Recycling And Composting by Annette J Dunlea
Published In The Carrigdhoun Newspaper 23rd June 2012 p.11
We all know that recycling our household and business waste saves us money and it is good for the environment too.Yet there is more to recycling than simply throwing some cardboard into your bin. These days it is possible to recycle most items from paper and bottles to televisions, computers, electronics and metals.Recycling is processing used materials into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution from incineration and water pollution from landfilling by reducing the need for “conventional” waste disposal, and lower greenhouse gas emissions as compared to virgin production.Recycling is a key component of modern waste reduction and is the third component of the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” waste hierarchy.Recyclable materials include many kinds of glass, paper, metal, plastic, textiles, and electronics. Although similar in effect, the composting or other reuse of biodegradable waste such as food or garden waste is not typically considered recycling. Materials to be recycled are either brought to a collection center or picked up from the curbside, then sorted, cleaned, and reprocessed into new materials bound for manufacturing.In the strictest sense, recycling of a material would produce a fresh supply of the same material for example, used office paper would be converted into new office paper, or used foamed polystyrene into new polystyrene. However, this is often difficult or too expensive , so “recycling” of many products or materials involves their reuse in producing different materials (e.g., paperboard) instead.
To recycle everything you have sorted put aside and check that all items can be placed into your recycling bin.Ensure all cardboard and paper is kept clean and dry. Flatten all used cardboard boxes and remove any plastic inserts or windows. Fold used paper rather than scrunching it up, as this aids segregation and takes up less space in recycling bins.Ensure all glass bottles are cleaned and rinsed of any residual liquids. This helps keep flies and wasps away by removing any sugary residue You don’t need to scrub off the labels, since they will burn up when the glass is melted down for recycling.Use reusable boxes or bags for collecting up your glass recyclables and bringing them to your local recycling facilities. Food and aluminium cans should be cleaned and rinsed, placing lids inside the washed cans and finally squash for maximum efficiency of collection systems. Aluminium food trays should be cleaned, ensuring that food left-overs are removed. Then squash down the tray. If there is more than one tray squash them together before placing in your recycling bin.
Recycling conserves our valuable natural resources.Recycling helps to conserve our natural resources such as oil, metal and water. For example plastic bottles can be recycled into new plastic bottles and polyester fibres for use in fleece jumpers and car mats. By recycling we reduce the amount of natural resources needed to make products and packaging. Also less mining and extraction occurs, which is beneficial to the natural habitats of wild animals. Recycling saves energy.Recycling aluminium saves 95% of the energy required to produce aluminium from raw materials. Recycling just one plastic bottle will save enough energy to power a 60 watt light bulb for 3 hours.Recycling protects the environment.Recycling helps to conserve energy, so less greenhouse gases are emitted. Recycling reduces our dependence on landfill. With less materials going to landfill, less harmful emissions like methane gas are released into the earth’s atmosphere. Since Repak was established in Ireland in 1997, over 4.4 million tonnes of used packaging has been diverted from landfill, that’s enough waste to create a trail of trucks from Dublin to New York.Recycling can save you money.By putting more recyclable materials into your recycling bin you reduce the amount of times you have to put your general refuse or black bin out for collection. It is usually more expensive to collect the black bin than the recycling bin, so recycling can save you money.Recycling is an excellent way of saving energy and conserving the environment. One recycled tin can would save enough energy to power a television for 3 hours. One recycled glass bottle would save enough energy to power a computer for 25 minutes. 70% less energy is required to recycle paper compared with making it from raw materials.Up to 60% of the rubbish that ends up in the dustbin could be recycled. The unreleased energy contained in the average dustbin each year could power a television for 5,000 hours.
