Garbage is one of the largest contributors to municipal solid waste across the globe.
Statistics reveal that we generate about 3.5 million tons of garbage each day worldwide.
Out of the total solid waste, over 30% represents biodegradable garbage.
But what is biodegradable waste? Biodegradable garbage is a term used to describe products that can break down naturally to form simpler compounds that are safe for the environment.
These products are often animal or plant-based.
Let’s find out more about biodegradable garbage in this article.
What does Garbage Mean?
Garbage has various definitions. According to Merriam Webster, garbage refers to food waste.
It is also a useless or disposable material, especially kitchen waste.
In North America, garbage means spoiled or wasted food and any other form of refuse generated from households or kitchens.
Garbage is a waste material of any kind. It can get discarded plant or animal matter generated by:
- Retail premises
- Food processing plants
You should understand that garbage doesn’t include agricultural or forestry residues, sewage sludge, or manure.
Biodegradable waste like paper, natural textiles, or processed wood is not garbage.
Garbage also excludes by-products that never become waste in the food production industry.
What does Biodegradable Mean?
Biodegradable is the ability of substances to get decomposed or broken down by the action of microorganisms like fungi or bacteria.
Other natural factors such as oxygen, temperature, UV radiation, and moisture levels may also initiate degradation.
Biodegradable substances may decompose either aerobically (with oxygen) or anaerobically (without oxygen).
The primary by-products of decomposition of such substances include:
- Simple organic compounds
- Carbon dioxide
- Methane (under anaerobic decomposition)
All these by-products get assimilated back into the environment in different ways.
For instance, the plants absorb the simple organic manure formed to boost crop yields.
Most of the time, the process doesn’t cause ecological harm.
The term biodegradable can include biodegradable solids or compostable substances.
It may also imply liquids that decompose into water.
What is Biodegradable Garbage?
Biodegradable garbage comes from two terms, i.e., biodegradable and garbage.
In most cases, biodegradable is also referred to as food waste, green waste, or organic waste.
It is any useless or disposable organic kitchen-based materials that can decompose.
That means they can get degraded naturally by solar radiation, oxygen, water, or microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi.
These agents break down complex biodegradable garbage into simpler organic matter, a process called decomposition.
The process facilitates the formation of new organic compounds (humus), which helps improve soil quality.
In this way, biodegradable garbage is a good thing for the environment.
The plants can absorb the natural fertilizers formed to increase their yield levels.
Examples of Biodegradable Garbage?
- Some of the examples of biodegradable garbage include:
- Fruit and vegetable waste
- Coffee sediments
- Tea and coffee filter bags
- Tainted food
- Stale bread and biscuits
- Wasted meat
What Happens to Biodegradable Garbage when Disposed of?
When biodegradable waste gets disposed of, whether in a landfill, soil, or compost pit, it starts to decompose.
That means natural factors like solar radiation, oxygen, water, including microbes available in such areas, will start breaking the garbage.
The rate at which biodegradable garbage will degrade varies from one type of food waste to another.
It may also get affected by various factors such as:
The decomposition rate of biodegradable garbage is higher when temperatures in the existing environment are warmer.
In a landfill, the proximity to other waste makes it more difficult for microorganisms to break down the biodegradable garbage.
2. Moisture Level
There must be sufficient moisture for biodegradable garbage to decompose faster.
If the moisture level is too low, biodegradable garbage will take a longer time to decompose.
The degradation of biodegradable garbage will occur faster with a higher oxygen supply (occurs aerobically).
But if there are limited oxygen amounts, the garbage will decompose much slower. So it’ll take a longer time for biodegradable garbage to decompose fully.
Microbes such as bacteria and fungi are key players in the decomposition of biodegradable garbage.
The decay rate will be faster where these organisms are in plenty but slower in places without.
Is Biodegradable Garbage Harmful to the Environment?
The answer is yes. If not properly disposed of, biodegradable garbage can be as dangerous to the environment as non-biodegradable waste.
Biodegradable waste will decay anaerobically when disposed of in landfills or in large amounts.
Such conditions produce methane gas which is a potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
So the process releases methane into the atmosphere, contributing to the global warming effects.
Disposing of biodegradable garbage in landfills also can cause foul-smelling gas.
That’s because the debris found in the landfills promotes anaerobic fermentation, which gives off a bad smell in the environment.
The waste may also get washed by surface runoff, leading to pollution of water bodies.
Water pollution, in turn, affects aquatic life. It also causes dangerous waterborne diseases that make people sick or even die.
What is the Most Effective Way to Manage Biodegradable Garbage?
Poor handling of biodegradable garbage can have harmful effects on the environment and human health.
That’s why we must manage biodegradable garbage properly.
And the best way to do so is to compost the garbage. The process is often very simple and doesn’t require much effort.
The U.S has various composting programs that allow residents to effectively manage their food waste.
Once you register for the program, composting is often very simple.
You collect your biodegradable garbage in the garbage containers these facilities will give you.
Waste collectors paid by the facility or the government will come to pick your waste on specific days of the week. They’ll empty the bins and return them to you.
If you live near a composting facility, you can take your waste there to get turned into compost.
You can also choose to carry out the composting process. Individuals who join the composting programs usually receive everything needed to handle and decompose the degradable garbage.
The process gives excellent natural fertilizer for agriculture or gardening purposes.
What is biodegradable garbage? Biodegradable garbage is a kind of garbage that can get decomposed by microorganisms and natural factors in the environment.
It includes kitchen-based waste like vegetable and fruit peels, food waste, etc.
With proper management through composting, biodegradable garbage causes little to no harm to the ecosystem.
Please check if there are any composting programs to manage your biodegradable garbage the right way.