Take a look into your trash can at the end of each day, and multiply what you see by each household in America. That is not all. Add that of all schools, hospitals, restaurants, public places, offices, commercial centres etc, and you will begin to have an idea of the magnitude of the waste we produce and the potential problems that are caused where they end up. In 2012, Americans generated about 251 million tons of trash and recycled and composted almost 87 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 34.5% recycling rate. (Source: Municipal Solid Waste, EPA) Some of this waste is burned, and some recycled. The bulk of it ends up in the landfill.
The amount of conventional pesticide used in 2006 and 2007 totalled 821 and 857 million pounds of active ingredient, respectively. (Source— Pesticides Industry Sales and Usage 2006 and 2007 Market Estimates). Large-scale farming practices use lots of chemicals to produce enough to feed the growing population. They also need to produce to feed livestock and to a smaller extent, produce for biofuels. The intensive nature of farms means that chemicals will have to be applied. The chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, etc) are usually applied to the crop and directly to the soils, but both end up in the soils as plants eventually shed leaves and are biodegraded. These have consequences, which we shall soon learn about.
Energy, industry and manufacturing chemicals
Power producing plants that burn fossil fuels and biomass, together with pharmaceuticals, and fertilizer manufacturers all use lots of raw materials with chemical byproducts and residue. Many of them are regulated at their disposal, but they all end up somewhere. Wastewater from households, industries and public places also contain all sorts of chemicals that are disposed of in ways that contaminate soils and lands. Chemicals leak from drainage systems and sewers and end up in nearby soils.
Deforestation results in both pollution and degradation. When forest areas are razed down for farming, construction, mining or resettlement purposes, the value of the land and soils are lost for good. Naturally existing vegetative cover serve as ecosystems and support many life forms. As trees are cut, the upper layers of the land, made up of rich organic and decomposing matter is exposed to the sun, precipitation and adverse abiotic conditions.