What is recycled organic waste used for?
There are three main current uses for organic waste, which are summarised below:
- Treated aerobically, organic waste can be composted, where it is broken down by aerobic microorganisms to produce compost, soil conditioner or landscaping mulch, returning carbon to the soil.
- Under anaerobic conditions, it can be digested by bacteria to produce methane, which can be used to generate electricity.
- Through a combination of biological and mechanical processes, it is also turned into fuel, which can be used instead of coal or coke in power stations or cement kilns.
For further information on organic waste and the various methods of composting check here
Also search the CAB Abstracts database for over 2300 records on organic wastes.
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Most people choose paper over plastic, as paper is renewable, degradable and recyclable and it is probably the greener option. However, in reality it is not that simple. Paper is heavier and bulkier to ship than plastic; it takes more energy to produce and uses damaging chemicals in its manufacturing process. Overall, the best packaging choice is the one that has the least total impact over its life cycle, i.e. from raw materials and shipping emissions to toxicity and waste generated, hence it depends on where it comes from and what you plan to do with it. There are some things to keep in mind when deciding which packaging to go for:
- Check whether the paper or plastic has already been recycled and whether you can reuse or recycle it.
- You may choose to avoid packaging altogether, but consider this – if it reduces the chances of a product perishing or breaking before it is used then it is always best to have the packaging than not. In which case just choose products with the smallest amount of packaging possible.
Can I put window envelopes in the paper recycling?
This is a tricky one. Envelopes usually will have sticky seals and sometimes trans p arent plastic address windows. The latex gum from self-seal envelopes clogs machines, so avoid those, even though they’re so much more convenient than the ones you have to lick. Plastic windows reduce the quality recycled paper, therefore, both should be removed before recycling. However, different paper mills have different tolerances to contaminants, depending on the equipment they use, the product being made, and the grade of recycled paper being made. For this reason, different recycling agencies have differing standards. In the UK, you can check whether your local authority will accept any type of envelope by using the postcode checker at www.recyclenow.com. Otherwise, remove the clear windows and sticky bits from your envelopes before placing them for recycling or just reuse your envelopes.
Source: New Scientist, 15 November 2008.