What You Need to Know About Organics Disposal and Recycling
Organic items make up a significant portion of the overall waste that Australian households generate. According to a 2017 report from the Australian Government, more than five million tonnes of food is wasted every single year. Even more concerning, that figure does not even include other forms of organic waste like gardening waste, wood waste, paper and so on.
Since it’s such a prevalent part of our waste stream, it’s absolutely essential that we learn how to efficiently manage and recycle organic waste.
If we neglect this responsibility, we could face serious environmental consequences such as more waste in landfills, polluted waterways and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
In this blog, we’re going to further discuss the importance of managing organic waste, how to reduce organic waste, as well as the various recycling methods for different kinds of items.
What is Organic Waste?
When it comes to waste management and recycling, it’s important to systematically sort through each waste item. If you don’t categorise properly, a lot of recyclable items can end up in landfills. This can then lead to more methane gas in the atmosphere, more polluted water streams, and the degradation of flora and fauna. Because of this, you need to know what counts as organic waste.
As a broad definition, any material that is biodegradable and comes from animals or plants is considered organic waste. Over time, such items break down into carbon dioxide, methane or simple organic molecules.
The most common forms of organic waste include:
- Food waste
- Food-soiled paper (e.g., paper plates and coffee filters)
- Grass clippings
According to the 2018-19 waste account from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, households are the largest producers of organic waste, generating around 42% of all organic waste. Needless to say, it’s important for us to do our part in protecting our natural environment from the harmful effects of improper waste management.
How to Manage Organic Waste
In Australia, there are plenty of resources provided by federal and state governments to help you manage organic waste.
For example, the Department of Health provides a diagram of the waste hierarchy to educate households about the most preferable methods of recycling.
The following is a summary of the waste hierarchy, starting from the most favourable method to the least.
This is the most preferred method as it prevents the creation of organic waste in the first place.
This means not purchasing food, or indeed any product, that you’re likely not going to be able to consume or use.
Unfortunately, most households tend to overstock on supplies inadvertently. To avoid this, it’s good to have a specific list of necessities each time you go to the market. Make note of how much food you go through during the week so that you don’t buy more than you can consume.
If you’ve already bought too much food, consider donating some of that food to charity. Rice, pasta and most canned foods can be taken in by most food banks. If you’re unsure about what you can donate, make sure to contact local charities directly.
Another important part of the reduction method is how you treat your leftovers. If you’re able to properly freeze or refrigerate certain foods, they can still be consumed after two or three days. You can also use those leftovers for dishes like soups, casseroles, stir-fries and so on.
- Reuse and recycle
When it comes to food waste, the best way to reuse and recycle is through composting. Composting is the process of naturally turning organic waste into fertiliser. Organic waste typically contains plenty of valuable nutrients that can enrich soil and plants.
When it comes to other forms of organic waste, there are a variety of ways to recycle. For example, if a piece of timber isn’t chemically treated or painted, it can usually be salvaged by recycling centres. Otherwise, you can use old pieces of timber for personal projects like making a small bookcase, a table or even a compost bin.
For reasons mentioned above, sending organic waste to landfills is the least preferable method. It causes the most damage to the environment and it also costs quite a bit more than some of the other methods on this list.
Benefits of Proper Organic Recycling
Make no mistake about it, proper waste management requires a lot of effort. However, you and the wider community will reap significant benefits if you’re able to shoulder this responsibility.
Here are some of the advantages of organic recycling:
- Reduced emissions
When left to decompose in landfills, food waste and other biodegradable items emit methane. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of trapping heat in our atmosphere.
By preventing organic waste from being sent to landfills, you’re effectively reducing greenhouse emissions and therefore reducing the effects of climate change.
- Reduced waste collection costs
As per the Department of Climate, Chare, Energy, the Environment and Water, the estimated cost of sending perishable waste to landfills is around $45 to $105 per tonne. This is concerning when you consider the fact that of the 15.3 million tonnes of organic waste generated in 2018-19, 6.9 million tonnes went to landfills.
If we’re able to reduce waste, the money that goes to waste collection and disposal could go to other beneficial projects and tasks around the community instead.
- Improved community environment
When disposed of improperly, organic waste can cause a lot of issues for local communities. It can spread unpleasant odours and some organic material can even spread certain pathogens that can cause infections and diseases in humans. Fortunately, by reducing organic waste, you can effectively protect your community from harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites and rodent-borne diseases.
As you can tell, there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to recycling. We hope that this short guide has helped you gain a better understanding of organic waste management. It’s a lot of work, but when it is done properly, it can benefit your household, your community and indeed our natural environment.