Is compost waste biodegradable? (3 conditions for waste to be compostable) 

In this article, it will be known whether compost waste is biodegradable or not. Other covered topics will be: 

  • What is compost waste?
  • What are examples of compost waste?
  • What are the types of composting?
  • What is biodegradable waste?
  • What are examples of biodegradable waste?
  • What are the applications of compost waste?
  • What are the applications of biodegradable waste?
  • Is compost waste biodegradable?
  • FAQs

Is compost waste biodegradable?

Yes, compost waste is indeed biodegradable. All compost waste is indeed biodegradable because it contains organic matter which can be degraded by the action of microbes. 

What is compost waste?

A waste that can be composted is termed compost waste. Composting is a process in which organic matter is converted into compost. A compost may act as a natural fertiliser that may improve the organic contents present in the soil. 

There are various drivers of composting that are responsible for making compost from waste. These may include microbes, right conditions of temperature, pressure and aeration. Under these conditions, the degradative capacity of microbes is augmented leading to the formation of compost. 

This compost has numerous benefits which advocate that more composting should be done not just by organisations and institutions, but also by every household. 

The greatest advantage of composting is that it is an efficient way of reducing and recycling waste while also increasing the organic contents of the soil. There are many stood out applications and advantages of composting which will be detailed in the remaining sections of the article. 

An understanding of composting is very important in discerning the difference between composting and biodegradability. That is because both the terms have a lot of similarities and that is why they are often used interchangeably. 

What are some examples of compost waste?

Let us explore what can be composted. Examples of materials that can be made a compost include:

  • Nutshells 
  • Leaves
  • House plants
  • Hair 
  • Fur
  • Fireplace ashes 
  • Eggshells
  • Fruits 
  • Vegetables
  • Grass clippings
  • Paper
  • Tea bags
  • Newspapers

Is there any classification of composting?

There are usually two types of composting. These are:

  • Cold composting
  • Hot composting

The first type of composting is less managed composting. You don’t have to invest much time and resources in this type of composting. Simply put, you employ nature for this type of composting. 

While cold composting may appear appealing, it has a number of disadvantages too. For example, since there is no need to tend to the waste put in the process of cold composting, this process will take much more time as compared to hot composting. It may take more than 2 years. 

If you are up to cold composting, you need to make sure that you have ample time and an undisturbed place for this type of composting. Patience is the key here. 

Another disadvantage anchored with the cold composting process is that since there is no high temperature involved, this type of composting is bound to provide room for microbes and decomposers. 

In this scenario, chances are that the microbes present in the compost may cause health implications to you and therefore, care and precautions are necessary in this case. 

The other type of composting is termed hot composting because it requires more management, more labour and of course, high temperature. 

This type of composting will not let you put all the work on mother nature. You will have to step up and do your part. That is why this hot composting is regarded as a more managed and organised form of composting. 

Hot composting also overcome the issues that are linked with cold composting. Since it requires a greater degree of management, the time required for this type of composting is reduced. It may happen in about 4 months. However, in some cases, hot composting may also take up to 12 months. 

The issue of microbes is also overcome in the case of hot composting. Since this type of composting is done at higher temperatures, chances are that you do not need to worry about the microbes problem in this case. 

Be it hot composting or cold composting, each has its own merits and demerits. There is always a tradeoff when it comes to natural processes. What really matters is what is your need based on which you will need to choose one. 

What is biodegradable waste?

Biodegradable waste is waste which can be biodegraded. ​​Biodegradability is a process through which complex materials are broken down into simple materials by the action of microbes. These microbes can be bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa, and even yeast. 

The process of biodegradability can be called a natural dustbin because it is nature’s way to ensure that there is no waste accumulation in the environment. It is coded in the profile of nature that waste has harmful impacts on the environment. 

The harmful impacts of waste are not just restricted to the environment but also the life that resides within it. If there is no biodegradation, there will be waste and deterioration of life and our atmosphere, in short, a global catastrophe. 

Regarding biodegradability, it is generally thought that there are two types of waste. These are biodegradable and non-biodegradable. 

What are some examples of biodegradable waste?

The examples of biodegradable waste can be given through two frames. As it is stated that based on biodegradability, waste may be: biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. 

Examples of biodegradable waste may include:

  • Food waste
  • Animal waste
  • Human waste
  • Paper waste
  • Manure
  • Sewage
  • Hospital waste
  • Dead plants
  • Biopolymers

Examples of non-biodegradable waste may include:

  • Electronic waste
  • Plastics 
  • Polyvinyl Chloride
  • Nuclear waste
  • Hazardous waste
  • Chemical waste
  • Hospital waste 
  • Synthetic resins
  • Synthetic fibres
  • Dyneema 
  • PHA 
  • EVA

What are the applications of compost waste?

