Overflowing landfills due to a large volume of unsegregated solid wastes are a common problem in most towns and cities in the Philippines. As a result, the sanitary landfills’ (SLF) lifespan in many places in the country has shortened due to the bulk of solid wastes that ended up there, mostly filthy, unsegregated wastes and impossible to sort out.
We have observed that our solid wastes, prior to its collection by the waste collectors, are stored temporarily in waste bins and fabricated steel we call Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) or shed, but the majority of our wastes are already difficult and impossible for sorting.
Although there are few recyclables like empty PET bottles, glass bottles, cardboards, and scrap plastic inside the receptacles or waste bags, waste pickers are unable to retrieve them because they are mixed or have been contaminated with rotten materials like food wastes, kitchen leftover, fruit and vegetable shavings, and other filthy solid wastes.
This situation could be addressed well if, at the household level, the biodegradable and compostable wastes are no longer placed in a waste receptacle or waste bags but rather are put somewhere at the back of our house, or bury them for future use. Waste collectors should not collect compostable and biodegradable wastes, since their ideal destination is not in our landfills but rather in our own backyard or in the barangay’s composting facility if there are any. The solution for our organic, biodegradable, and compostable solid wastes is simply to allow them to decompose through composting.
Composting is defined as “a controlled biological decomposition of organic matter, such as food and yard wastes, into humus.” It is the natural process of rotting or decomposition of organic matter by microorganisms that takes place from four to six weeks. It can be anaerobic or aerobic.
Aside from its income potential, composting provides nutrients to the soil, increases the beneficial soil organisms, and assists pollution remediation, among others. Because of this, our local and national government agencies, including the barangay local government units, should push for the establishment of low-cost and simple composting bins at the household level for the processing of biodegradable wastes.
A barangay-based composting facility could address the bulk of compostable and biodegradable wastes coming from the households and transport them there instead for composting. Imagine that a substantial volume of solid wastes will no longer be transported to our landfill, considering that more than 50 percent of our total daily waste generation is classified as biodegradable.
The majority of our barangays, except for some urban barangays within the central business district, still have adequate space if the establishment of a barangay composting area will be pursued.
For starters, composting areas do not expensive equipment. Composting in tires tower need only used tires. Vermicomposting needs used GI sheets, scrap wood, and other materials that are available in our backyards.
In Vermicomposting, red worms such as African Night Crawler in bins feed on food scraps, agri wastes, and other organic matter to create compost. The worms break down these materials into high-quality compost called castings or vermicast. Worm bins are easy to construct by the use of wood scraps, used GI sheets, or even tarpaulin or “trapal” to cover the bins. Another byproduct of vermicomposting known as vermi-tea is used as a high-quality liquid fertilizer for houseplants or garden.
Aerated (Turned) Windrow Composting
Aerated or turned windrow composting is suitable for large volumes of biodegradable, and compostable solid wastes such as that generated by food processing businesses and establishments, carinderia, public market stalls, and talipapa, etc. It is also suitable in barangay composting areas where the kitchen and yard wastes, food leftovers collected from the households.
This type of composting involves forming organic wastes into rows of long piles called “windrows” and aerating them periodically by either manually or mechanically turning them.
Windrow composting requires a large area for the composting equipment, several people to operate the facility, and most of all the patience to experiment with various materials mixtures and turning frequencies.
Unlike the windrow method, in-vessel composting can process large amounts of compostable and biodegradable solid wastes such as animal manure, food leftovers, kitchen wastes, etc. with only minimal space requirement. This method involves feeding organic materials into a drum, concrete-lined trench, or similar equipment. It is turned mechanically or mixed to make sure that it is aerated.
Composting in tire towers
Instead of throwing away used tires, we can instead use them in composting using tire towers. To begin, place one tire directly on the soil. Add materials such as kitchen wastes (to fill the inside of the tire. It helps if the material is wet. Cover the tire with either wood slats or a screen.
If there really is a bulk of biodegradable solid wastes, then the barangay, with the help of the city or municipal governments, or national government agencies could acquire composter or shredder machines.
The establishment of a Barangay Composting Area will generate jobs for at least 10-15 individuals in the barangays who will either operate the machines such as composters, shredders, collect compostable and recyclable wastes from the households within the barangay, manage the operations within the composting area, and other tasks.
Some LGUs including barangays who choose to do composting and invested in composting equipment have generated income out of it. They produced soil conditioners, vermicast, or vermi soil which they sell or donate to farmers and farmers associations in their locality. In the Municipality of Bay in the Province of Laguna, their vermicomposting are found in the backyard of some individuals assisted by the municipal government.
Given an efficient waste management system in place in our LGUs especially in the barangays, composting has the potential to turn biodegradable and compostable wastes from a heaping problem to a mountain of opportunity.
Therefore, these compostable and biodegradable wastes, mostly kitchen leftovers and food wastes are not merely litter or trash but rather resources, which an individual can earn from if transformed into soil conditioner or vermicast.