Youth Blog Series: Organic Waste

Be the Change’s Youth Blog Series highlights blogs written by university student interns at Be the Change Earth Alliance. In the blogs, the interns reflect on their experience completing “Action Packs,” which are learning resources that guide students in research, critical thinking and tangible action related to a global sustainability topic.

Action Pack Summary

This Action Pack delves into the environmental consequences of not properly disposing of food scraps. In addition, this Action Pack explores the global issue of food waste- which is created at the many different levels within the cycle from production all the way to disposal. Through a myriad of activities, this Action Pack analyzes our contemporary relationship to organic waste and encourages positive alterations by outlining the importance of both minimizing food waste and properly managing food waste disposal.  

When food waste is improperly disposed of, it gets added to the landfill. There, it produces methane gas, which is a huge contributor to climate change. It also releases toxic substances, such as leachate, which are detrimental to water quality. Redirecting our organic waste from the landfill and instead towards proper disposal sites, such as composting facilities, has beneficial implications by aiding in the creation of soil and biogas (which is a clean and renewable source of energy). 

Actions from the “Action Survey” can be implemented to develop compost systems at home. There are also examples of how food waste can be initially minimized, such as: only buying what you need from the grocery store (rather than buying in large quantities), purchasing the less aesthetically appealing food (eg: apples that don’t look pretty, but will taste just as good!), and properly storing food for longer shelf lives.  Learning about the intricacies surrounding our relationship with food waste is an important step towards bolstering more sustainable practices and  behaviours. 

My Reflection

After completing this Action Pack, I was challenged to set up a compost system at home. Growing up, my parents enforced composting and had a giant container for it in the backyard. But that was the last place that I lived where I properly disposed of my organic waste- and it’s been about 7 years since I lived there. However, I recently moved into a new apartment with roommates who are all knowledgeable and committed to living a sustainable lifestyle. So, when I informed them that we will be composting from now on, their response was “we should’ve started already.” My ultimate concern with composting was the smell. I live on the top floor of an old apartment building and it gets unbearably hot in the summers. However, several people told me that compost can be stored in the freezer to avoid the smelly problem. So far, keeping the brown compost bag in the freezer has worked. However, there is no city regulated compost bin for our apartment building, so I will need to find a place to dispose of my compost. I am aware that most homes have a “green bin” to throw out organic waste, but for me, I will be throwing my compost away in my neighbor’s green bin, with their permission of course. For others who are willing to give composting a try, it is really easy, all houses have a green bin to throw away food scraps and yard trimmings. This system began in 2013, and helps divert waste from going into landfills and incinerators. 

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