Make Dirt, Not Waste – The Environmental Benefits of Using Your Green Bin
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By Ericha Moores
From decreasing landfill waste to increasing soil nutrients, there are many reasons why using the Green Bin benefits the environment and why we should compost!
Yet it may be surprising to learn that only 35% of Waterloo Region residents actually use their Green Bin and compost despite being the home of the Blue Bin and having an impressive recycling program.
To put it simply, when organic material is not composted and is thrown in with the garbage, it ends up in the landfill. According to the Region of Waterloo, about 50 per cent of the garbage coming from homes is actually made up of organic material and therefore could (and should!) be composted. Besides the fact that this leads to landfills being prematurely filled, there are also serious environmental implications. When organic matter decays in the landfill and it is smothered by layers of garbage, it does not decay ‘cleanly’, resulting in methane being produced. Methane is an especially nasty greenhouse gas and is approximately 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Through composting, you can reduce our local greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reducing the air pollution, while conserving the landfill capacity.
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According to a recent report to Regional Council, GHG emissions from our landfills are down by 5% in 2015 from 2009. While our population has increased by 7%, the amount of residential garbage has remained relatively steady so diverting waste from the landfill is making a difference.
Using your green bin is a key way you can do your part to address climate change.
Feeding the Soil
So, where does our organic material go when diverted from the landfill? The compost collected from our Green Bins in the Waterloo Region is sent to Guelph. That compost is then used by our local farmers to grow our food and is marketed out by the Guelph Organic Waste Processing Facility.
In comparing compost to regular fertilizer, it is much richer in nutrients and minerals, some of which you just can’t find in chemical fertilizers. Commercially-made fertilizers typically contain the basic nutrients that compost does, however, it can also contain chemicals that can be toxic after repeated use. Therefore, in using compost you minimize these chemicals that are in your soil and water run-off.
Using compost also encourages the growth of microorganisms, insects, and earthworms. It fosters the growth of plants and feeds the soil. In fact, if you were to do an experiment where you pot one plant in regular garden soil and then another plant in garden soil mixed with compost, you would see that the compost-soil mixture plant is healthier and larger than the other. That’s because of all the naturally good stuff that’s in the compost!
Reducing Chemicals, Saving Water
As mentioned previously, by replacing chemical fertilizers with compost, you automatically reduce the chemicals in the soil, and importantly, the water. The chemicals in these commercial fertilizers can leach into the groundwater and therefore contaminate the drinking water wells. In using compost for farms and gardens, this problem could be avoided and would reduce water pollution.
Another benefit of using compost is the overall reduced water consumption. Using compost helps soil hold more moisture, which improves the growth of plants as it is held where the roots need it thus reducing the amount of water a plant needs. In relating this to the farms in the Waterloo Region, less irrigation would be needed!
While this isn’t necessarily an “environmental” benefit, using the Green Bin and consciously choosing to compost, is embracing the natural cycles of life and decay. This idea of waste is a human problem, as nothing goes to waste in the natural environment. Developing a greater understanding of your own waste allows you to make changes in your life that would decrease that waste.
To conclude, I’ll leave you with some words from Kitchener’s, Nyle Ludolph, the Blue Box pioneer:
“Recycling is something we all can do to make an impact”
A message that is very relevant for composting – through this simple lifestyle change, you can have a positive impact on your surrounding environment!