Diverting Organic Waste: Why Keeping Food Waste out of the Landfill is Important

It is widely discussed amongst environmental scholars, waste management professionals, business owners and residents that diverting organic material from the landfill is the ‘right thing to do.’ But why is it the right thing to do?

Organic waste is something that we inherently create as humans through our consumption patterns. Making sure it goes into the right recycling stream is important because:

1. Less waste = less garbage in the landfill = better for the environment

The most simplistic and basic answer to this goes back to learning the three R’s in grade school. Reducing, reusing and recycling our waste means that less garbage goes into the landfill, which in turn, is better for the environment. It is important to keep in mind that properly disposing of your organic material saves valuable space in our landfills that could otherwise hold actual garbage material. By decreasing the amount of material entering the landfill, fewer landfills will need to be constructed and this means that less environmental resources will become derogated (land, trees, animal habitat, animals, etc) to build new landfill sites.
In addition, by keeping organic material out of the landfill, the impact on climate change is reduced. When organic material is put into the landfill, it decomposes and produces gases, primarily composed of methane and carbon dioxide. Methane gas is the leading greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. Given this, if you properly dispose of organic waste and divert it from the landfill, you are decreasing your impact on climate change and assisting further in protecting the environment.

2. Saving money on waste disposal costs

In most municipalities, it costs extra to dispose of excess garbage. For example, for us here in the Niagara Region, we are limited to 1 bag of garbage per week with unlimited recycling (including organics). If you exceed the 1 bag limit, you are to buy ‘garbage tags,’ at the cost of $2.00 a tag per extra bag. Although there are reasons beyond not recycling properly that require the purchase of these tags, the majority of residents exceed this limit and have to buy tags because of improper recycling methods, especially organics. By properly recycling, less waste goes into your garbage bag, which can ultimately save you money!
This also holds true for commercial waste disposal. Commercial businesses that use dumpsters to dispose of their waste highly benefit from properly recycling practices since less waste within the dumpster means less frequent pick-ups, which equals decreased waste disposal costs. This is also helpful for odours which can develop over a period of time if organics are left unhandled.

3. Creating & Replicating forms of Natural Resources

When you properly dispose of your food waste, there are various resources that can be generated as its end product. Two of the most common resources generated are:

Bio-Gas, Bio-Fuel, & Bio-Diesel
Using an anaerobic digestion process, microorganisms break down biomass to generate Methane gas. This methane gas is then captured to generate Biogas, which is then able to create electricity and power the local grid. Harnessing Biogas is a clean energy alternative that maximizes the value of food wastes. Food that can longer create the gases needed to capture biogas is then turned into fertilizers and soil conditioners to help grow more fruits and veggies. A continuous, renewable cycle!

Compost
Creating rich, natural soil through the decomposition of food waste is another alternative to food waste recycling. Composting can be done at any level, residential or industrial and both involve the same process -worms, heat and decomposing food. With these three ‘ingredients,’ coupled with an extended period of time, nutrient rich soil is the result which can be used to continue growing new fruits and veggies.