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Composting your organic household waste

Hofstede, H. (1991) Composting your organic household waste. In: Seminar on appropriate technology for remote communities, 28 August pp. 21-24.

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One of the things that western society - and ours in particular, excels in is producing waste. We bury it in holes, burn it, dump it in oceans or build mountains out of it. The total waste production in Perth in 1991 will exceed one million tonnes. Over half a million tonnes is produced in the household. Approximately 70% or 350,000 tonnes of domestic waste is organic and can this be composted.

In a recent study commissioned by the State Government waste minimisation was identified as a priority and household compo sting is a very effective and appropriate method of reducing the waste stream.

Most of the environmental impact of landfills is caused by the decomposition of the organic waste fraction. The leaching of solubilised organic compounds is polluting and it also carries pollutants such as heavy metals into the groundwater table. During the decomposition of organic waste various polluting gases are released e.g. carbon dioxide (greenhouse), methane (ozone and greenhouse), ammonia (odour and acid rains) and hydrogen sulfide (odour), so more appropriate disposal of organic waste through composting is desirable. Landfill consumes land and approximately 500 hectares are currently restricted as a result of this.

On the opposing end of the environmental impact of landfill in Perth (Western Australia) there is the poor sandy soils of the Swan Coastal Plain. The sands are characterised by a low capacity to retain nutrients (fertilisers and moisture), have a very low organic matter and clay content and a low buffer capacity. To assist in improving the soils peat moss is imported from as far as Scandinavia, and is available on the market. There is a demand for soil organic matter in Perth such as a good compost.

Household compo sting results in a reduced (up to 50%) waste stream, reduced waste collection costs for the council and a good soil conditioner for gardens. A number of councils have already acknowledged these advantages and have made home composting bins available to ratepayers at subsidised rates.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
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