Is garden waste biodegradable? (5 types of garden waste)

This article shall answer the question of the biodegradability of garden waste.

It shall also cover other areas such as:

  • Types of garden wastes.
  • Management of garden waste.
  • Composting of garden waste.
  • Eco-friendliness of garden waste.

Is garden waste biodegradable?

Yes, garden waste or green waste is biodegradable. The composition of garden waste includes a lot of substances but the majority is the waste from plants. 

Plants are very susceptible to bacterial and fungal degradation and therefore waste products derived from plants are highly biodegradable.

What is biodegradation?

Biodegradation is the breakdown of organic matter by microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi into the water, carbon dioxide, methane, and minerals. Heat energy is produced in the process.

Biodegradation occurs in three distinct stages: biodeterioration, bio-fragmentation, and assimilation.

Biodeterioration is the first stage of biodegradation that involves abiotic factors such as light, UV radiation, and water to help in the weakening of the structure of organic substances.

Bio-fragmentation is the second stage that involves the physical breakdown of organic matter into small particles, this is due to the biodeterioration of the organic matter in the first stage.

Assimilation is the last stage of biodegradation. It involves the bacteria and the fungi taking up the minerals and small biomass produced by the previous two stages into their biological systems.

The minerals are used as a source of energy and carbon for the synthesis of cells and tissues.

Biodegradation can occur in the presence or absence of oxygen. When biodegradation involves the microorganisms using oxygen, the process is called aerobic biodegradation.

Aerobic biodegradation produces carbon dioxide, water, and small biomass. Heat energy is also produced in the process. Aerobic biodegradation occurs very fast but it is not very efficient.

When biodegradation occurs in the absence of oxygen, it is called anaerobic biodegradation. The products of anaerobic biodegradation include water, carbon dioxide, and small biomass. In addition to these products, methane gas is also produced. Heat energy is released during the breakdown. 

Anaerobic biodegradation occurs slowly but is more efficient than aerobic biodegradation.

Biodegradation can be affected by several factors such as water, light, temperatures, the bioavailability of a molecule, and pH.

Water helps in the biodeterioration and mechanical fragmentation of substances, increasing the surface area for microbial degradation.

Light emits radiations that help in the biodeterioration and bio-fragmentation of organic matter. UV radiation is the most effective radiation. 

Temperature affects the rate of biodegradation. Some microorganisms are very active in high temperatures while others are active in low temperatures. The optimum temperatures for the microorganisms increase the rate of biodegradation.

Bioavailability is the availability of an organic substance to microorganisms. Highly concentrated organic matter has high bioavailability and this increases the rate of biodegradation.

pH is the measure of acidity or basicity of a substance. Some microorganisms are very active in acidic pH while others are active in neutral or alkaline pH. Optimum pH increases the rate of biodegradation

Advantages of biodegradation.

  • Biodegradation has several advantages which include the following:
  • It cleans the environment of the wastes.
  • Applicable to a wide range of products.
  • It can be triggered through composting
  • It is cost-effective.
  • Results to soil enrichment with nutrients.
  • Used to produce bioenergy.
  • Biodegradation through fermentation has led to the manufacturing of drugs.
  • It leads to the production of organic acids and alcohol.

Disadvantages of biodegradation.

  • Biodegradation has several disadvantages which include:
  • It leads to wear and tear of organic-based materials such as clothes.
  • It takes a very long time to degrade waste.
  • When used to produce bioenergy, it requires a lot of biomass.
  • It is easily affected by contaminants such as oil and antibiotics.
  • It is only limited to organic matter

What are the types of garden waste?

Garden waste is a collection of many waste materials that occur in different shapes and forms.

Some of the types of garden wastes include:

Grass cuttings and leaves.

This is the most common type of garden waste. It is derived from cutting grass or pruning hedges and bushes. 

This waste can be used as a mulch that will be decomposed by the microorganisms to release nutrients essential for plants in your garden.

Fruit and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables can also form part of garden waste. These mostly occur from windfalls and your garden may be inhabited by rotten fruits such as tomatoes, peaches, and apricots.

Waste fruits and vegetables can be composted or be used as feedstock for animals.

Twigs and branches.

