Of the 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste produced, 69 million tons (approx. 67%) of paper and cardboard make up the bulk of material recycled, while plastics only make up about 4.38% of material recycled.1
Recycling is a means by which we can utilize an item for another use or product. Sometimes some items can only be recycled just once before the product is unstable and is no longer deemed usable for other products. Recycling systems in the U.S. are more complex and more expensive then it seems. There are several types of plastics that cannot be mixed with other. Often times, it is cheaper for a company to make new plastic items than to actually recycle them. Another major problem to face, is the lack of facilities needed to recycle bulk materials.
Composting Basics2, 3, 4, 5
- Composting is the highest form of recycling and the ability to reuse products and substances.
- It is the biological decomposition of organic matter under controlled aerobic condition. The by-product of aerobic decomposition is the production of carbon dioxide, minerals, water, heat, and hummus.
- It can produce soil conditioner, improve plant growth, and prevent soil erosion and runoff.
Composting is a great way that we can replenish the soil. It neutralizes phytotoxins in unstabilized organic matter, reduce the presence of pathogenic microorganisms, and produce organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. Making compost at home is something mostly everyone can do. Everyone has to eat so therefore there are food products that can be salvaged throughout the week. Most people never eat or use the entire fruit or vegetable. Those extra parts (tops, ends, skin/hull, core, spoiled parts), can be thrown into the freezer until you have enough to place into the ground or composting container. The basics of compostable materials include:
- Browns – This includes materials such as dead leaves, branches, and twigs.
- Greens – This includes materials such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds.
- Water – Having the right amount of water, greens, and browns is important for compost development.
Water6, 7, 8
- About 71% of earth’s surface is covered by water. Of that water 2.5% is freshwater. Most water we consume, comes from fresh water sources such as: lakes, reservoirs, streams, and rivers.
- Due to the population doubling over the past 50 years, there has been a significant increase in the consumption of water. At least 40 U.S. states anticipate water shortages by 2024.
- Water is the basic need of all living creatures. It is the medium for which life thrives and sustains itself. Due to its’ significance, it is imperative that we discuss water conservation.
The smallest functional unit is a cell and in that cell there are organelle structures, genetic information, proteins, and water. Water is something we use everyday. It is in the food we eat, what we drink, used when we bathe , when we cultivate our crops, build our houses, and on a molecular level, it is used and produced as a byproduct in the citric acid cycle. It is essential. Ways that we can preserve and conserve water include:
- Taking baths over showers or running the shower only when you are rinsing off.
- Utilizing grey water for plants and watering the lawn
- Be conscious of running the water excessively during your morning/evening routine, while doing dishes and washing clothes.
- Collect rainwater whenever possible!
Tips to try at home
- Start noticing how much scrap food you throw in the trash
- Place scraps in a plastic container (It’s okay if it’s plastic!), store in freezer until use
- Gather grass clippings, dry leaves and place in a dug out hole outside or plastic bin
- Place the food scraps in the pile of soil, dry leaves, twigs, and grass clipping and cover the food straps with about 10 inches of material. Moisten with water and let sit for at least 2 months before checking to see if the material has been decomposed.
- National Overview: Facts and Figures on Materials, Wastes and Recycling. (2020). EPA. web
- Epstein, E. (1996). The science of composting. CRC press.
- Misra, R. V., Roy, R. N., & Hiraoka, H. (2003). On-farm composting methods. Rome, Italy: UN-FAO.
- Insam, H., & De Bertoldi, M. (2007). Microbiology of the composting process. Compost science and technology, 8(1), 25-48.
- Composting at home: Composting basics. (2020). EPA. web
- Source: Igor Shiklomanov’s chapter “World fresh water resources” in Peter H. Gleick, (1993), Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World’s Fresh Water Resources.
- Water conservation at EPA. (2020). EPA. web
- Corral-Verdugo, V., Bechtel, R. B., & Fraijo-Sing, B. (2003). Environmental beliefs and water conservation: An empirical study. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 23(3), 247-257.