South Africa is running low on landfill space. Initiatives such as reduce, reuse, recycle are intended to divert waste from landfills and conserve the remaining space. However, organic waste that should be composted still ends up in landfills.
Although organic waste is biodegradable, it can still have adverse impacts on landfills. Besides attracting scavengers such as crows and stray dogs, some organic waste items create liquids when breaking down. These liquids can carry harmful chemicals from other non-biodegradable waste items into water systems and the soil.
“There are those proactive individuals who see the benefit of composting their food waste, but the sad reality is that most organic waste ends up in landfills,” says Gavin Heron, co-founder of on-site food waste composting business, Earth Probiotic. Heron believes that more can be done to divert organic waste from landfills.
“When organic waste is landfilled, it rots and produces methane. This methane is 22 times more damaging to the environment as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This makes it difficult to meet our climate change obligations. It also attracts pathogens and produces leachate that will eventually pollute our increasingly scarce water sources,” Heron states.
Organic waste is costly when it ends up in landfill
A recent audit conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) showed that almost 40% of all waste that ends up in South African landfills is organic and biodegradable. This represents a significant loss of nutrients that could be used for compost and soil fertilisation.
The CSIR research also estimates that food waste costs South Africa R10 billion every year. To cut this cost, on-site composting is one of the best solutions. Home kitchens, university dining halls, restaurants and business canteens can implement compost solutions to avoid sending organic waste to landfills.
Composting is the best solution
One of the key advantages of on-site composting is that it produces a natural, valuable and useful product in the form of fertile compost for gardens. It also saves money. “We measured that food waste composting activities reduced food costs by 4.2% and kitchen consumables by 11.8%,” says Heron.
Although it is possible to build new landfills, it is a costly solution to the problem of decreasing landfill space. “Constructing new landfills is expensive and these will no doubt be built further away from our expanding cities, which will further drive up the cost of waste disposal,” argues Heron.
“As the city moves to implement programmes to reduce the volume of waste going to municipal landfills, Johannesburg residents need to realise that the landfill airspace crisis is their problem and not something they should just push on to the municipality,” explains Heron.
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