Why is organic waste management important?
If we take a closer look at the organic waste produced in Australia and where it ends up:
- 6.63 Mt (47 per cent) were disposed of to landfill
- 6.14 Mt (44 per cent) were recycled
- 1.24 Mt (9 per cent) were used in energy recovery. (Commonwealth of Australia, 2016)
Organic waste is the majority section of the waste stream in Australia Our existing landfill sites are filling up and while this is inevitable, the fact that so much of Australia’s general waste is food scraps and organic waste is troubling as it takes up space in the already limited landfills and the processes that organic waste goes through while decomposing anaerobically in landfills produces methane, 25 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide for global warming (Metropolitan Waste And Resource Recovery Group, 2016).
Organic waste management is important as the irresponsible disposal of organic waste has an impact on the gasses released into the environment, the space in landfills and prevents the organic material from being recycled into other products
IMAGE: Breakdown of products made from recovered organics (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013)
Current practices: UTS waste management
UTS has set goals to minimise waste going to landfills “by recycling over 80% of the general waste stream.” (UTS, 2014) with any dedicated recycling streams. There was a recent Waste Management Action Plan that ran through to 2015 was put into action and in terms of organic waste there were many strategies listed in this action plan including
- UTS Union food court organic waste collection trial: – may be undertaken in conjunction with Better Buildings Partnership members.
- Empty all kitchen waste into a food waste stream separate from the general waste/recycling stream
- An onsite composting system (similar to the Hungry Giant food waste machines) could be installed to reduce the quantity of food waste sent offsite. (Waste Management Action Plan pp 14)
Before this Waste Management Action Plan UTS has a long history of finding sustainable solutions including:
- the establishment of the Institute for Sustainable Futures in 1997
- the signing of the Talloires Declaration in 1998
- Sustainability Policy in 1999 and a revised Environmental Sustainability Policy in 2008 (Waste Management Action Plan pp 6)
Current practices: Composting in restaurants in New York
IMAGE: Sorting organic waste in a restaurant in New York (Chang W. Lee/The New York Times, 2013)
Restaurants naturally produce a large amount of organic waste. Food makes up 30% of the daily waste in New York and of the businesses, restaurants account for 70% of this waste. Currently there are many restaurants who make use of pick up services and composting businesses in order to compost organic waste. However, there is resistance to this as the lack of space in New York is a problem with people expressing that their existing bins, however unsorted they are, already take up enough space. Training staff and making these practices become second nature is also an issue in restaurants however it is not impossible as there are other cities such as San Francisco and Seattle where composting by restaurants is a requirement. (Rao, 2013)
I found this example interesting as there could be a lot of improvement here. This example also ties in with the program I talked about in an earlier blog post (Beacon Compost Project) as that program was mainly for businesses, restaurants and apartment dwellers too. While Beacon is a much smaller city than New York, the same principles and ideas can be applied within communities in New York and not just one program for the whole city.
“Garbage is one of the biggest challenges that we have in the restaurant business… The way we buy and cook food is so responsible, but the way we discard food? It’s not.”
– Alex Raij, chef and owner of the Spanish Restaurants La Vara, El Quinto Pino and Txikito (Rao, 2013)
Commonwealth of Australia, 2016, National Organic Waste Profile, Canberra. Viewed 13 June 2016, < http://www.environment.gov.au/topics/environment-protection/nwp/reporting/organic-waste >
Metropolitan Waste And Resource Recovery Group, 2016, BACK TO EARTH GREEN WASTE RECYCLING BENEFITS, Victoria. Viewed 13 June 2016, < http://backtoearth.vic.gov.au/recycling-benefits.html >
Rao, T., 2013, For Restaurants, Composting Is a Welcome but Complex Task, New York. Viewed 12 June 2016, < http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/20/dining/for-restaurants-composting-is-a-welcome-but-complex-task.html?_r=0 >
UTS, 2014, Waste and Recycling, Sydney. Viewed 12 June 2016, < http://www.uts.edu.au/partners-and-community/initiatives/uts-green/campus-operations/waste-and-recycling >
UTS, 2013, Waste Management Action Plan, Sydney. Viewed 12 June 2016, < https://www.uts.edu.au/sites/default/files/WASTE_MANAGEMENT_PLAN.140301.pdf >