International Day for Biological Diversity
Protecting our biodiversity through proper food waste management

There are many reasons why biodiversity is important to us. A healthy environment and rich biodiversity supports the natural water cycle, helps with our food production, and recycles the air that we breathe. Biodiversity is not just the wildlife and nature that you can see, it is also the small microorganisms within soil that play a big part in the health of the entire ecosystems.

22 May 2021 is International Day for Biological Diversity, a day that is focused on generating awareness around the importance of biodiversity management. BiobiN South Africa looks at three reasons why composting food waste is a great solution to conserve our biodiversity.

  1. Keeping food waste out of landfill. Out of all the waste streams that go to landfill, food waste is the most detrimental to the environment and the surrounding biodiversity. Organic components biodegrade releasing odours and leachate. Odours attract unwanted rodent and pest species to a landfill site; the presence of one dominant species will disrupt the presence of others that could be indigenous to an area.

“A landfill site will really off-set the natural balance of an ecosystem. Clearing land to create more landfill space is becoming more prominent nowadays as many of our landfill sites in South Africa are approaching their capacity. This type of land conversion will only exacerbate the existing environmental impacts of a landfill site,” says Brian Küsel, a Director of BiobiN South Africa. “As many of our landfill sites approach capacity, we need to adopt waste diversion technologies, like large scale commercial composting units to avoid having to clear more land for landfill space.” 

  1. Recycling carbon through waste. They say that in nature there is no such thing as waste. The waste of one species is a valuable resource for another. Everything is recycled. By composting food and organic waste, we are essentially recycling carbon, one of the most important elements for life, with oxygen.

Organic waste breaks down and carbon is stored within the soil content. In soil, carbon helps with water retention and soil fertility, and ultimately plant growth. Improved plant growth and health will convert more atmospheric carbon dioxide is converted into oxygen. “By composting we sequester carbon in the soil. Ultimately this helps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by avoiding landfill carbon and methane emissions, and supporting plant growth that converts atmospheric carbon dioxide,” says Küsel. “Landfill sites remain one of the largest sources of GHG’s, specifically methane. By keeping organic waste out of landfill, we can essentially slow this contribution towards global warming and climate change, two major threats to biodiversity.”

  1. Providing soil with essential nutrients. It’s not just carbon that composting our food waste will provide our soils. Our food waste is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, three elements that promote healthy plant growth. Most synthetic fertilizers contain these three elements, however, one of the elements used in excess from fertilizers can run off into waterways to cause algae blooms. Algae blooms are a common environmental impact from agricultural fertilizers that adversely impacts the local biodiversity, especially in wetlands and rivers. An algae bloom will decrease the level of oxygen in a water body and eliminate the aquatic species that rely on that water source. Using compost, the chances of agricultural run-off from excess nutrients is a less likely occurrence.

As South Africa’s landfill airspace approaches capacity and government continues to put pressure on the industry to divert organic waste from landfill, alternative waste technology will be more widely adopted,” says Küsel. “On-site composting is an effective, clean and odour free method of disposing of organic waste that we can adopt to divert waste from landfill.”

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