SEATTLE — Even in resource-poor communities, valuable organic matter is being overlooked. According to the World Bank, over 50 percent of solid waste in developing countries could be readily composted. Encouraging composting in developing countries would have a range of socioeconomic and health benefits for those living in developing regions.
What is Composting?
Composting is an agricultural technique that has been used by rural farmers for centuries. By binding clusters of soil particles with bacteria from decaying organic waste, composting enriches the soil with vital micronutrients that supports healthy plant growth.
Composting methods and technology can vary, but composting is typically a simple process that aims to increase the rate of decomposition so that the compost can be readily added to soil with minimal nuisance potential. Organic matter such as coffee grounds, food waste and shredded cardboard are prime ingredients for compost and can be easily diverted from garbage waste.
Composting would decrease solid waste in developing countries by 50 to 80 percent, according to the World Bank. By diverting organic matter from a developing country’s solid waste, there is less garbage entering the landfills. With the urbanization of developing regions, it’s vital for the environmental and personal well-being of those who live in developing countries to start diverting waste for productive uses.
Significant health risks such as dengue fever can be reduced by composting. This is evident in developing regions prone to flooding, where household garbage may block drainage systems and create stagnant floodwater where mosquitoes breed. These insects may be carrying diseases and viruses such as the Zika virus, the West Nile virus and dengue fever. The success of composting in Sri Lanka can be seen through the mitigation of urban flooding and decreasing instances of mosquito-borne viruses, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
One of the best characteristics of composting is that anyone can do it! Composting has flexible implementation at the household level and for large centralized facilities. Individuals can separate compostable items from waste and use it for their own gardening, or agricultural purposes or have it delivered to a composting facility. Community composting sites or kiosks is one marketing approach to popularize composting. Another strategy is to encourage well-regarded businesses and hotels to fertilize their lawns with compost to raise public awareness of the benefits and simplicity of composting.
Composting produces a valuable soil amendment that is integral to sustainable agriculture, according to the World Bank. Whether gardening or tending a large farm, any soil would benefit from composting. Compost enriches the soil with macro and micronutrients over a prolonged period of time, which cannot be said for synthetic fertilizers.
In resource-poor communities, composting can be a catalyst for income and employment generation. Although composting does not generate profits on its own, implementing a waste-management program that prioritizes composting has the potential to create jobs in the waste diversion sector, according to the Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC), Loughborough University. Popularizing composting would also provide farmers with virtually unlimited quantities of organic fertilizer at little to no cost.
Endorsing composting in developing countries also supports poverty reduction efforts outlined in the Millennium Development Goals. Some of the setbacks in prior attempts to implement composting projects have been a lack of attention on the planning stage and understanding how composting can be beneficial and marketable, according to WEDC. Therefore, increased public awareness of the benefits of composting in developing countries is vital to both supporting environmental sustainability and reducing poverty.
– Daniela N. Sarabia