Immortal Hot Dogs, Dead Dirt, and Global Warming: The Dangers of Not Composting

by: Anna Murynka




It’s time to stop talkin’ trash and start talkin’ compost. Residents at Gage have been selected for a special Waste and Recycling Pilot: Sort it Out! Maybe you’ve seen signs about it. Maybe you’ve even said hi to Campus Sustainability (link to http://www.sustain.ubc.ca/) reps at an info booth (some pretty great people). But one way or another, we hope we can get it across to you that this is important.


We have a question. “What’s the best methodology for the food scraps program?” More specifically, and frankly, how the heck do we get residents to sort out there food scraps? Maybe you can help us find the answer.


So here goes: Top Four Reasons to Compost


1. Immortal Hot Dogs
What’s the big deal? Doesn’t it just decompose in the landfill? No. I used to think that too. If you want more info, check out this post by the University of Washington (http://students.washington.edu/uwseed/waste/) , but the short-and-sweet of it is this: the conditions of a landfill don’t allow much organic waste to decompose. Archeologists analyzing an older landfill found more then half of the waste was composed of organic material. Including a decades-old hot dog. (As if the concept of a hot dog alone isn’t bad enough.)


2. Global Warming
And if the immortal hot dog hasn’t convinced you yet, know that if organic waste does decompose, lack of available oxygen (did you even consider what’s it like to breathe at the bottom of a landfill pile?) means that any food decomposition happens anaerobically, producing methane gas. You know, one of those green house gasses (don’t even get me started on greenhouse gasses). Fun fact! Methane is 20-25 times stronger than CO2. Yup.


On the bright side, putting your organic waste in your food scraps pail and putting that in the compost bins (in the Gage basement) sends it off to the UBC Composting Facility. Which happens to be a very good facility. That decomposes your hot dogs and banana peels and so on and so forth without producing methane gas.
Imagine that.


3. Dirt is Dead

There’s major disconnect between people and the food they eat. (Link to: http://voices.yahoo.com/american-food-disconnect-between-people-plate-10904247.html) This is a growing problem, and there’s no easy fix. We’re talking genetically modified food, preservatives, processing, etc. We’re eating bad food, and we don’t know where it comes from. There is a growing push to overcome this and reconnect with our food: organic produce, whole foods, urban gardening, and composting. Part of the problem is the depletion of soil nutrients.

(embed video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKPcuwOOGqY)

Soil is alive. It is full of microorganisms and nutrients, but dirt, displaced and stripped of its nutrients, is dead. Food grown in starving soil lacks the vital nutritional qualities we need, and creates a negative feedback cycle of fertilization and water pollution. Organic waste in landfills doesn’t end up as living soil. But through composting, it can. By reconnecting with our soil, we are reconnecting with our food.


4. To Behave Like a Responsible Global Citizen

Because I secretly judge people who throw out their banana peels. I’ve been a long time composting enthusiast and to me, throwing food scraps into the garbage is as bad as littering. And that’s a serious comparison! Putting your organics (food scraps) in the trash is like dropping your coffee cup on the middle of the sidewalk. It’s just not a very useful place for such a thing to end up.



Composting Made Easy: Ten Tips


1. Make sure the scrap pail is more accessible than your garbage. This is a good motivator.  Seriously.


2. Take out the compost about as often as you shower. (So like, every two days. Doesn’t that work out nicely? Clean up and then get clean!)


3. Keep your Sort it Out! Guide handy (like on your fridge!), in case you ever need to check something or troubleshoot a problem.

4. Place the Pail Sticker on top of your food scraps pail. If you forget what goes

where, this will tell you what to put in and what you keep out of the pail.


5. If you take the stairs, it counts at exercise. And that’s always a good idea.

6. Work it into your chore schedule. (And if you don’t have one, make one! You will definitely see a decrease in the amount of mold in your suite.) It creates another job, which can make it easier to divide tasks. Ex. In my apartment, I do the composting, one roommate does the recycling, and a third does the garbage.


7. Talk about it!
-If you ever need a conversation starter, consider: “Have you heard about the immortal hot dogs?”
-Unless you’re on a date. In which case you might prefer: “Did you know I take actions to behave like a Responsible Global Citizen?”
-Unless you’re at a noisy party and feeling daring, in which I challenge you to say, “Let’s talk dirt.”


8. If you ever have a question, as your RA. They’re super friendly. (And if you have any really tough waste and recycling questions, ask me, Anna, a.murnka@gmail.com, because I’m definitely a waste and recycling nerd.)


9. Remember the two Ps: Paper goes in, plastic stays out.
That means you can compost any napkins, cardboard take-out containers (unless they’re wax-lined) tea bags, and paper bags, etc. But you can’t compost lastic bags.  If you really feel the need to use bags, empty them into the compost bins and then throw the bags into the garbage. Plastic bags are not compostable (even the ones that are labeled as compostable or biodegradable, which is confusing, I know).

If what does/doesn’t go into your food scraps pail confuses you, make sure you watch this video about the UBC Composting facility:




10. Remember that together, we are all working towards becoming a zero waste campus.



Important things to talk about with your roomies!

Getting to know one another in the unit:

Where are you from?
What is your family like?
What is your major? What led you to choose that? What is your schedule like?
What else are you involved in?
Is this your first time living in residence, or have you lived elsewhere?
Do you have household items you’d like to share with the unit?

Setting common expectations for all unit members:

How will we rotate household chores?
How will we define clean?
How do we feel about common space inside the unit – how can it be used?
What about storing personal items in common areas? Is anything off limits?
What about noise – how loud is too loud?
How do we feel about parties in the unit?
Can we commit to locking doors?

Study habits:

What time do you study?
When and for how long do you usually study?

Is it ok to drink alcohol in our unit?

What items are you comfortable sharing?  What would you prefer not to be borrowed or used?
What costs will we share?  Do you prefer to be asked before someone borrows something?

How do you feel about having overnight guests?  How long is it OK for a guest to stay?