The session was very entertaining and a huge success. I was expecting that in a meeting like this I would find 5 to 10 housewifes and/or old hippies, rather the opposite: it was mainly young people -both genders- that you could find any day in the metro. We were taught how to build a worm composter and everything we need to know about the life of the worms: what do they eat, what do they like, when to feed them, how to protect them, how -and when!- they have sex, how long do they live… amazing. I found a bit surreal that our civilisation has reached this level of paroxysm.
On one hand it is clear that more and more people are starting to be conscious about the unsustainability of the throw-away society we live in and this is good. It is good when people look at the garbage bin and ask themselves how can they generate so much trash and they want to help by doing home-composting. On the other hand it shows how people are starting to take the initiative as a reaction to the inaction from the institutions. Because, wasn’t it the role of the municipality to take care of our garbage?
Don’t get me wrong, I think that doing home composting -and vermicomposting which enables those of us who live in apartments to do compost- is great and necessary because it raises awareness about the impact of our actions and it reduces the amount of mixed waste we generate, which in Brussels ends up in the incinerator (producing CO2, toxic ashes and destroying resources; let’s not forget that organic waste is more than 60% water and burning water is not very smart). HOWEVER, shouldn’t it be the authorities who should be ordering the organic waste to be collected separately in order to either generate energy with anaerobic digesters or directly compost it?
I mean, vermi-composting and home composting are great but having seen how it works I can tell you it is not as easy as it looks, it is time consuming and having worms at home is something that we can’t expect that everyone will accept with open arms. Personally I’ll do vermi-composting because I believe in it but I know that the market of this is rather limited and I’m fully aware that nothing really substantial will really change until organic waste is separately collected and treated.
Currently EU legislation says that organic waste should be gradually phase out from landfills -where it produces methane- but it doesn’t say what should we do with it. So we burn it. The EU has been avoiding having compulsory separate collection of organic waste since 10 years and only some countries have taken the initiative to impose it. Of course the incineration industry is happy to burn organic waste -again, mostly water- that would be a lot more valuable as carbon returned to the soil and the European Commission is also happy because less legislation means less work -even when this is effectively damaging the environment-. How long will we have to wait to make possible what is environmentally and economically sensible?
In Flanders they collect organic waste separately and they have reached recycling rates of even 75%, in San Francisco they do the same and they are also recycling 70%. Separate collection, better if door-to-door, radicaly increases recycling which saves money to the people, helps the environment, creates jobs and is the right path towards a Zero Waste society.
I was surprised by today’s unexpected interest generated by the training on vermicomposting, more and more people are realising that things need to change and they are willing to their bit. Will the competent authorities also dare to look beyond the interests of the industrial lobbies?
In the meantime I’ll start taking care of my worms 🙂