International Composting Awareness Week: May 2–8, 2016

Monday 2nd – Sunday 8th May is International Composting Awareness Week, an international event which hopes to put a spotlight on that wonderfully rich organic matter that helps to build healthy soils from which all plant life grows.

ICAW-A4-Poster-2016-image-for-web-3We want Australians to realise that each time they throw organics such as food scraps and garden waste in the rubbish bin they are contributing to climate change. Most people are unaware of this and we believe that if they knew, they would try to do things differently”, explains Eric Love, Chairman of the Centre for Organic Research & Education (CORE) – the not-for-profit organisation has been running the campaign in Australia for 11 years in an effort to reduce the amount of organic waste going to landfill.

When you consider that 3% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions comes from organic materials rotting anaerobically (without oxygen) in landfills, thus creating toxic methane gases, we could help turn this around by simply committing our food scraps to organic compost to feed our gardens and nourish our own vegie patches. In other words, by helping ourselves, we in turn help the planet.

To give you a better idea of how much organic matter is wasted, on average about 50% of the rubbish put into our mixed-waste garbage bins could be better put to use if it is made into compost and mulch for our gardens or returned to agricultural land to improve soil quality.

Once you take a look at what can be composted you soon realise how much we each individually unnecessarily contribute to landfill each week. On the flip side when you look at what can’t be composted, you can see how much worse we are making the landfill problem by not composting what we can.

Here is a guide to good and bad composting ingredients:

L=M Image Good & Bad Compost Table ©AMiller-Davis

What if you don’t have a garden? How can you still contribute your waste to do good?

  1. If you don’t have room for a garden of your own or are a unit dweller, you could still compost your waste and donate it to a local community garden who will gladly put it to good use. If you also ‘join’ your local community garden, you will get to ‘benefit’ from the produce your organic matter will support, save some money on fruit and vege, get a work-out, de-stress, make some new friends and get some fresh air all at the same time.
  2. If you don’t have a local community garden in your area, maybe there is someone you know who would be grateful for your compost ingredients in exchange for some free produce?

Can I put my compostable food waste in my Council Green Waste Bin?

Many councils around Australia offer a collection service for garden waste, unfortunately however currently many councils (Gold Coast included), don’t yet collect compostable food scraps. Both owner/occupiers and rental tenants can apply for ‘Green Waste Bins’ from the Gold Coast Council for a yearly fee, and the bins are usually collected each fortnight. For a Green Waste Bin visit the City of Gold Coast Website. For more information on food scrap collection it’s best to contact your own local council.

Green Waste bins are still only for garden clippings
Green Waste bins are still only for garden clippings

What happens to the Gold Coast’s Green Waste?

Currently all green waste that is diverted from landfill is used as a clean energy source (Biogas) to generate electricity or to produce composts.

According to the Gold Coast Draft Solid Waste Strategy 2014-2023; in the 2013-2014 year it was estimated that 58,000 tonnes of green waste was lost to landfill, contributing to the City’s carbon emissions. This spearheaded an initiative to expand the Green Waste Bin service over the next five years. In other cities around the world the collected food and garden waste is available to householders free of charge for their gardens.
In February of 2016, a 6-month food waste recycling trial by about 10 Gold Coast restaurants was launched with the aim of helping to reduce landfill created during the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The State Government has contributed $80,000 for the trial and, if successful, the program will be rolled out to commercial food businesses across the city; the compost most probably ending up as fertiliser for the city’s public gardens.

While this initiative is a start, and targets ‘commercial’ food waste, it would be great to see an initiative tackling household food waste as well. This is already happening in other countries such as Sweden, which in 2012 converted 673,180 tonnes of waste into soil. For more on the Swedish story visit leanpath.com

For more information on local Composting Events happening during Composting Awareness Week, visit the Compost Week Events Calendar.

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*Article also featured on Hills to Headlands Magazine, for Gecko – Gold Coast & Hinterland Environment Council

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