Food waste is a global problem. Biowaste is used to produce electricity, gas & nutrient-rich soil. Governments are implementing multiple processes & techniques to understand how to recycle, reduce & prevent food waste & improve participation & collection.
What causes food waste contamination?
Food Yuck factors that cause a stink attract pests, flies, and maggots turned off people from using trash cans as directed. Rather than wash and maintain their waste carts, many throw their table scraps in the recycling or garbage can. Food waste statistics show that 40% of our recycling & trash can is organic.
Compostable & plastic bags make residential waste easy to manage. Smaller kitchen catcher bags holding organic matter that causes odors & a mess, like fish, often gets discarded in the bin that’s going curbside earlier. This type of waste often gets disposed of incorrectly, rather than in the organic container, where it can raise a stink, attract pests, and add to the homeowner’s home cleaning chores.
There is no incentive for homeowners to do right; instead, it’s a burden.
Why is Food waste is a global problem?
Scientists state global warming will cause life-altering changes in the coming decade. This news has made governments shift gear and implement new legislation that mandates turning food waste into a resource.
The economic and environmental cost related to collecting, processing & separating organic waste is enormous. As landfills are quickly reaching capacity, and the incineration of waste produces greenhouse gases, diverting food waste matters. Another consequence of improper organic disposal is it renders recyclable material garbage. This is why we need to reduce & prevent food waste.
How to reduce organic contamination?
In Ottawa, Canada, councillors were looking to improve the dismal food waste recovery and reduce the contamination rate occurring in the recycling & garbage bins. To make this happen the city changed the laws to allow plastic bags in the green bin.
It is important to note that contrary to popular belief, allowing plastic or compostable bags in the waste stream is presently the best option to encourage and divert organics.
The proper utilization of present waste separation technologies & advanced planning makes it easier for future technologies to transform stored waste into products or energy.
Why Ottawa allows plastics bags green bin?
Plastic bags are readily available, and most households were already using them to line kitchen counter bins, in contravention of the rules. Allowing plastic bags would make separating convenient and easy for families. But this change took time because recovery centers needed to confirm that plastic & food segregation was possible. Till then no plastic bags were allowed in the green bin or cart.
When MRF’s confirmed they could confidently manage the plastic, it was introduced to help reduce & prevent food waste.
Here are the factors considered when allowing the allowing plastic bags in the green bin.
- Education & awareness produced change at a slow rate
- Yuck factors hindered proper disposal & caused contamination.
- Recommended green techniques to manage & contain waste disappointed compared to plastic counterparts
- Workable biodegradable & compostable disposal options & cost to all socio-economic demographics.
- Food waste produces electricity, biogas & rich soil.
- Organics occupies space & reduces landfill lifespan
- Decomposing food in landfills emits greenhouse gas
- Material recovery facilities & digesters machines can separate plastic bags holding waste to a high degree
- Microplastic particles are below the acceptable limits
- Maximizes route efficiency of the garbage truck
What is learned by allowing plastic bags in the green bin?
The adoption of this new measure reveals that extra cost incurred purchasing products used to manage waste matters. Organics waste storage raises a stink. We learn that a trouble-free waste management system can improve diversion at the source, the home where it originates. Most importantly, we find how vital a teamwork approach is. Only when residential waste disposal methods & the recyclers’ separation capabilities are aligned can a circular economy be achieved.
How can teamwork help waste separation?
The best way to reduce & prevent food waste from ending up in landfills is by separating food properly at its source of generation. Sorting residential, governmental & institution food waste ensures the biowaste recovered has the least possible contaminates in it.
Separated food waste received by Anaerobic Digestion & Composting facilities allows the sorting machines to do their job more efficiently. If there is plastic present, it too gets removed. There are always bits of plastic that get missed, but microplastics and contaminates are often below acceptable levels because of the dual effort made.
