The importance of organic waste management
When organic waste is improperly managed, it can lead to environmental problems. For example, when it is taken to landfill, lack of oxygen results in anaerobic decomposition which releases methane, which becomes a greenhouse gas when released into the atmosphere (Environment Victoria 2016), as well as leachate, another potential pollutant (Department of the Environment 2013). Organic waste also has the potential to be used in beneficial ways. For example, it can be recycled for use for mulch, soil conditioning, and composting (City of Sydney 2015). When it comes to wasted food specifically, poverty and hunger problems mean that this waste has not only environmental and financial negative impacts, but also social.
Case study 1: UTS
According to the 2013-2015 UTS Waste Management Plan, the university is ‘committed to improving sustainability’. At the time of writing, UTS was developing Sustainability Action plans. The university’s official stance on waste management is to reduce disposal of waste and instead increase recycling, as simple disposal is the least sustainable option.
Organic waste disposal measures, in my experience at UTS, are not always immediately obvious. Most bins are either paper recycling or all-purpose. The latter often wear labels saying that the contents are sorted. Since adopting usage of co-mingled waste recycling in 2007, the university’s waste is sent to the Wastefree recycling facility at Seven Hills, where it is sorted according to material. Most of the organic waste is removed for bio-digestion.
The Waste Management Plan also mentions other initiatives for organic waste. A trial of organic waste collection in the UTS Union food court is mentioned, as is a suggestion to divert kitchen waste into a food waste stream spearate from other wastes. This would presumably make processing of such waste cheaper and easier.
The following is a table showing the UTS waste management journey, including steps taken to better manage organic waste.
Case study 2: Love Food Hate Waste
Love Food Hate Waste is an initiative funded by the NSW government. It is a part of the larger Waste Less Recycle More initiative and focusses on the impacts of food waste in particular. Each year, $2.5 billion worth of food is thrown out. Meanwhile, 100,000 people go hungry. In addition to the social aspect, Love Food Hate Waste emphasises that reducing food waste reduces pollution. As well to releasing methane, organic waste in landfill can relase nutrients which pollute the surrounding environment (Love Food Hate Waste 2016).
The initiative’s website offers advice on how to plan meals, save money, and reduce food waste. It also provides information about the impact of food waste, and how to engage one’s community or workplace. The initiative is active on a local, individual level, concentrating informing and changing the habits of individuals, which is just as important as larger-scale actions.
Department of the Environment 2013, National organic waste profile, viewed 14 June 2016, http://www.environment.gov.au/topics/environment-protection/nwp/reporting/organic-waste.
Environment Victoria 2016., Organic waste, viewed 13 March 2016, http://environmentvictoria.org.au/content/organic-waste.
Love Food Hate Waste 2016, Food waste facts and stats, viewed 14 June 2016, http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.nsw.gov.au/about-food-waste/facts-and-stats.aspx.
Love Food Hate Waste 2016., Get involved, viewed 14 June 2016, http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.nsw.gov.au/about-food-waste/facts-and-stats.aspx.
University of Technology Sydney n.d., 2013-2015 Waste Management Plan, viewed 14 June 2016, https://www.uts.edu.au/sites/default/files/WASTE_MANAGEMENT_PLAN.140301.pdf.