Organic waste matters!
What is organic waste:
Organic waste includes organic materials such as food, garden waste. It can also include animal and plant based material and degradable carbon such as paper and cardboard.
Why is organic waste management important?
Organic waste forms a significant component of waste generation in Australia. Organic waste management includes disposal such as landfilling, recycling and composting.
Waste disposal: Save landfill space
In Australia, an estimated 53.7 million tons of waste was generated during 2009-2010; organic waste contributed up to 12.8 million (24%) tons of total waste, as the second largest waste generator by type (the largest volume of waste is masonry materials). Furthermore, in 2010–11 an estimated 14 million tons of was generated nationally; up to 47 percentages of organic waste were disposed to landfill (National Waste Reporting, 2013).
*Data source: National Waste Reporting, 2013 (page 1)
The number of organic waste sent to landfill has rapidly increased in these years. The land that allocated to waste disposal is filling up rapidly. Therefore, effective organic waste management helps to save landfill space. Additionally, concerning the situation of the shortage of land resource due to the increasing of global population, an effective organic waste management can greatly help to improve the land utilization efficiency and the sustainable use of land.
-Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
-Protect groundwater and soil
In landfills, the process of organic waste decomposes produces methane gas and a toxic liquid called leachate. Methane is a greenhouse gas which can have a global warming potential up to 25 times greater than carbon dioxide. Leachate, which is highly toxic, can contaminate groundwater and soil. Therefore, organic waste management, especially reducing the amount of organic waste that sent to landfills is crucial for reducing pollution and protects the environment.
Lower costs of landfill disposal
Landfill disposal is costly; for example, it includes operational costs including labor and transportation expenses and the cost of land purchase and land maintaining. Reduce the amount of organic waste that directed into landfills means less costs for collecting and transporting; therefore lower cost of disposal waste to landfills.
Estimated costs for large best practice landfill in Australia
*Data source: The full cost of landfill disposal in Australia, 2009 (page 13)
Recycling and composting:
Collecting and processing waste into reusable materials is called recycling. Composting is a method of recycling. By composting, more organic waste sent to landfills can be reused and recycled into useful materials such as humus, which is the organic component of soil. Composting plays an important role of waste management techniques; it helps to improve the economic value of organic waste and has significant environmental benefits.
Obligations of organic waste management
Organic waste management is primarily the obligation of governments. The Australian Government is in charge of national legislation and strategies for waste. Local governments have obligation for waste management as set by the regulatory framework of every state or region. Furthermore, local governments play a major role in conducting the process of collecting and transporting waste, waste disposal, and recycling.
However, waste management is not only the obligation of governments. Industries and businesses and also other institutions such as hospitals and schools are involved in the waste management.
Strategy for better organic waste management
>Prevent and reduce organic waste at Source.
>Reuse and Donation (such as donate surplus food).
>Collect and sorting organic waste.
>Recycle to improve the value of organic waste (recover energy and nutrients).
Besides, education and publicity are vital in enhancing the effectiveness of organic waste management. Programmes such as educational campaigns for promoting organic waste reduction can significantly strengthen the promotion of organic waste reduction.
Food waste is one of the significant contributors of the organic waste stream.
Case 1: Food wastes in Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, there is estimated 3,648 tons food waste produced each day. Around 33% of them are from commercial and industry sector, and the remaining are from households. Besides, the amount of disposal food waste from commercial and industry sector has been increasing in recent years, from 400 tons in 2002 to 1,003 tons in 2013; thus, it leads to rapid depletion of limited space of landfills in Hong Kong. Additionally, the process that food waste decomposes in landfills produces greenhouse gasses such as methane and toxic liquid, which leads to severe contamination.
Therefore, The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) in Hong Kong pays attention to developing the Organic Waste Treatment Facilities (OWTF) in recent years. The OWTF is to apply biological technologies in organic waste management, which helps to compost organic waste and transform it into compost and biogas for recovery.
Food Waste Management in Hong Kong
“Greener Action” in Hong Kong:
Reducing food waste disposal in landfills in Hong Kong is a big challenge. In response to the food waste problem in Hong Kong, the government has conducted a comprehensive approach to deal with the food waste issues, with the primary focus on reducing food waste at source.
The key approach, as well as the fundamental way to address the present disposal food waste issues, is to reduce food waste at source. ‘Greeners Action’ is part of the “Food Waste Recycling Partnership Scheme,” which aims to prevent and minimize food waste production and promote food waste management practice.
*Read more: http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/english/environmentinhk/waste/prob_solutions/owt_food3.html
-Optimize network of Organic Waste Treatment Facilities
-Improve technologies for recycling and composting
Education and publicity
Hong Kong government set up an adverting program called Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign, which aims to raise public awareness of food waste issues in Hong Kong as well as provide a series of practical suggestions and guides for people to conduct.
