Presentation on theme: "Waste Less Wisconsin: Be SMART Conservation Challenge Joe Boeck."— Presentation transcript:
Waste Less Wisconsin: Be SMART Conservation Challenge Joe Boeck
Composting The independent project I worked through was reducing the overall quantity of garbage I produced and ended up placing in the landfill. As Chris explained, garbage is something that costs a lot to dispose of. Yet it is foolish to spend large amounts of money on a commodity that has no value. Or does it have a value?
Waste Reduction and Brainstorming While waste reduction is a very complex and broad issue, and my efforts to compost only encompass one major component of waste reduction (and ten hours of work on my project has only allowed me to scratch the surface of the broader issue of waste reduction), my presentation won’t just be a discussion of my composting efforts, but will include a more general account of trends I have noticed in terms of my family’s garbage waste production, and how Waste Less Wisconsin has allowed me to see everyday behaviors and practices through the perspective of someone who’s interested in reducing waste.
The value of composting One way one can turn their otherwise worthless garbage into something valuable is through composting the organic waste. This is easy to do, virtually cost free, and will ultimately produce a fertile, nutrient rich soil.
The value of composted soil Composted soil is fertile, full of nutrients needed for healthy plant growth, prevents moisture loss of soil, attracts earthworms, improves soil drainage, and protects roots from frosts. Though it may take a while to get compost to break down completely, composted soil is free!
Reducing My Overall Garbage I have worked to reduce my overall weekly garbage production for my family of four. Each week I had my family and I place organic waste (not including meats and egg shells) into a separate bag from the rest of my garbage. At the end of the week I weighed the garbage and the compost to see how much I’m composting and how much less trash is being produced as a result of my project.
Further Benefits of Waste Reduction As we learned from the text book, landfills often have problems with leachate. Leachate is a substance that is produced in a landfill in part by organic materials. Leachate is problematic because it can contaminate ground water. If more people would compost, the problem of leachate would be reduced. Landfills also have limited space which means it would be presumptuous to assume that we can continue our dumping habits indefinitely. By composting we can reduce this problem.
Weight in Lbs. Week # Measuring Weekly Compost in Pounds
Success Had I not composted my garbage, my garbage for the last four weeks would have weighed 47 pounds. Composting reduced my garbage weight to 31.8 pounds. That’s 15.2 pounds less garbage!
Poor Garden Soil The soil from my compost pile will be used in a garden on my parents property. Year after year the same vegetables are planted on the same plot every year. The soil is visibly dry, washes away in rain, and most likely is poor in nutrients. Compost will be a welcome addition to my garden soil. As we learned in class, soil is an invaluable resource and is vital for human survival.
Limitations to My Success Though the city of Muskego produces a lot of solid waste, I’m sure that other more urban areas produce a lot more waste. For composting to achieve success on a broader scale, I would have to expand outside of my neighborhood, and into the Milwaukee metropolitan area. I suspect that many people would be willing to compost given how easy, effective, and affordable it is. Composting can also be an enjoyable experience as it allows one to work out doors, and plus its enjoyable and interesting to watch nature at work as our yard and kitchen scraps turn into composted soil before your eyes!
Yard Waste Reduction In order to get more people involved in my project, I got my neighbors to give me their yard waste. Many of the brown dead yard wastes they gave me are very important for composting. Though I didn’t measure the amounts I received, the amount was substantial, and will help to further reduce garbage waste (as much yard waste often makes its way into garbage cans, though this isn’t allowed by Waukesha county), and produce more composted soil for me.
The Broader Environmental Problem Sanitary landfills seem to be the best option for disposal of solid wastes in America. However, landfills are very unsightly and Americans are able to fill them up at alarming rates. According to Waste Less Wisconsin’s web cite Americans produce 3% of the worlds population, but produce 35% of the worlds garbage! The amount Americans spend on garbage bags is more than 90 nations throughout the world spend on their entire national budget! Excessive waste production is a problem in American consumerist culture. In short, current waste production and management don’t appear sustainable over a long term.
