Food Waste Composting: Trash into electricity?

Normally people don’t think too much about the scraps they throw away from their dinners. But what many do not know is that these food scraps can be recycled and turned into compost, that may then become used for electricity, instead of just taking up space in landfills along with all the other trash.

Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Norway have taken advantage of this technique. In fact, they rely so much on garbage for energy that they have begun to run out of it and have resorted to importing it from neighboring countries. As long as these countries avoid creating garbage for the sole purpose of using it for energy, this method of getting rid of waste is efficient and environmentally friendly.

What is compost exactly? Compost is the rich soil product of the decomposition of organic substances. Foods such as vegetables, bread, fruits, meats, and eggshells can all be composted along with anything else grown from the earth. Normally, food that does not get composted goes to a landfill. The problem is that landfills are now filling up and closing faster than ever. As a result, the fees associated with waste removal are steadily increasing as well. Even worse, landfills prevent earth’s natural decomposition.

By composting food waste, the environment, agriculture, and food industry all benefit. For the environment, it prevents erosion, reduces the need for pesticides, aids in reforestation and wildlife revitalization, and avoids methane production from landfills. It promotes agriculture by buffering the pH level of soil, regenerates poor soils, prevents plant diseases and parasites, and helps increase crop yields. And for the food industry, disposal fees are minimized, raw ingredients are not wasted, and reduces the need for landfills. Compost when it is made can be used in a variety of ways. It is used to supplement soil structure, increase pasture quality, and can be used as mulch.

The benefits are numerous and food scraps are readily available. Its popularity is increasing across the country as landfills reach their capacity. The Tri-County Organics company in central Minnesota is just one of them. Prior to their opening, some homeowners and small companies did take initiatives to compost piles in their backyards. But there was no place where large businesses and garbage disposal companies could take their scraps. Now new laws in many states, for example California, are requiring local areas to meet waste reduction goals and a large effort has been put into composting. Newer technologies involved in composting can even produce electricity. In most of these states, composting has been met with initial reluctance, but eventually success and interest in this new process.

Composting provides a unique form of recycling that is genuinely beneficial to the environment. Organic waste currently takes up a large portion of the overall amount of waste. The availability of these raw materials makes them an ideal candidate for recycling. As more laws are passed requiring waste reduction, composting will become a more popular and easily implemented solution. It is already making a difference in the areas in which it has been used and will likely continue to do so. by Kirsti Marohn



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