Recently I have heard some of my peers use the phrase “when in doubt, throw it out!” in regards to determining if something is compostable or not. This was eye opening to me, because I believe it may have been coming from a place of ambivalence and confusion. This concept was foreign to me because I grew up composting at home and in school and it is now second nature to me. It was eye opening for just how uneducated a large percent of people are about issues surrounding sustainability and composting and how much that is affecting the productivity of DUs composting initiative.
Many students simply end up throwing away their food waste and compostable containers because they do not know what is compostable or the difference they are able to make if they take the time to separate their waste. In the United States 72% of waste going into landfills is organic materials that can be composted. When organic waste is put into landfills it disturbs its normal decomposition and starts creates methane which is one of the green house gasses that contributes to global climate change. The landfills are the largest contributor of methane into the atmosphere and have a profound impact on the environment. When organic waste is composted properly, it releases very little CO2 and is exponentially less harmful.
Composting not only helps the environment, but it can also directly help our communities. Compost programs create more jobs than other waste management programs, such as landfills. Composting also creates a marketable byproduct: fertile soil! This creates more positions and opportunities for people in the community as well as a high functioning economy. This can help local businesses, and better the surrounding communities but the US has a long way to go in order to change the status of the processing of waste in this country. There are very few large and functioning programs established in the US and that is a main factor to the high amount of waste that is still being directed to the landfills.
It is no wonder that there is confusion surrounding what is compostable! People are simply not exposed to the practice as a result of the lacking number of facilities and the lack of education surrounding the topic. Even here on the DU campus, there is a lack of knowledge that needs to be addressed surrounding composting and its benefits. Every person has to make it their own personal issue in order for it to be taken seriously and for the program to effectively flourish. This way DU can be a more sustainable place and be a better part of the community.
Written by Madeline Caruso, ESLLC 2015-2016
Brenda Platt and Nora Goldstein. “BioCycle.” BioCycle. N.p., July 2014. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.