycle and good waste management is evident.

In the carbon cycle, through photosynthesis plants take in carbon dioxide. Carbon is distributed into animals when they eat plants or other animals, because carbon is found in everything living. When plants and animals decompose they release carbon dioxide. Animals breathe in oxygen and release carbon dioxide through respiration. When wood, leaves, coal or oil are burned, they release carbon dioxide. It eventually returns back to the atmosphere and through photosynthesis, plants will take it in again. Carbon leaches into the ground when plants and animals decompose, which forms fossil fuels such as oil or coal. In the form of cellulose some carbon is stored. Carbon is required to create proteins, fats and carbohydrates

(http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/discovering-the-biogeochemical-cycles.html (2011) There is also other carbon contributors that are not natural sources. These can range from factories and landfills. Not only carbon is produced in landfills, but methane too. However there must be management and treatment imposed on these two gases, as they are both greenhouse gases. When these relatively hazardous greenhouse gases escape from the landfill they cause atmospheric pollution.

Through the study of the water cycle, understanding the relationship between the water cycle and good waste management is evident. The water cycle is a cycle of water transferal, where the water is transferred from soil into plants, from plants into animals, from animals into other animals (when an animal eats another), to perspiration of plants and animals, to the evaporation into the atmosphere due to the sun's heat, to the release of water when an animal or plant is decomposing. After evaporating into the atmosphere, the water is then distributed into larger bodies of water e.g. lakes, rivers, oceans, glaciers by rain, snow, sleet and hail. The water from decomposing plants and animals and rain, snow, sleet and hail gets into groundwater, increasing underground water supply, which again leads back to the beginning where plants absorb the water from the soil

(http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/discovering-the-biogeochemical-cycles.html(2011)]. When linking the water cycle to landfills, when rain, hail or snow hits the surface area of a poor landfill waste management site, the water produced will leach through the waste layers which leads to contamination and becomes a leachate. The soil quality changes [S.Knight-Lenihan(lecture 1)]. More leachates will be produced in areas that have heavy rainfall and other aspects of the site such as shape, size, layout, concentrations of waste and topography will affect the coverage of the leachate, as the water will be seeping through at different rates, quantities and through different areas. (Munroe [2011]) In terms of leachates and the composition of leachates, the

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