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The circle of life

I could not get rid of my organic waste. To be honest, I am furious right now. This is beyond my comprehension. We try to solve sustainability problems with fancy technology and we are not even able to organize organic waste collection and processing? Do we really think we are able to handle fancy technology if we are not even able to manage organic waste?

That organic waste is not managed tells me that this waste recourse is not valued. I cannot at all understand this. Soil is the basis for food production. Soil degradation is a serious problem all over the world and we should do everything we can to support soil health. Part of this is producing compost and using this as an input for food production. Every good farmer is composting.

I grew up in a house with a garden. The separation of organic waste is normal for me. I was taught what I can put on the compost heap and what I should not. I was taught the miracle of life. You through organic waste on the compost heap and like magic it turns into soil. The compost heap was home to animals like snakes and for that reason the heap was even more a magic place.

Our household produced more organic waste than the compost heap could have handled, so we had to get it collected by the municipality. I do not remember a time without a separate waste bin for organic waste. And so, it is the weirdest thing for me to through different types of waste together.

At university I took courses in agriculture, mostly organic farming, and one was soil science. I did my master thesis on a case related to soil degradation and desertification. I am definitively aware of the importance of soils. It is a precious good. If the soil is not ok, we cannot produce food. Thus, soil is the basis for our existence.

Moving to the Netherlands I would not have expected being confronted with the problem of not being able to separate my organic waste. For some time I went to a community garden to get rid of my waste. I had several strange but also lovely encounters there. Even some gardeners do not understand why I am doing this. It is an extra hassle to bike to the garden to through my organic waste away. The general waste bin is in front of my flat.

When trying to figure out if there is organic waste collection, I figured that there was organic waste collection, but it was discontinued. This was as not enough organic waste was delivered. I have been wondering why that is. 1) people do not produce enough organic waste, 2) people do not separate their organic waste. Both is worrisome! If people do not produce enough organic waste, their diet is most likely not ok. It should be in the interest of the municipality to improve that. People should eat plenty of veg and fruit. The second point is also worrisome, because it tells much about the educational state of people. I grew up with compost, but I understand many people do not. However, people can be educated about this. This should be taken serious by the municipality.

Partly I am amused about this, because there is a paper about transition management using the Dutch waste management as an example. The collection of organic waste is mentioned there as well. The paper is outdated and it should be corrected! Obviously, there has been an improvement of waste management in the Netherlands, but in part there is regression. I understand that people prefer talking about success stories. Though, this should be studied! Money was invested to set up a management system, but it was not taken up by the population. This is interesting research. It is a case for why transition is not taking place. It is also a case for a simple solution that is not taken up.

I am struggling with our technology myopia as answer to all problems. With this I want to say, that usually when there is a problem it is stated that the right technology will fix it. Organic waste collection is a basic thing involving low tech. Actually, it is one fundamental function of our ecosystem. It is the circle of life. Yet, we are unable the handle it, unable to simply make use of it. Doesn’t this show our disconnect from mother nature? How are we going to solve sustainability problems, if we do not even manage to compost?

At the recycling center I was shown the container I can bring my waste to. I ended up in front of a container with a sofa in it. I thought I must be wrong, but no I wasn’t. The employee there told me that normally they do not allow people to bring organic waste as they have a problem with sea gulls who are having a feast with the waste. Thus, organic waste collection is not done, because of sea gulls? I was standing in the recycling center, laughing, because this cannot be real. I am at a recycling center and I am asked to not separate my waste, but just through it on a sofa? No offense, but is this normal for an advanced economy? We are thinking about geo-engineering (e.g., shielding the sun) but we get discouraged by sea gulls?

This week I participated in a conference. One keynote speaker was Kate Raworth, the founder of doughnut economics. She is a great speaker! She told stories about how people are picking up this idea. How they are implementing the circular economy as part of the doughnut economy. It is everywhere, green econ, bio econ, circular econ. And yet, I have no idea what to do with my organic waste. The solution is in the simple things. But I understand a heap of dirt is not as glamorous as talking about precision agriculture.

I could not through my organic waste on the sofa. It is wrong on so many levels. I still have my organic waste. It is in a cotton bag. The trays in which I collected the waste got tilted during transportation and the liquid within the organic waste was seeping onto the bag. It is a bit stinky. The decomposition process has long started (one week old waste!) and it is all moldy. I have no idea what to do with this valuable resource. This is what it is, a valuable resource. What am I going to do with it? I suppose it will end up in the general waste in the end. It makes me sad. My waste is not going to be resource for new life. The circle of life has ended…

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