An Environmental Problem in my Neighborhood Since I live in an older more developed suburban subdivision with many leafy trees and older developed bushes, it is a common practice in my subdivision to burn yard waste. This contributes to the environmental problem of pollution, and increases carbon emissions which have been linked to global warming. While the city does have leaf pick up services in the fall, this does not mean that there isn’t yard waste year round. Also many people who have large big back yards find it impractical to move tons and tons of leaves into their front yard, and so many have back yard burn piles. By composting, one can dispose of yard waste without having to resort to environmentally harmful practices such as yard waste burning. Thus, the yard waste I have gathered from my neighbors has helped to decrease the overall air pollution produced within my neighborhood. Taking neighbors yard waste is easy, as many are very willing to part with it!
A Broader Environmental Problem Yard waste burning isn’t limited to just my neighborhood, but is a problem throughout America, particularly its suburbs. Many of that pollution has a local effect, but also much of that pollution has a global affect through global wind currents. Thus, in order to combat this pollution problem, one must expand their efforts beyond their neighborhood. This involves changing people’s behavior on a large scale. Education is an important first step in beginning to combat this problem. Education allows individuals to see that yard waste burning contributes to local air pollution, regional air pollution, and larger global problems such as global warming. Some possible solutions to reducing yard waste may enter into the political domain through such measures as burning bans. However, burning bans would need to be instituted not just on a regional, local, level, but ultimately a global level.
Acting Locally vs. Globally While acting locally is the easiest and most logical way to begin working to solve an environmental problem such as yard waste burning, the problem can’t be practically solved locally. If I took a very active role in the city of Muskego in getting citizens to compost, and stop burning yard waste, I could reduce the quantity of local air pollution that is produced. However, I would be doing very little to prevent problems like regional pollution that is blown into Muskego from Milwaukee, Greenfield, Brookfield, New Berlin, West Allis, and I would be doing even less to combat regional issues like global warming.
Spreading Composting Beyond My Community In hind sight, my actions would have been more effective if I had branched out beyond my neighborhood. Perhaps I could work to spread information about composting through nature centers, public forums, county clubs. In order to be more effective, my actions would have to have taken place on the county level and would have had to involve more of a community based approach as opposed to a local effort within my neighborhood.
The Problem of Heat, Especially in Wisconsin Composting can only take place at 55 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. (At 55 degrees and higher micro bacteria are at work breaking down the organic compounds into a usable soil.) Thus, one’s success in terms of composting varies geographically. Unfortunately, in Wisconsin, composting can only be done a few weeks out of the year. Conceivably, a warmer climate would allow one to compost year round.
Composting requires patience Composting can take anywhere from just a couple of weeks to up to a year. However, if conditions are just right for the insects and micro bacteria within one’s compost pile, the composting process can be speeded up.
Getting The Right Conditions Good composting is all about helping the micro bacteria grow and flourish. The micro bacteria are what do the work in breaking down the compost into usable garden soil. For the fastest composting, one must make sure their pile is sufficiently large (preferably 4x4x4). For best results, one should mix 2 parts brown with 1 part green. Brown includes leaves, straw, paper, sawdust, and contains a lot of carbon. Greens include Vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, grass clippings, manure. Greens contain phosphorus. The micro bacteria need Nitrogen and Phosphorus to flourish. The pile should be stirred weekly for best results in order to provide oxygen throughout the entire pile. The pile should consistently remain as wet as a dried out sponge. All these conditions are not mandatory, but the natural decaying process is very slow and these are all steps that will help to speed it up.
My Compost Pile While compost bins can be purchased to minimize decaying scent, and hide unsightly compost, I made my pile on the ground. The outside of my pile is surrounded by chicken wire to keep the contents of the pile on the pile and not spilling onto the grass or blowing away in the wind.
Macro Organisms At Work If you look real carefully, you can see a few earth worms.
Just Starting to Decay While throughout April, the organic material I placed on the compost pile began to pile up, but most of the individual composted items underwent little to no changes. Now that its May and there have consistently been some warm days, I can see that the some of the individual pieces in the pile are starting to shrivel up, decay, and generate heat, producing an odor. Heat generation occurs when bacteria that use oxygen break down organic material.
