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Composting our way to a sustainable planet

20 May 2022
Make an impact on the effects of climate change with compost
It's International Compost Awareness Week, and while you may not know it, this is one of the best ways to make a meaningful impact in mitigating the effects of climate change.

International Compost Awareness Week may not have found it's way into many event calendars, but the magic of turning organic waste into a superfood for plants shouldn’t be underestimated. And now that sustainability is finally at the forefront of public thinking, it's time give that humble compost bin the respect it deserves.

Composting is important enough to have made it to the University’s Sustainability Strategy’s water, waste and recycling targets, the aim being to compost 80% of food waste by 2025.

The magic of compost

Composting our organic waste has many benefits to our environment:

  • Compost as carbon capture and soil conditioning: compost feeds the soil and encourages microbes to grow. These microbes can sequester carbon in the soil through photosynthesis. As organic chemistry majors know, everything is made of carbon, and compost is a great way to get it out of food waste and back into the ecosystem (but not in that nasty emissions kind of way).
  • Reduce greenhouse gasses: On that note, if organic waste ends up in landfill, it will rot anaerobically and release greenhouse gases, mostly methane, which is toxic and contributes to global warming. Composting stops this.
  • Increasing soil water retention: compost has been proven to hold water, priceless during times of drought.
  • Circular economy: turn ‘waste’ into a resource by building a resilient loop – your organic waste is turned to compost which improves soil quality and boosts food production, strengthening food supply, where waste is generated to start the process again. Compost can turn trash into treasure.

Kiss The Ground trailer

The 2020 film Kiss the Ground shows how composting can be a potential solution for climate change.

Where can I put my organic waste?

Got food that you've left too long to eat? Before chucking it in the nearest bin, consider one of the following options:

  • No space for your own home compost? Join Share Waste, a free network which spreads from Sydney to Broken Hill connecting compost bins to people with organic waste to give. The interactive map will introduce you to a neighbour who would be happy to take your compostable waste from you.

  • On Camperdown/Darlington campus? Feed Chester, our biodigester by disposing of your organic waste correctly in the green organic waste bins. The initial trial has bins in the Charles Perkins Centre and Law Building Library Kitchen with more to be rolled out over the year.

  • Local council to the rescue? Check to see if your local council has a curb side organic waste stream, and/or if they have partnered with Compost Revolution to provide subsidised compost bins and worm farms.

  • Lucky enough to have a backyard? Start your composting journey at home! Gardening Australia has some clear information on getting your compost balanced right. 

What about compostable packaging?

Reduce, reuse, rot then recycle: these are the keys to minimising impact. Despite best intentions, realistically we all need to use disposable packaging sometimes. So check for compostable packaging options to keep that footprint small. And here is a hack to check just how compostable that packaging could be:

With compostable packaging, the Australian standard code number is your key to see if the item can be composted in the home compost or an industrial composter.

AS 5810-2010 means the item can be composted in a home composter. 

AS 4736-2006 indicates the item needs a higher temperature to break down and so requires an industrial composter

All USU outlets have compostable packaging, as do many other outlets on our campuses. Check the packaging to see if they can be composted at home or in an industrial composter.

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