Besides, EPD focuses on conducting the advertising campaign to increase the awareness of avoiding food waste in public. They have designed different kinds of educational brochures and poster.
Overall, education and publicity are highlights of the food waste management in Hong Kong. These educational campaigns aim to raise public awareness of food waste issues in Hong Kong issues. It encourages Hong Kong businesses and organizations to take measures to reduce food waste through the services or products they provide. Also, it helps to educate individuals to practice food waste reduction; therefore contributes to reducing household food waste.
Case 2: The Idea behind successful waste management in Japan
Japanese cities are very clean. The concept of waste recycling has deeply rooted among the people in Japan. It is reported that Japan can recycle 60% organic waste from restaurants and food industries per year.
Japanese people are excellent at turn waste into things that valuable and also environmental friendly. I’ve heard about that there is a Japanese snack company reprocess leftover bread crust to snacks; the snacks became so popular, even won an environment award. As I researched, I found that Japan has established a policy for supermarkets, requiring there must be 45% recyclable waste among all waste production; otherwise, they will be fined. Therefore, Japanese supermarkets are so careful about the amount of waste they produce per day. They try ways to sell their goods, not only for profit but also to reduce the amount of waste they produce and avoid penalty.
The government has set up more than fifty regulations for waste separation for households. Waste recycling and disposal is part of the daily life of Japanese people. Even though the process of waste separation is so complicated and takes a lot of time, Japanese families are accustomed and willing to implement the sorting regulations.
Japan has passed several laws to address the disposal and treatment of waste. During the past three decades, pubic awareness and concerns about environmental effects regarding waste disposal have substantially increased. The conception of ‘everyone has to bear the responsibility of its own waste’ has been instilled into society through school education and various communication campaigns. So it’s no wonder that a trash bin is so hard to find on streets in Japan; because people are used to carrying their waste back home and respecting the sorting guidelines. The fundamental reasons are high levels of general education. Japan has a sound education system towards environmental matters; environmental courses are compulsory for students in schools.
Japan regularly hold activities such as educational activities and competition, aiming to educate citizens on better practices regarding waste disposal and separation. Oki, which is a town in Japan, is known as the town that produces the least amount of waste in Japan. Its local organization has held a competition about ‘which household can produce the least amount of waste in a week’, and a lot of families participated in this competition. The competition provided people opportunities to practice better waste disposal and separation and knew more knowledge about it. From an interview video about this competition that I found online, there is an interviewee said, after the competition, he was so surprised that the amount of trash produced in a day can be so less as long as he pays more attention to waste separation, and he learned so much through this competition and willing to keep this good behaviour in his daily routines.
*Link to the example of waste separation guidance in Japan:
*Link to the interview video (sorry it’s in Cantonese): http://www.yogeev.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/12706307_544980152343899_855619198_n.mp4?_=1
Environmental Awareness and Education: A Key Approach to Organic waste management
Both cases show the importance of education as one of an approach to organic waste management.
Education is the key action to raise awareness for the environment and help the progress of better organic waste management. Colleges and universities play a significant role in educating people, working to increase the knowledge and technology for a sustainable future
An overview on challenges for waste reduction and management in Hong kong 2005, Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department, viewed 8 June 2016, <www.epd.gov.hk/epd/english/environmentinhk/waste/prob_solutions/owt_food3.html>.
Cruz W., Fukui K. & Warford J. 2002, Protecting the global environment: Initiatives by Japanese business, The international Bank of reconstruction and development, viewed 18 June 2016, <https://books.google.com.au/books?id=mYB185ZRLwsC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false>.
Food Wise Hong Kong 2013, Food Wise HK, viewed 9 June 2016, <www.foodwisehk.gov.hk/en>.
Hong Kong EcoCube 2014, euronews Knowledge, videorecording, Youtube, viewed 8 June 2016,
Ministry of the Environment 2005, Japan’s experiment in promotion of the 3Rs, Ministry of the Environment, viewed 19 June 2016, <http://www.env.go.jp/recycle/3r/en/approach/02.pdf>.
Ministry of the Environment 2014, History and current state waste management in Japan, Ministry of the Environment, viewed 19 June 2016, <http://www.env.go.jp/recycle/circul/venous_industry/en/history.pdf>.
National Waste Reporting 2013, Australia Department of the Environment, viewed 9 June 2016, <www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/0a517ed7-74cb-418b-9319-7624491e4921/files/overview-organics_0.pdf>.
The full cost of landfill disposal in Australia 2009, BDA Group
Economics and Environment, viewed 9 June 2016, <www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/2e935b70-a32c-48ca-a0ee-2aa1a19286f5/files/landfill-cost.pdf>.
Water 2016, How Japanese turn waste to gold, viewed 18 June 2016, Yogee, <http://www.yogeev.com/article/65879.html>.