Per capita, the United States is one of the biggest waste generators in the world. We throw out almost 1,700 pounds of garbage per person, per year. For every 10 pounds of garbage we throw away per person, almost 4 of those pounds are made up of organic waste: things like egg shells, banana peels, coffee grounds and other food scraps.
Removing organic material from the waste-stream would be of great benefit for municipalities facing high tipping-fees, overflowing landfills and the negative impacts of incineration.
Aerobic composting is a fairly simple and inexpensive option for many single-family homeowners. However, for dense urban environments like New York City, composting one’s own organic waste can be almost impossible.
While there is no simple solution for organic waste management in urban systems, Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency has undertaken a study to better understand how to manage organics and composting for dense living conditions. Their findings and recommendations can be found in their pdf report: Organic Waste Management In Apartments (if you are having trouble opening the file in your browser, right-click to download the report directly).
The report includes architectural design, facility management, municipal and policy case-studies for implementing organic waste management solutions. These include options for retro-fitting existing apartments as well as design-guidelines for future apartment developments. One interesting recommendation came from an apartment developer who suggested the planning department create a sort of waste/recycling/composting statutory requirement so waste storage was not an architectural afterthought. This reminds me of the purpose of New York City’s Active Design Guidelines. What if architects and planners elevated waste (both solid and liquid) to the forefront of design? The report’s conclusion reveals that “the long-term environmental and financial gains of separating organic wastes and diverting from landfill disposal will offset the initial start-up, implementation and scheme maintenance costs.”
Note: all chart images are screenshots from the Organic Waste Management In Apartments report. Featured Image by micamonkey, 2007. Downloaded from Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/micamonkey/491586640/ in May, 2012.