Ideas for Sustainable Organic Waste Management at Yung Shue Wan
BY DAVID SAUNDERS & BING LAW OF THE GREEN PATCH
Present arrangements for municipal waste management in the community of Yung Shue Wan and district, on Lamma Island, offer ideal opportunities for development of what is known in many parts of the world as Community Composting.
Main aim and purpose for community composting is to collect and treat most standard organic wastes from municipal waste management streams, preventing this type of waste from entering landfill. The finished composted materials are then available for use as a resource in community enterprises such as sustainable landscaping and gardening projects.
The success of the scheme depends upon the establishment of strong links between local authorities, who supervise collection and treatment of organic wastes, and the local communities, who promote and coordinate the community‐based projects.
It is clear that in this climate of reducing organic wastes to landfill Community Composting has an important role to play. This role not only contributes to diverting organic waste from landfill but, perhaps more importantly, engages people at grassroots level into taking action to reduce waste. The role of the community is so important in promoting behaviour change and fostering community cohesion which is sometimes overlooked.
With government setting specific targets for reduction of biodegradable waste going to landfill, feasibility and value for community composting schemes should be viewed as an attractive sustainable community development initiative by central and local authorities.
How it begins
From interested members of the public a Community Composting Group is established, usually functioning as a not‐for‐profit community enterprise. The Group promotes further interest and awareness about the scheme throughout the community. All available information is displayed to educate about longer term values and benefits of community composting. Specialist help and guidance will be needed. A general meeting is held to establish a simple regulatory framework for the scheme and a core group selected. Approach is then made to the local authority with Group proposals and plans. Liaison between the Group and local authorities is vital for the scheme’s success.
Community composting schemes operate and function particularly well in small to medium urban communities, thereby eliminating the need to invest in larger‐scale treatment facilities. Provision of organic waste containers and responsibility for separation and placement of containers at specific collection points is carried out by members of the community, coordinated by the Community Composting Group. Similarly, return and re‐distribution of empty containers becomes a collective responsibility.
Collection and treatment of wastes should be straightforward if YSW’s existing waste collection and processing services can be adapted for this scheme. Implementation and running costs should be low due to equipment, services and facilities already in place.
Separated shrubbery and plant wastes, known as ‘green’ waste, are collected from labeled recycle bins at established waste bin areas. Organic kitchen and catering wastes, in sealed containers from YSW’s cafes and restaurants, are deposited by their staff to agreed collection points. Household food wastes, also in sealed containers, are deposited to same collection points.
It is possible to make a range of compost and mulching products from either one or a combination of the collected organic waste materials. Space required for treatment will be determined by amounts of waste collected and type of containers chosen for the scheme. In the interests of health and safety, and for ease of purpose, it is preferable for waste treatments to be carried out at local authority premises and under the supervision of trained staff.
‘Green’ wastes ‐ Hard fibre waste, such as tree trunks and branches are shredded into chippings and stored in bags for collection. Softer fibre wastes like leaves, grasses and twigs placed in piles for aerobic composting. Finished compost material bagged up and stored for collection.
Soft tissue, wet organic wastes – A simple, safe and effective method of treating this type of waste is called bokashi. This is a Japanese technique, in use for many centuries, but more recently streamlined for use in millions of Japanese homes. Bokashi fermentation takes place in sealed containers as each placement of restaurant or household organic waste is covered with bran containing Effective Microorganisms (EM). Upon part-fermentation, full containers are taken to collection points for transport to a specified site for final treatment. Transportation in these sealed full containers eliminates concerns for storage and handling contamination. Containers are sized to suit home or restaurant use.
Final treatment is simple and basic with no health and safety hazards involved. The container contents are placed in prepared trenches at a depth of 30cm and then buried by replacing extracted soil. After a further decomposition period, between 3 – 5 weeks depending on climatic conditions, the material is regarded as fully digested and safe for use.
Compost – a new community resource
After treatment recycled organic waste products become a valuable commodity. The Community Composting Group can then establish a community enterprise programme where these materials are collected for distribution and use in sustainable urban landscaping and community gardening projects, managed by the Group and its support volunteers.
The Group continues to promote and supply information about the scheme, volunteer opportunities, projects etc. via posters, newsletters and website.
In order to offset the scheme’s running costs, excess organic products can be sold on to the general public at regular intervals.