Composting – the natural process of biological decomposition by fungi, bacteria, insects, worms, and other organisms – produces a nutrient-rich material that can be used to grow crops for human consumptions. Successful composting must be relatively quick, safe, and clean, which is achieved through managing the decomposition process. Composting organic food – and packaging – allows us to divert waste from landfill and return valuable nutrients back into the soil. Composting also eliminates the methane gas that organics emit when they biodegrade in landfill.
By composting, we achieve a lot more than simply diverting waste from landfill. There are several more reasons we should compost, which not everyone is aware of. Organic waste in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. By composting, we avoid these emissions and turn the waste into a productive material instead. Compost also reduces (and may eliminate entirely) the need for chemical fertilisers in farming, which can cause algal blooms if they run off into rivers during rain, and in fact higher yields of agricultural crops are often attributed to more 'organic' (compost-based) fertilisers. Compost can help efforts to reforest areas of trees and restore wetlands by improving soils that might be contaminated, compacted, or otherwise devalued. We can also use compost to improve soils that have been contaminated with hazardous waste, in a more cost-effective way than other approaches. Lastly, compost can capture and destroy 99% of industrial volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) in contaminated air that might otherwise lead to respiratory or environmental problems. See this article to read about what 'organic' truly means.
Commercial vs home composting
Home composting produces good quality compost, but is more restricted in what it can decompose. A commercial compost facility ensures rapid biodegradation of organic material. Many types of commercial compost exist, and they all optimise each step of the decomposition process. From controlling a step like shredding material to keep them the same size, to regulating temperature and oxygen levels, they can produce a high-quality, toxic-free compost. Home composts will produce the same quality compost but they may not maintain the ideal conditions for composting certain products. BioPak PLA bioplastics require sustained temperatures of 55 degrees C for 10 days to break the molecular bond. Home composts also struggle with meat, fish, or dairy products either, as they may smell and attract rodents. For more information on PLA bioplastics, check out this article.
Types of commercial composts
There are multiple types of commercial composts, and which one is used depends on the community's needs. Aerated static pile: a process in which decomposing organic material is placed in piles over an air supply system that can supply oxygen and control temperature. Piles must be insulated to keep all parts of the decomposing material at or above 55 degrees C for a minimum of 3 days. Turned windrow: a process in which decomposing organic materials are placed in long piles, which are periodically turned or otherwise agitated to ensure all parts of the pile reach the required stability. In-vessel: a process in which decomposing organic material is enclosed in a drum, silo, bin, tunnel, or other container. In these 'vessels', temperature, moisture, and air-borne emissions are controlled and nuisance and odour generation are minimised.
Let's get serious about waste
Australia and New Zealand sent millions of tonnes of waste to landfill each year - but composting is a solution. Together, Australia and New Zealand send more than 8 million tonnes of organic waste to landfill every year. We believe that composting is the solution. Across the world, governments and businesses are attempting to process the increasing tide of rubbish, aiming for a target of zero waste. Many local councils in Australia are close to introducing or have introduced kerbside composting bins that will collect garden clippings, food scraps, and compostable packaging. Landfills are not designed to biodegrade waste, only to store it, and for this reason organic waste going to general landfill dumps is a big problem due to the consequent production of methane. Oz Harvest studies show that the average household in Australia throws out 1 out of 5 bags of shopping every year, resulting in each Australian household binning $1,036 of groceries annually. Our society of convenience – in which we take, make, and dispose – relies on large quantities of cheap, accessible materials and energy, and this model is reaching its physical limits. We need to move past this to a circular economy – a viable and sustainable alternative that BioPak is already applying to single use food service disposables. We need to learn to use resources more thoughtfully and effectively, and create 'waste' that is also new materials. BioPak is proud to be a partner to many businesses that have achieved or are working towards zero-waste targets. To find out about the types of products we sell, head to our product page. Information taken from BioPak's website. Check out this article on why there is so much push back on plastic free on our blog. Article by Tallis Baker. Planet Friendly Packaging acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we work.