We have to create a culture of teamwork. We must each eliminate issues that would be problematic for each other. Recyclers should try to address residents’ issues and concerns, by offering solutions that work with both concerned and improve collections. Residents in turn should do their best to put out the waste segregated properly.
why should we separate wet and dry garbage?
We can reap the benefits of electricity, Biogas, heat, & fertilizer produced from our food waste. Separated organics now offer recyclers contaminate-free recyclable materials, that fetches a higher price, at a cheaper production rate. This raw material is then recycled into new products. This cycle is another reason to reduce & prevent food waste from entering the wrong waste stream.
What is the environmental & financial cost of using plastic bags?
To understand the cost of plastics in the waste stream, we must look at countries that do not allow plastics but instead allow compostable alternatives.
Italy leads its EU members in biowaste capture and spends approximately 100 million euros annually separating and diverting its plastic waste. Italy’s recycling and biowaste systems and processes capture impurities efficiently to a rate of about 99%. During separation, 5 to 10% of organic matter is attached to the separated plastic and sent to landfills.
In Italy, plastics, and not their compostable alternatives, are considered contamination in food waste.
Can compostable alternatives beat plastics to reduce & prevent food waste?
Yes, compostable options are better, but you often hear the opposite. It depends on where one resides. In Italy, for example, the use of compostables are encouraged by recyclers & in its legislation.
In Canada, consumers receive mixed messages. The advantages of compostables are often contrary to local recyclers, and in confusion, many households give up & revert to plastic bags. The diversion rate of food waste in America is similar to in Canada.
Compostable alternatives receive bad reviews from recycling facilities because they seek to avoid the cost of upgrading systems. Recyclers find it easier to shift the blame on lousy consumer disposal; then state they need system overhauls.
Technology to remove plastics, or compostable bags, black plastic food containers from the waste stream have been available for years but never implemented in Canada. These cost-saving and delayed system upgrades resulted in millions of plastic boxes sent to landfills rather than repurposed.
Yes, compostables are a better option, and a valuable tool to reduce & prevent food waste, but only when all actors in the waste stream consider it so and make changes to allow their use.
How compostable bags reduce food waste & improve the circular economy?
Modernizing recovery facilities helps compostable choices become an advantage rather than contaminate and limit the final product’s quality.
Recycling facilities must upgrade their systems to separate the types of waste packaging used by its customers to make compostable alternatives more viable. Lasers, magnets, air jets, robots, and a multitude of other mechanisms to separate contaminates.
Governments must also take responsibility and subsidize compostable & green products to encourage separation and not let it become a financial choice to achieve a circular economy.
Households, in return, should use products that they know are best for the facilities to separate. Decision-makers, the public & material recovery facilities(MRF) must work together to achieve a circular economy.
Italy is the perfect example of how a circular economy is achievable when allied.
As per the law in Italy, households must divert kitchen scraps. Compostable & paper bags are used to reduce & prevent food waste. Compared to its other EU members, Italy has the lowest plastic contamination rate at about 1.5%.
During the waste separation process, plastic pollutes is removed, & Compostable products degrade in the digestors or break down during the feedstock to transform the fertilizer process, providing the final product with the least residue.
In Italy, residents can receive penalties or fines for disposing of plastic in the green bin to avoid disturbing the recycling process.
How to better separate & prevent food waste using collection data?
What waste data collected from different infinitives, and efforts deployed, point towards teamwork. A joint effort from all players involved in managing waste, homeowners, recyclers & policymakers is needed.
How & where food waste is disposed of is vital to the success of the recycling process. Residents & recyclers must work in unison to separate & divert materials.
Leaders should subsidize the cost of materials used to dispose of waste to decrease cheaper non-conforming products making their way into the waste stream and hindering the recycling operations. Rewarding acceptable waste practices incentivize action and induce huge change quickly.
To address how a package free feedstock or food waste disposed of in its natural form produces the best results. Bags reduce the mess, make trash easy to transport, manage, and prevent disease spread.
