Organic waste (especially food and garden waste) make up a substantial portion—in some countries as much as 70%–of the household waste stream, and strategies for improving the management of organic discards are critical to make real progress reducing waste to landfills and incinerators. Organic waste tends to burn inefficiently and produces very little energy, but the resulting pollution has a direct negative impact on our climate and air quality. However, organic “waste” can be valuable resource with multiple benefits if used well. GAIA members have pioneered many successful and innovative organics management projects. Positive uses include:
Returning organic material to the earth as compost is one of the best things we can do for our climate, our food systems, and our communities. Research has shown that compost increases soil’s ability to sequester carbon dioxide, thus helping to reduce climate change. GAIA members in many places have implemented creative compost programs and community gardens, and prevented plans to burn these valuable organic resources. Cities like Milan, Italy and San Francisco, USA, for example, have created powerful, effective city-wide composting programs, and partner with GAIA to help share their successful models. GAIA has also documented an innovative vermiculture (worm composting) program to manage vegetable waste from homes and markets in La Pintana, Chile.
Human food discards can make a perfect meal for some domestic animals like pigs. GAIA members in Indonesia, for example, developed successful projects to recover food discards for animals.
Biodigestion is a process that converts organic waste into a form of biogas that can be used as clean energy and into solid and liquid byproducts that can be used as soil amendments. GAIA works, for example, with organized waste picker groups in India that have experience in pioneering successful, decentralized biogas programs.