Vegetable and food leftovers (mostly from vegetable or animal origin) are called the “organic fraction” or biowaste. Biowaste consists of water (80% of its weight) and organic matter (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats). This waste is generally quite heavy and small in volume as it occupies little space, therefore, it is a high-density type of waste. The increasing level of waste is generating problems.
Biowaste comes from food leftovers that we throw away
This fraction includes small-sized plant remains left over from gardening and pruning (bouquets, grass). It does not include remains from tree pruning or similar (due to their greater size and woody nature) which is managed through the “pruning or green fraction” at the Recycling Points.
Organic waste has always existed throughout history, in small quantities, and it was either absorbed by nature itself or used as food by animals.
Most of this waste is generated in the home kitchen, before meals (peels, shells), during meals (inedible remains, bones, skins) and also, unfortunately, after meals (food that has expired or is in poor condition, or surplus food that ends up in the garbage can.) This type of food waste is also generated in commercial activities (greengrocers, grocery stores, markets, supermarkets, restaurant bars, hotels, among others), as well as in collective food centers (in schools, in companies). See the next chapter about food waste.
Within municipal waste, organic matter is the most unstable fraction as it is exposed to the action of microorganisms, which can degrade it biologically and then cause bad odors and leachates.
As we have seen, biowaste represents around 38% of domestic garbage from homes and commercial waste. In other words: almost 40% of the waste that we generate is organic matter.
In 2012, in Catalonia, a total of 384,136 tons of organic material was recycled (collected separately in brown bins).In Spain, this figure was 547,564 tons and, in Europe, 28,540,000 tons. It is estimated that in the same year the biowaste recycling rate from homes and businesses was only 22% of the total organic matter generated in Catalonia. The figures in Spain can’t be contrasted.
Organic matter represents 40% of our garbage, but we only recycle 22%
There are 24 biowaste treatment facilities in Catalonia, while in Spain there are only 44. The difference is that selective waste collection (separately) of this fraction is mandatory in Catalonia. It should be noted that Catalonia is the only Spanish autonomous community where it is mandatory to collect organic waste separately, although it is widespread in the Basque Country.
The extension of the collection model, adding the fifth container for selective waste (organic matter or biowaste), contributes to increasing the global recycling rate by up to 40%. Biowaste recycling is one of the keys in order to achieve a successful model for waste management.
The recycling of organic matter is one of the keys to success in recycling
Want to know more?
i The book Stop garbage. The truth about recycling, Alex Pascual, February 2019
►Great biowaste campaing, Generalitat de Catalunya sobre la orgánica “Si va bien, si no va no viene”, 2017
. My compilation from different studies: “Pesa la brossa” 2014. Study for the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and General Program of Prevention and Waste Management of Catalonia 2013-2020. According to the Agència de Residus de Catalunya 2014, the data are Organic 37%, paper, and cardboard 12%, glass 8%, plastics and metals 12%. “La gestió dels residus i el seu impacte en el canvi climàtic.” Statistics 2014
. Generalitat de Catalunya, statistics estadistiques.arc.cat
. Annual report 2013 Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente, Spanish Government.
. General prevention and waste management Program in Catalonia 2013-2020
. Libro Verde de la Sostenibilidad urbana y local en la era de la información. Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente, y Agencia de ecología Urbana de Barcelona, 2012
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