The Lack of Geographical Inequalities in One’s ability to Compost Composting is easy and anyone can do it. To begin composting, all one needs is some sort of receptacle to place a compost pile in, and some basic knowledge of composting. Though composting is relatively easy, there is a basic science involved to achieve the best and fastest results.
On the other hand… But there certainly are some geographic limitations for composting. Composting needs temperatures of 55 degrees and higher, and consequentially people living in cooler regions might view composting as a waste of time as very little organic matter would break down in the coarse of a year. On the other hand, warmer regions could conceivably allow for year round composting.
Not Everyone May Be Able to Compost The bulk of compost material will often include yard waste, which may not be available to apartment dwellers, those with minimal lawn or trees, and those with small property lots. While one can compost without yard waste, composting without yard waste can be painfully slow without having some carbon rich material to “feed” the micro nutrients with.
Compost Not Appreciated by Everyone Not everyone can easily appreciate the value of producing fertile soil through composting. Many people who don’t have garden’s, or don’t have a use for nutrient rich soil wouldn’t necessary place a value on composting. This would perhaps be one limitation of composting.
Kitchen Scraps are Important For many who compost, kitchen scraps will provide much of the nutrient rich substances which are necessary for a good final soil product. Many of these products include vegetable or fruit peals, cores, seeds, stems, leaves, etc. However, for those on a limited budget, or with limited cooking skills, buying foods that provide for nutrient compost aren’t a part of their weekly shopping agenda. While my household produces around four pounds a week of organic scraps, conceivably some might produce only a pound or less and wouldn’t be able to have a bountiful supply of compost. People who eat a lot of processed foods would also find that composting wouldn’t be applicable to their waste habits. On the other hand, some larger families or families who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables could produce ten pounds or more of weekly kitchen waste.
Composting Receptacles Composting receptacles are made specifically for composting and are an effective way for people to compost who wouldn’t otherwise be able to compost in a yard. Composting bins are often available at a nature center. This allows apartment dwellers and urban dwellers the ability to compost.
The limitations of Composting as a Tool to Reduce Waste While Chris from Waste Less Wisconsin said that reducing the amount of resources one consumes is best accomplished by consuming less resources in the first place. This measure is very tricky, considering that the American way of life seems to be centered around buying products in disposable packaging.
Where Does Garbage Come From? Most of my family’s garbage comes from food packaging. Most the food packaging one purchases seems to have some sort of plastic component. While Waukesha county recycles plastic bottles, glass jars, egg cartons, cardboard, newspaper, and many others, they don’t recycle plastic bags, and other products which seem to form the bulk of my families garbage. Though plastic doesn’t weigh a lot, the plastic bags my family throws away will remain in the landfill long after were all dead.
Solving the Environmental Problem While much of America’s waste problem is the product of bad habits, much of it is a byproduct of our culture. As I mentioned earlier, plastics won’t break down in landfills like other biodegradable substances. Thus, to reduce waste, packaging alternatives to plastic will be needed.
One Manufacturer's Attempt to Reduce Plastic Waste The manufacturers of Frito Lay Sun Chips have begun to produce a compostable bag. There web cite alleges that in laboratory tests the bag is able to breakdown within a compost pile in a matter of 13 weeks. (Though I know grease doesn’t compost well, and any fatty grease inside of these bags likely wouldn’t compost well.) While I don’t know how accurate this information is, it seems that at the very least Frito Lay is marketing a more environmentally friendly product to a society with perhaps an increasing environmental consciousness. This is perhaps one step closer to having a society with sustainable waste management strategies.
Waste Reduction in the Grocery Store I work at a Pick ‘N Save in Muskego and I have noticed changes in customer attitudes and store policies which have an environmental impact. While the amount of customers bringing in their own reusable grocery bags used to be rare, the practice has become common as the store sells many reusable bags, and offers customers a discount off their grocery bill of five cents per reusable grocery bag that they use. As a general rule, I try to talk about the benefits of using reusable bags to customers in the hopes that they will be encouraged to use reusable bags.
Conclusion Composting is easy, enjoyable, and can be done almost anywhere. Composting is an effective way to deal with problems such as air pollution from yard waste burning, and garbage production; composting isn’t the only means of trying to address these problems. By composting, one can produce nutrient rich soils that are beneficial to plants.