In this blog post I will outline the waste I produced in a typical day. Despite this subject’s focus on organic waste, I have also included other forms of material waste that was generated. This is because I lead a rather unhealthy student life largely devoid of fresh fruit and vegetables, and this audit would be very empty of content were it restricted solely to organic waste.
What is organic waste?
According to Environment Victoria, a not-for-profit environmental group consisting of scientists, naturalists, and residents, organic waste refers to waste derived from living matter – for example, food waste (such as fruit peels) or garden waste (such as lawn clippings). It can also be used to describe waste which may not normally be thought of as organic, but which is comprised of biodegradable, once-living matter. Examples of this include scrap paper and cardboard (Environment Victoria n.d.).
One day’s waste
The life cycle of a mandarin peel
Better ways to use waste
The anaerobic decomposition that organic waste goes through when disposed of in landfill creates methane, a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. There are many alternatives which are less wasteful and damaging, and are beneficial instead:
- The waste could be processed in a confined space, allowing the methane to be recaptured and repurposed. It could be used for example for use as a natural gas used in homes, to generate electricity, etc.
- The waste could be used as material for compost, which is beneficial to soil as it improves its capacity to hold water, and provides nutrients (Sustainable Living Guide, 2016).
- The waste could be treated in an aerobic (i.e. with oxygen) process, which does not produce methane. However, some types of aerobic treatment such as open window or tunnel composting results in odour problems (Environment Victoria n.d.).
Analysis of my own waste behaviours and experiences
I ate these mandarins while at work, where there isn’t a separate bin for organic waste. In the apartment in which I live, there is also no separate waste disposal method for organic waste. As far as I am aware, there are no community composting facilities or the like. I believe it could be more environmentally beneficial for apartment complexes to offer organic recycling bins, similar to how recycling options for paper, plastic, glass, and metal are offered.
We can learn from others when it comes to sorting and processing waste. Last year I studied abroad in Germany, where waste is typically sorted into more categories than in Australia. For example, in student housing, management mandated that household waste be sorted into five different categories: organic waste, paper, glass, plastics, and other. When organic waste has its own dedicated disposal option, it is much easier to treat it in the most optimal way.
- Environment Victoria, Organic waste, viewed 13 March 2016, http://environmentvictoria.org.au/content/organic-waste.
- Sustainable Living Guide, Recycle organic waste, viewed 13 March 2016, http://www.sustainablelivingguide.com.au/waste/recycle-organic-waste.
- Aussie Mandarins, Industry, viewed 13 March 2016, http://www.aussiemandarins.com.au/industry.