Twigs and branches can accumulate in the garden as a result of breakages due to strong winds or also it can result from the gardener cutting the twigs and branches to shape their garden

Twigs and branches are hazardous because they have sharp pointed edges and may pierce through someone’s body.

Plastics materials.

Plastic materials such as polythene papers, styrofoam cups, and plastic pipes can be found as part of garden waste. 

These types of garden wastes pose a lot of environmental challenges since it is neither biodegradable nor compostable

Broken pots, seed trays, glass.

Miscellaneous objects in the garden can also form part of the waste. Objects like used or broken pots, old seed trays, and glasses can be found in garden waste.

These wastes need proper handling and management as they can be hazardous.

How is garden waste managed?

Garden waste can be handled in different ways depending on the volume and the type.

The following are ways in which garden waste is managed.

Composting.

This is the breakdown of organic matter into small biomass, heat, ammonia, water, and carbon dioxide.

The process starts by profiling wastes into decomposable and non-decomposable. Decomposable wastes are those derived from plants and animals while non-decomposable wastes consist of materials like plastics and glass.

Compostable material is cut or shredded into small pieces and arranged in piles. Green wastes such as leaves and vegetables are rich in nitrogen while brown wastes such as wood are rich in carbon, these two types of wastes enhance the process of composting.

Wastes are made wet by sprinkling some water to enhance the process, and the piles of wastes are turned from time to time to enhance aeration which enhances composting.

The composting material is then used as fertilizer for other plants in the garden.

Composting is almost similar to biodegradation only that composting is an enhanced process while biodegradation occurs naturally. Both processes involve microorganisms.

Mulching.

Mulching is the use of plant wastes to make layers in the garden. Mulching can also be done using other materials such as plastics.

Mulching shields the soil from sunlight, therefore conserving soil moisture. Mulching also enriches the soil with minerals because the mulch undergoes decomposition by microorganisms to release essential elements that enrich the soil.

Mulching also helps in improving the soil structure and also reduces weeds by reducing surface area for weed growth.

Incineration.

Incineration is the process of burning materials in a controlled chamber called an incinerator. This process is also called the thermal treatment of wastes.

Non-biodegradable and non-compostable wastes are burnt in an incinerator. This process is efficient in reducing plastic waste, but it pollutes the environment by emitting toxic fumes.

Recycling and reusing.

Some garden wastes such as plastics and glasses can be recycled or reused. Wastes like twigs and wood can also be recycled by burning to heat the house.

Plastics and glasses can be taken to recycling industries where they are used as raw materials.

Is garden waste eco-friendly?

Yes, organic wastes such as parts of plants are eco-friendly because they can biodegrade or be composted to form organic fertilizer or can be used for mulching. According to a study, garden waste can be eco-friendly depending on how it is disposed of.

Some plastic and glass waste can be recycled in industries to form new products.

However, if left unchecked, some wastes such as styrofoam and plastics can release microplastics that can accumulate in soil and water, affecting the hormonal balances of plants and aquatic life.

Conclusion.

This article has answered the question of the biodegradability of garden waste.

It has also covered other areas such as:

  • Types of garden wastes.
  • Management of garden waste.
  • Eco-friendliness of garden waste.
  • Biodegradation process.

For any questions or comments please use the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is garden waste biodegradable?

Is vegetable waste a biodegradable waste?

Yes, vegetable waste is biodegradable. Plant products are susceptible to bacterial and fungal breakdown. 

Which is not a biodegradable waste?

Non-biodegradable garden waste includes plastics, glasses, metals, pesticides, and fibers.

What are examples of biodegradable materials?

Biodegradable materials include human wastes, paper, and food waste, hospital waste, abattoir waste, dead plants and animals, sewage sludge, and manure.

Citations.

Mahesh K. Upadhyaya; Robert E. Blackshaw (2007). Non-chemical Weed Management: Principles, Concepts, and Technology. CABI. pp. 135–. ISBN 978-1-84593-291-6.

Robert, Graves (February 2000). “Composting” (PDF). Environmental Engineering National Engineering Handbook. pp. 2–22. Archived (PDF) from the original on 15 January 2021. Retrieved 19 October 2020.

Boldrin, A.; Christensen, T. (2010). “Seasonal generation and composition of garden waste in Aarhus (Denmark)” (PDF). Waste Management. 30 (4): 551–557. doi:10.1016/j.wasman.2009.11.031. 

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