Compost waste delivers many applications and advantages which can be stated as: 

  • Reduced waste
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Water conservation
  • Improvement of soil quality
  • Better water retention profile
  • Reduced personal food waste
  • Reduced soil and water pollution

Composting is a natural way to reduce and reuse waste. In this way, less stress is put on waste management endeavours. 

This is an important application because the current waste generation is already at 2 billion tons globally. This means that an average person is responsible for more than 4-5 kgs of waste production per day. 

Another important application of composting is that the compost produced can be used as a natural fertiliser. This is also very important because the conventional agrochemicals used to improve soil quality are made from harmful chemicals. 

These chemicals may leach out into the soil and water bodies and may cause all sorts of degradation. The soil and aquatic species are affected, there is pollution, and through animals, these chemicals enter the food chains eventually ending up in our bellies. 

Another great advantage of composting is that it results in less water consumption by plants. That is because it is studied that high organic contents in the soil lead to better water retention. 

If water is retained more, it will be conserved more. And compost is nothing but decaying organic matter. If compost is added to soil, the organic contents of the soil are increased which leads to better water retention. 

It is studied that if there is an increase of 1% soil organic content, then it may lead to better water retention of more than 20,000 gallons per acre. These figures are beyond encouraging. 

The consumption of water in agricultural and crop-related activities is already a big concern. In some states, more than 80% of available water is used for agriculture. Water is a limited resource which is further scarce in developing countries. 

Another advantage of composting is the reduction of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are known to cause global warming which is affecting the earth and life severely. 

When compostable waste is dumped in a landfill, there is anaerobic digestion which leads to the release of methane and carbon dioxide. Both of these gases are greenhouse gases that contribute directly to the problem of global warming.

Global warming, in turn, gives rise to many other environmental anomalies and complications such as the melting of glaciers, rising sea levels, unprecedented weather patterns, deforestation et cetera. 

The engine of the earth is linkage. When there is a disruption in one aspect, other aspects are also affected gravely. This is also seen in the case of global warming. 

What are the applications of biodegradable waste?

Biodegradability is important because if there is no biodegradability, there will be a lot of negative impacts on the environment as well as life. These effects can be used as an example to assert why biodegradability is important. 

These effects can be: 

  • Melting glaciers
  • More floods
  • Frequent droughts
  • Unprecedented weather patterns
  • Insects attacks
  • Land degradation
  • Pollution
  • Global warming
  • GHG emissions
  • Rise in temperature
  • Cancer
  • Mutation
  • Psychological complication
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Abnormality
  • Reproductive complications
  • Hormonal issues
  • Damage to foetus
  • Necrosis

Is compost waste biodegradable? (3 conditions for waste to be compostable) 

In the light of the details given by now, it can be summarised that all compost waste is indeed biodegradable. However, this is not the other way round implying all biodegradable waste can not be composted. 

There are certain necessities that have to be check-listed before considering a waste compostable. These include:

  • The waste should be organic
  • It should be non-toxic
  • It should contain good organic and mineral contents

Since all waste does not checklist these properties, all wastes can not be composted. However, biodegradability does not really depend on these specificities. 

Conclusion

It is thus concluded that all compost waste is indeed biodegradable because it contains organic matter which can be degraded by the action of microbes. 

Frequently asked questions: Is compost waste biodegradable?

Which is more harmful: biodegradable waste or compostable waste?

Biodegradable waste is more harmful because it may be toxic and cause environmental degradation. An example can be drywall mud. It is biodegradable but its degradation releases harmful gases like hydrogen sulphide. 

How long does composting take?

It depends on external factors and the type of composting. Cold composting may take more than 2 years. Hot composting may take 4 months to one year. 

References

  • Benjawan, L., Sihawong, S., Chayaprasert, W., & Liamlaem, W. (2015). Composting of biodegradable organic waste from Thai households in a semi-continuous composter. Compost science & utilization, 23(1), 11-17.
  • Sonesson, U., Björklund, A., Carlsson, M., & Dalemo, M. (2000). Environmental and economic analysis of management systems for biodegradable waste. Resources, conservation and recycling, 28(1-2), 29-53.
  • Bulkeley, H., & Askins, K. (2009). Waste interfaces: biodegradable waste, municipal policy and everyday practice. Geographical Journal, 175(4), 251-260.

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