Compostable and paper bags are better than plastic as they leave little to no contaminating residue in the right setting.
The issue is cost. Compostable products usually have a higher cost associated with them. Subsidies make incorporating the bags into daily lives more convenient. Fines and penalties are the last measures used to build and maintain proper disposal habits.
Why have we failed to reduce & prevent food waste contamination?
In Canada, the United States, the EU, Australia & cities globally, large 35, 50, 65 & 96-gallon trash cans are provided for wet, recycling & garbage waste storage, a move that has increased waste collections and reduced injury to sanitation workers.
Here is where the break in the system occurs & most of the mixing of waste happens.
This disconnect is fixable.
The cost of compostable disposal products plays a huge role and needs to be addressed, along with proper tools for residents to participate actively in the recycling process.
Plastic grocery & kitchen catcher compostable bags are widely used as bin liners.
- Grocery plastic bags are flimsy & leak organic matter, messing bins.
- Compostable bags, sweat & often burst because of gasses trapped inside when sealed tight or compressed by other packs.
- Paper liners & bags are expensive for the common man, & often break up when wet or filled with soggy waste.
Failed or prohibited alternatives:
In Canadian & American cities, diversion programs focus on tackling food waste before it reaches the table. Supermarkets like casinos are designed to enticing spending. Customers are bombarded everywhere with marketing choices. How would programs suggesting purposeful buying succeed?
These programs have educated the customer towards the food waste problem and make minor adjustments. Still, most do not think twice before throwing away organics in the trash or recycling bin.
This is not the food waste that is the source of concern.
Leftovers, greasy table scraps & spoilt food create the problem.
Large compostable & trash bags are available; these bags can go over the large bins’ mouth. Unfortunately, their use is mostly limited to the commercial & industrial sector because;
- They can exceed the 20 kilos residential weight limit.
- They are costly compared to their smaller counterparts.
- Residential use rarely reaches bag capacity; extra material disposal & added to waste. ( Italy spends 100 million euros annually separating and disposing plastic bags from the food waste stream)
Plastic bags are a tool to fight organic waste, & without them, food collection would be in very bad condition.
Awareness programs suggestions for green or organic cart maintenance are impractical. Washing bins the old fashion way, using vinegar & other green or chemical products to keep it clean, line bins with newspapers, or hire a service to do the painful cleaning for you is their suggestion. But honestly, who wants the extra disgusting work? Especially when it’s easier and often cheaper to toss & forget trash.
Awareness programs and wish-cycling have a lot in common they hope their actions will generate some good, but at the rate, waste is being disposed of in landfills, we cannot wait.
We see more organics in the recycling & garbage cans, especially now during the pandemic, when more people are home.
Does the future of recycling food waste depend on bags?
We are hygiene obsessed & looking for quick solutions. Direct real solutions that provide instant, visible results & eliminate messy jobs are needed. We know from Italy compostables are a better alternative compared to plastic bags.
Italy spends 100 million euros to separate its plastics from the organics, to achieve a contamination rate of about 1.5%.
This money is to capture, separate, and send the plastics to landfills. We learn from the Italian digestors & recycling systems that smaller plastic bags clog rollers and are challenging to recycle.
Only compostable bags are accepted in the organics collection bin. Still, plastics sneak in, suggesting a possibility of indifference, a timely necessity, or some residents view plastic bags as a better alternative to holding food waste.
How to reduce & prevent food waste, improve diversion & stop contamination?
The mess & smell caused by food waste causes improper disposal. Compostable bags help to reduce & prevent food waste & improve collections while decreasing the contamination of recyclables. Compostables are preferred over plastic if allowed into the organic stream
Using bags to line or hold waste in the large outdoor 35,65 or 96 gallon provided trash cans can prevent nasty situations and improve collections, as it eliminates difficulties for homeowners.
What are the benefits of using compostable bags?
