The zero waste movement has been getting a lot of traction lately. You probably recycle at home, take your reusable bags shopping. Maybe you’re even in a serious relationship with your keep-cup. All these are great but plastics aren’t the only waste we produce ...
Around the world, organic waste constitutes anywhere from 25-75% of a household’s waste output ... But it’s organic, right? Green stuff is fine, it’s natural, it doesn’t cause any problems just sitting in a landfill … right?
When organic waste is sent to landfill, it creates massive environmental and social problems. The biggest is emissions. Everyone tends to think about fuel-guzzling tankers as the biggest producers but not as many know that the decay of organic waste in landfill contributes around 1.5-2% of total global methane emissions!
And it definitely doesn’t stop there. Once organic waste has hit landfills and is lying around, spewing global warming gasses into the atmosphere, it starts producing something else. That something is called leachate, fluid that percolates through landfills, becoming contaminated by biological and chemical materials. This fluid is toxic and pollutes the waterways and ecosystems it comes into contact with, resulting in algae blooms, eutrophication and countless other environmental impacts. Landfills are supposed to have liners to contain leachate but these are more often than not inadequate or out-dated.
Speaking of inadequate, a majority of landfills in developing countries and rural areas are depressingly unregulated and unmaintained. They become a nightmare for surrounding communities, attracting diseases such as malaria, polluting the air, spontaneously combusting and poisoning water sources.
So, yeah, sending organic waste to landfill is bad, really bad, and if we want to meet global sustainability goals, it has to stop. Composting isn’t the only way to do so but it’s definitely the easiest and has a huge number of additional benefits.
One of the biggest is the creation of organic fertiliser, the stable end-product of decomposed organic waste. When used in gardening and farming, it provides slow-releasing macro- and micro-nutrients to soil, helps retain moisture and rebuilds topsoil. It also means less or no artificial fertilisers have to be used.
Artificial fertilisers are another environmental disaster, that require natural gasses, mining and intensive industrial processing to manufacture. This produces a chemical cocktail of gas emissions and pollution. One of the most important components, phosphorus rock, is also facing shortages, with predictions of depletion in 50-100 years.
These fertilisers enable half the global food supply and are invaluable to global agriculture but their use needs to be optimised. Organic fertilisers will play an important role in this as a supplement, allowing use of artificial fertilisers to be reduced.
So make composting your next sustainable lifestyle change. There are heaps of ways you can compost the organic waste you produce, whether it’s starting your own pile, giving it to a neighbour or community composter or paying a commercial provider to collect it.
We’ll be doing another post on how to get started, so make sure you subscribe to get notified when it comes out and keep up-to-date by following EarthOffset on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.