The Benefits of Diverting Organic Waste from Landfills
Written by volunteer: Kate Sheppard
Diverting waste from landfill can sometimes feel like a chore, but the benefits far outweigh the temporary annoyance of getting your hands dirty.
This is especially true of organic waste. Yes, it may occasionally be sticky or smelly, but it’s not hard to properly sort and divert these compostable materials away from our landfills – and doing so brings some enormous benefits.
Here are just a few of the ways diverting your organic waste from landfill can benefit society and the planet:
Composting feeds us all
Plenty of us have a compost bin in the garden. If you do, you’ll know the principle. Organic waste like vegetable peelings and grass cuttings can be transformed into a nutritious amendment that plants and soil adore. We mix it into our flower beds and smile as the roses bloom.
However, there’s more to composting than making your front garden look pretty!
Composting organic waste on an industrial scale provides a tremendous natural resource. All the organic waste you don’t want or need can, if properly separated, can be recycled back into the soil and used to feed crops of every kind and size.
Compost can be used by farmers and growers as a ‘soil conditioner’ and can feed the spuds you cook for your dinner, or the flowers in the vase on your windowsill. It helps to grow the crops that feed the livestock that give us meat, eggs, milk, and cheese.
Everything that comes from the earth can go back to the earth, where it will help to grow more of the food and flowers we love. However, it can only do this if it’s separated from the rest of your waste and recycling. Otherwise, it will rot (literally) in a landfill – which causes a lot of problems for the environment.
It reduces a lot of landfill problems
There are a lot of issues with landfill. For a start, the amount of waste we send to landfill takes up an enormous amount of space. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about 32% of the trash is recycled or composted, 12% is burned and 50% is buried in landfills. We literally have no more space left for waste.
Because of this, areas are being issued with heavy fines if they go over their landfill quota. That’s one reason why states are so eager to get everyone recycling and sorting properly.
There’s a good reason why we can’t just find some disused quarries and declare them landfill sites: the reason the country is ‘at capacity’ for landfill is that landfills pose a very serious threat to the environment. Making more landfill sites isn’t a solution – it will just make the problem worse.
Organic waste plays a big part in this toxic problem. As it rots down and mingles with other landfill chemicals, organic waste produces methane and other harmful greenhouse gases. That’s the nasty smell you catch a whiff of when you head past un-separated bins.
Separating organic waste from landfill can prevent both of these problems.
What’s more, separated organic waste can rot down in a safe, controlled way – a way that, as we have seen, produces valuable, fertilizing compost.
It can generate electricity
Processing organic waste can even put all that harmful greenhouse gas to good use – biogas produced by organic waste can be converted into renewable electricity and heat. The by-products are turned into fertilizer, which is used to grow crops. This is done in anaerobic digestion plants, which are an increasingly common sight all over the country.
Anaerobic digestion is a popular way of dealing with organic waste from farms. However, any properly sorted organic waste can contribute to this clean, green, and renewable source of energy.
It makes your recyclables… well, recyclable
Organic waste can contaminate your recycling – making it effectively useless.
We all know that we should rinse our recycling before dropping it in the bin, but the principle also applies on a larger scale. If you mix up organic and recyclable waste, there’s a strong chance that they will contaminate one another.
If this happens, they’ll both be shipped off to a landfill – resulting in the use of more fossil fuels for transportation and a larger carbon footprint.
If you want your recyclables to become the reusable resource that they should be, it’s vital that you separate them from your organic waste. As a bonus, your organic waste could also end up as a truly important resource – as compost, fertilizer, renewable energy, or all three!
Feed the nation and save the planet by separating your organic waste
Separating organic waste may feel like an unnecessary hassle. However, by doing this one simple thing you could help to grow crops, conserve electricity, generate natural gas, and reduce the impacts of global warming. Ready to get started? Find a container to store your organic materials (a kitchen caddy works great!), grab some labels, and set yourself up to sort for success!