- Improve food waste capture rates
- Divert organics from landfills
- Increase landfill lifespan
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- Avoid groundwater contamination( leachate)
- Produce electricity, biogas, or fertilizer
- Reduce plastic in organics
- Reduce organic contamination of recyclable materials
- Produce higher quality uncontaminated recyclable raw materials for sale & repurpose.
- Develop good waste disposal attitudes
- Create jobs
These are just a few advantages of incorporating compostable bags into the organic stream.
- Requires costly upgrades to recycling facilities
- Government subsidy on compostable bags & products
- Requires local processing sites
- Lack of non-affiliated environmental lobbyist
How to keep organic cans clean & reduce & prevent food waste
A subject as important as food waste needs solutions that can help residents eliminate the mess & smell associated with proper waste disposal today.
Below are cost-effective solutions, that when used together turns organic bins or trash cans into a self-cleaning stink-free system, while helping you reduce & prevent food waste.
How to clean trash can
Put away the hose, store away your cleaning products, & relax. Do nothing but place bins curbside to keep your trash cans clean. To encourage good behavior, say goodbye to the disgusting work & learn how to clean trash can by doing nothing!
Use BagEZ trash bag holders, & fit common instore compostable trash bags from 8 gallons onwards. BagEZ opens your bags to their width, providing a large opening to easily dispose of the contents of kitchen catchers.
10-gallon compostable trash bags can easily hold the food waste of a family of four for a week. It is coinciding with the weekly organics pickup.
Every time trash is collected, everything yucky inside the bag or bags gets taken away, leaving you with a clean bin. It cant get easier.
Organic trash cans come in different sizes.
The small 21-gallon knee-high green bins are simple to keep clean, but the larger 26-35 gallons green bins such as those used in Toronto and the GTA, along with the 65 & 96-gallon trash cans used elsewhere, pose a different challenge.
BagEZ makes cleaning simple & easy. A handy tool that turns any trash can into a self-cleaning method that needs no water or cleaning products and reduces the work needed to keep your trash cans clean.
How to get off a bad smell from the trash can?
Odor control products & scented bags are widely available and easily mask unpleasant odours, but scented bags may not be compostable. Hanging scented pouches that can be hung in the garage or trash can work well to control the bad smell. They can be fixed and be reused for months. Here is a link to products.
Villages in India used a method that remained a secret from the west to control odours and prevent disease. Neem oil or powder, produced from the Neem tree, is readily available in stores. This powder lessens the smell, prevents maggots infestations, and produced nutrient-rich soil.
Here is the link to such products. ( we do not receive any commission for these products)
How to kill maggots
Nothing spoils the day like the sight of maggots crawling all over your trash can, and they can happen. It’s a fact of life. But we live in 2020, and there are solutions to control them. Boiling water, Diatomaceous earth, Neem oil, or powder are a few easy ways to prevent or eliminate maggots.
Here is the link to such products. ( we do not receive any commission for these products)
How to avoid getting raccoon, bear & nuisance pests
Most critters and pests like our neighbourhood trash panda, the raccoon, and bears have a powerful sense of smell. Keeping your trash can clean by using BagEZ prevents rotting waste residues in trash cans that increase odours. The smell of mint & well-positioned spikes can keep pests away. Ultrasonic repellants are an option, too, along with noise & lights for pest control.
Chilli & pepper powders along with items that can harm pests are used by not recommended, because it may cause other issues.
Here is the link to such products. ( we do not receive any commission for these products)
As you see it’s easy to keep trash cans clean, It does not take much at all, & the benefits of separating organics are enormous. So let us start today; we can make a difference; we have to; we only have one planet.
In a worst-case scenario, plastics used to separate organics will add a disposal cost to the system, but it’s better than letting solid waste end up in landfills.
The best approach is a unified effort, that involves all players, material recycling facilities, retailers, proper legislation & homeowners using the correct tools to make a change.