Even in the usually evergreen Pacific Northwest, fall brings about plenty of leaves that need collecting. For most homeowners without a compost grinder, the most effective solution for disposing of leaves and other yard debris is green waste recycling. Every week, by rolling your compost bin to the curb for collection, you start the process of green waste recycling that’s so very important for communities everywhere.
At West Salem Machinery, we develop compost screening equipment and compost grinders to make green waste recycling easier for municipalities throughout the Oregon and the NW region. However, many of the people who compost and recycle may not realize what happens to their green waste once it’s picked up. Let’s take a look at a few important facts about green waste recycling.
What is Green Waste?
Green waste, or garden waste, is any organic material that’s suitable for composting and recycling. The twigs, leaves, plants, and fruit produced by a yard all fit into the category as recyclable.
Additionally, kitchen waste, such as food scraps, coffee grounds, and tea bags, can also fit into the category as recyclable waste. However, not all food waste fits into this category, as not everything can be broken down and composted. Meat and fish bones, dairy products, and some other types of cooked food need to be placed in food waste bins that are separate from green recycling bins.
Similarly, items like hay, pine straw, and dried leaves that are easily combustible are actually considered as “brown waste” due to their high carbon content. Green waste contains a high concentration of nitrogen.
What Happens to Green Waste After Collection?
Once collected, green waste is taken to special composting sites where the materials are separated and then recycled. Any material found in the collected green waste that cannot be composted is removed using compost screening equipment. The waste that remains is then shredded with a compost grinder and then laid out in long piles where they are allowed to decompose.
The time it takes for green waste materials to decompose varies, but the entire process can be sped up by raising the temperature to help the bacteria and enzymes involved in the decomposition process to work more quickly. By decreasing decomposition time, any harmful microbes or plant diseases that could pose a threat to the community are killed off.
Depending on the intended use for the recycled material, the entire recycling process can take anywhere from 8 to 16 weeks to complete.
What is Recycled Green Waste Used for?
Once recycled, green waste has application in a variety of industries, including biofuels, landscaping, and agriculture. Most frequently, green waste is used as topsoil or as a way to add needed nutrients to plants, but it can also be used in renewable energy and sewage disposal.
Manufactured Topsoils: Green waste offers vital nutrients that enable plants to grow and contains woody components that don’t quickly decompose, making it a vital component in manufactured topsoils.
Sewage Disposal: Before undergoing the composting process, sewage waste can be combined with green waste. This process creates an environmentally sustainable method for disposing of sewage waste that safely eliminates any risk of pollutants or pathogens causing health problems for the community.
Renewable Energy: The green waste recycling process creates two byproducts that can be used as biofuels. Biogas – a mixture of gases created by breaking down organic matter – is a renewable energy source that can be collected during the composting process. Additionally, green waste that contains no food waste can be decomposed to produce cellulosic ethanol, an emerging renewable energy source.
Why Bother Recycling Green Waste?
Simply put, anything that’s recycled doesn’t go into landfills that are already overflowing with non-compostable, non-biodegradable materials. Landfills all across the U.S. are reaching their capacity, and every effort we make as a community to reduce our footprint on the Earth has immeasurable benefits, now and into the future.
At West Salem, we will continue to design and develop innovative technology that will help the recycling industry meet the demands of a future where everything we throw away can find a new use and purpose. That’s not just good business, it’s a necessity to protect our plant so that the next generation can enjoy an unspoiled future.