Composting is nature’s way of recycling. It is a biological process in which organisms convert organic matter, such as food and garden waste, into carbon dioxide and water, leaving a reduced, stabilised residue known as compost.Composting is the decomposition of plant remains and other once-living materials to make an earthy, dark, crumbly substance that is excellent for adding to houseplants or enriching garden soil. It is the way to recycle your yard and kitchen wastes, and is a critical step in reducing the volume of garbage needlessly sent to landfills for disposal. It’s easy to learn how to compost. All you need is you bin, add your waste and also have air, water and food.At the simplest level, the process of composting simply requires making a heap of wetted organic matter :leaves and “green” food waste and waiting for the materials to break down into humus after a period of weeks or months. Modern, methodical composting is a multi-step, closely monitored process with measured inputs of water, air and carbon- and nitrogen-rich materials.The decomposition process is aided by shredding the plant matter, adding water and ensuring proper aeration by regularly turning the mixture. Worms and fungi further break up the material. Aerobic bacteria manage the chemical process by converting the inputs into heat, carbon dioxide and ammonium. The ammonium is further converted by bacteria into plant-nourishing nitrites and nitrates through the process of nitrification.Compost can be rich in nutrients. It is used in gardens, landscaping, horticulture, and agriculture. The compost itself is beneficial for the land in many ways, including as a soil conditioner, a fertilizer, addition of vital humus or humic acids, and as a natural pesticide for soil.Compost is the single most important supplement you can give your garden soil.Composting is a simple way to add nutrient-rich humus which fuels plant growth and restores vitality to depleted soil. It’s also free, easy to make and good for the environment.There are a tremendous number of options for containing your compost. Some people choose to go binless, simply building a compost pile in a convenient spot on the ground. Others build bins from materials such as recycled pallets, or two-by-fours and plywood. And, of course, there are many commercial bins on the market. Soil conditioner. With compost, you are creating rich humus for lawn and garden. This adds nutrients to your plants and helps retain moisture in the soil.Recycles kitchen and yard waste. Composting can divert as much as 30% of household waste away from the garbage can.Introduces beneficial organisms to the soil. Microscopic organisms in compost help aerate the soil, break down organic material for plant use and ward off plant disease.Good for the environment. Composting offers a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers. Reduces landfill waste. Most landfills are quickly filling up; many have already closed down. One-third of landfill waste is made up of compostable materials.
One can compost the following items: table scraps, fruit & vegetable scraps, eggshells, leaves, garden plants, grass clippings, shrub prunings, straw or hay, pine needles, flower cuttings, seaweed, tea leaves, newspapers, coffee grounds, shredded paper, cardboard, wood chips and pellets.You can also add garden soil to your compost. A layer of soil will help to mask any odours, and micro-organisms in the soil will accelerate the composting process. Do not compost meat, bones or fish scraps , perennial weeds or diseased plants. Start your compost pile on bare earth. This allows worms and other beneficial organisms to aerate the compost and be transported to your garden beds.Lay twigs or straw first, a few inches deep. This aids drainage and helps aerate the pile.Add compost materials in layers, alternating moist and dry. Moist ingredients are food scraps, tea bags, seaweed, etc. Dry materials are straw, leaves, sawdust pellets and wood ashes. If you have wood ashes, sprinkle in thin layers, or they will clump together and be slow to break down.Add manure, green manure ( clover, buckwheat, wheatgrass ) or any nitrogen source. This activates the compost pile and speeds the process along.Keep compost moist. Water occasionally, or let rain do the job.Cover with anything you have – wood, plastic sheeting, carpet scraps. Covering helps retain moisture and heat, two essentials for compost. Covering also prevents the compost from being over-watered by rain. The compost should be moist, but not soaked and sodden.Turn. Every few weeks give the pile a quick turn with a pitchfork or shovel. This aerates the pile. Oxygen is required for the process to work, and turning “adds” oxygen. You can skip this step if you have a ready supply of coarse material, like straw.
The STOP Food Waste programme is funded under the EPA National Waste Prevention Programme (NWPP). Waste prevention is the preferred waste management option in Ireland. By not generating waste, we can eliminate the need to handle, transport, treat and dispose of waste. We can also avoid having to pay for these services. In light of the significant issues arising from the disposal of food waste, and the realisation of the costs associated with this, the NWPP Prevention Plan 2009-2012 set out to promote food waste prevention and home composting. This programme is aimed initially at the householder. We need to rethink how we shop, store our food, cook it and reuse the leftovers.
One noticeable success in Ireland’s environmental track record was the introduction of a plastic bag levy in 2002. All consumers were required to pay 15c for a plastic bag; this led to an immediate decrease of over 90% in the amount of plastic bags in circulation. From 328 bags per inhabitant per year when the levy was introduced, usage fell to 21 bags per capita.The levy encouraged retailers to switch to paper bags, and encouraged consumers to bring their own bags when shopping. The levy was increased in July 2006 to 22c.The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive was introduced into Irish law in August 2005. Under this law, retailers of electrical goods are required to provide free in-store take back for old electrical goods for customers buying new electrical equipment. The cost of this is passed onto consumers.Ireland is the top country in Europe for electronics recycling as a result of the WEEE directive, with 30,000 tonnes of electrical and electronic being collected in 2008. This works out at around 9 kilograms per person, a figure more than double the EU target.
A brilliant new initiative by Rehab Recycle is set to encourage companies to pass on all their out-of-date and unused computer and other electrical equipment for the benefit of others.Promise it to Rehab Recycle is all about passing on valuable and still useful equipment to local schools, charities, community groups and start-up enterprises, while at the same time helping to safeguard our environment and supporting the employment of people with disabilities. As Ireland’s premier post-consumer waste recycler,Rehab Recycle aims to offer collection and recycling solutions for all recyclable waste.In addition to their glass, WEEE paper and polystyrene recycling facilities, they collect, handle, sort, process and redistribute a wide range of other materials as well as offering a full waste audit and consultancy service.Waste not your waste!