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Composting: from worms to waste management

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Composting

Composting on a commercial scale - the way forward for our councils?

Credit: CORE

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Composting - it's dirty business, but an important one. Families with backyard bins and wiggly worm farms have long been helping divert greenhouse-gas-leaching waste from landfill, and getting soil-boosting juices and mulch for their gardens in return. Now it's councils and businesses that are hearing the call to compost, with keen campaigners pushing for kerbside collection services and more.

Around 60 per cent of our rubbish is compostable, but for those without the time, space or inclination to start a compost heap in the yard, it all ends up at council waste facilities, most likely in landfill to be buried anaerobically along with other mixed waste.

Alarmingly, such a huge amount of organically active material in landfill is responsible for over 3 per cent of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions annually, producing methane, a gas with 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

According to Compost Australia - a division of the Waste Management Association Australia and the peak body representing the Recycled Organics Industry - if properly composted instead, this same organic waste could help to abate climate change and improve soil quality by sinking carbon back into the soil. Using compost on land could also reduce the need for water by an average of 30 per cent.

In the lead up to International Composting Awareness Week (2-8 May 2010), now in its fifth year and hosted by the Centre for Organic & Resource Enterprises (CORE), the group will be lobbying councils around the country to get on board and work with householders and businesses to progress composting.

"The Government will be placing a carbon levy on landfill, which in turn will pass on a higher cost to communities," said CORE Chairman, Eric Love. "This is a great stimulus for keeping organics out of landfill, but out of the 700 or so councils in Australia, only a fraction of them are offering a third bin for organics."

Even some of the multinationals are making the move to compostable packaging. At its 35 stores in South Australia, fast food chain KFC is introducing biodegradable bags developed by Melbourne company Cardia Bioplastics. KFC's move to biodegradable bags follows the SA Government's ban on plastic bags nine months ago. A similar ban is expected to be enforced in Western Australia from next month and the Northern territory is looking at similar options.

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