The Recycling of Organic Waste

The management, treatment and recycling of waste result from an observation: the volumes of waste have multiplied since 1950, as well as their harmful effects on our health, the environment and the economy.

Organic waste comes from living things. They can be kitchen waste (vegetable peelings, leftover meat) or green spaces (mowed lawns, dead leaves …). The recycling of organic waste is facilitated by the fact that, as organic elements, they are biodegradable and are rapidly transformed. Recycling organic waste is possible in several ways: it can be treated at home or collectively.

What recycling for organic waste?

There are two ways of biological recovery, an aerobic one (in the presence of oxygen), composting and an anaerobic one (in the absence of oxygen), anaerobic digestion. These two routes are based on the natural degradation of organic waste under the action of organisms and micro-organisms: decomposers.

The first type creates reusable compost in gardens and garden centers for fertilization and the second type from bio-gas consisting largely of methane. This biogas can then be used to produce heat, electricity and even biofuel. Some people rent a dumpster to bring all their organic waste to a treatment facility. This is the thing to do if you are environmentally conscious.

Composting, like anaerobic digestion, is the most natural way to treat waste. By carrying out composting at home, the volume of waste decreases significantly as well as, not an insignificant effect, the smell of garbage cans. All you need is a little space outside and some municipalities even offer compost bins at low prices.

Waste incineration: advantages and disadvantages

The incineration of waste undoubtedly has the advantage of reducing the volume of our trash. However, the question of the risks that technology poses to humans and the environment remains unanswered.

Benefits of waste incineration

In the West people produce on average, some 350 kilograms of household waste per year. Most are landfilled, but incineration of waste continues to progress. Incineration can be conducted with energy recovery. Reducing the volume of waste by almost 90% is good, taking advantage of it to produce energy, is even better.

By burning a ton of household waste, we can indeed produce around 700 kWh of electricity or, better still, up to 1,500 kWh of heat. While the profitability of energy recovery from waste is not always assured, recovery is today globally competitive, all the more so since it is completely independent of oil and gas prices.

Disadvantages of household waste incineration plants

Even if specialists agree that today’s household waste incineration plants have nothing to do with incinerators at the start of the 20th century, there is still some mistrust in them. Opponents continue to question the supposed toxic fumes emitted by these UIOMs. However, since the 1990s, the requirements in terms of health and the environment (emission of dust and rejection of acid molecules, in particular) have been constantly increasing.

At cruising speed, there is a temperature of more than 850 ° C in the heart of an incinerator. A temperature at which neither bacteria, viruses, microbes, or even most pollutants can resist. The start-up or shutdown phases are more delicate and R&D work is underway to improve control and the quality of the process.

There has also been real progress on the emissions side. Already, between 1995 and 2006, total dioxin emissions by European UIOMs went from 1,090g to 8.5g even though the quantity of waste incinerated has continued to increase. At the same time, mercury emissions fell from 28t to 4t and lead emissions from 72t to 5t, all very good results.