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Sustainability Resource Guide: Waste and Pollution

Information about sustainability resources, events and activities at Newcastle University: a collaborative guide from NIReS and the University Library


"The introduction by man into the environment of substances or energy liable to cause hazards to human health, harm to living resources and ecological systems, damage to structure or amenity, or interference with legitimate uses of the environment" - Holdgate (1979)

( Image: World Bank Photo Collection (2008) People in garbage landfill, Mexico. MX074S11.  Available at: 

Dealing with Waste

IE is an interdisciplinary framework for designing and operating industrial systems as living systems interdependent with natural systems.

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Air pollutants are gases, dust, fumes or odour in harmful amounts. What can be done to reduce levels of pollution in our atmosphere?

(Image: "Haze in Kuala Lumpur" by servus at 32919747. It was reviewed on 15 November 2006 by the FlickreviewR robot and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0.   15 November 2006 [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Ocean acidification, or "OA" for short, is the term given to the chemical changes in the ocean as a result of carbon dioxide emissions.

Emissions trading a market based approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The theory is that it aims to ensure that the emission reductions take place where the cost of the reduction is lowest thus lowering the overall costs of combating climate change.

Eutrophication is the disruption of the aquatic ecosystem development as a result of an increased primary production of organic matter through human's activities, which induced nutrient enrichment. Organic pollution can have a higher impact in more vulnerable areas, such as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ).

Hazardous substances are those which, upon release into the atmosphere, water, or soil, or which, in direct contact with the skin, eyes, or mucous membranes, or as additives to food, cause health risks to humans or animals through absorption, inhalation, or ingestion. 

Excessive noise may harm the activity or balance of human or animal life, and therefore, is considered another form of pollution.

Oil spills are often portrayed by the media as "environmental disasters". However oil pollution comes from many other sources that can cause severe consequences for the survival of flora and fauna.

Everyone is exposed to background radiation from natural sources such as soil, rocks and stones. Even water and certain foods, including nuts, bananas and potatoes, contain small traces of radiation.

It is defined as sudden increase or decrease in temperature of a natural body of water which may be ocean, lake, river or pond, by human influence.

In countries where waterways are not regulated and laws are not enforced, we find cases of water pollution.

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Waste Treatment

Anaerobic treatment can be used to treat effluent or semisolid wastes and sludge and is based around using anaerobic bacteria . The Biogas may be used to generate energy and the sludge may be suitable as a soil conditioner.

( A lecture on AD from Delft University) 

Activated Sludge 

Most sewage treatment plants are based around this 100 year old aerobic process when microbes break down organic matter. This video guides you through the process. 

Living Machine 

Living Machine® Technology blends cutting-edge science and engineering with plants and beneficial bacteria to efficiently treat and reuse wastewater, providing lasting water solutions for communities everywhere. This is a video of the Living Machine in action. 

 Food waste or food loss is food that is discarded or cannot be used. The causes of food waste or loss are numerous, and occur at the stages of production, processing, retailing and consumption.

Waste that poses substantial or potential threats to public health or the environment due to its flammable, reactive, corrosive or toxic properties.

(Image: "Drums with dangerous waste" by Mampato (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Waste from electrical and electronic equipment poses a high level of risk due to the chemical products that are produced from. What is the best way to reduce the pollution they cause?

Society generates a great amount of wastewater, which ends up in different ways depending on what kind of effluent is.

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Waste of Waste