Master of Environmental Studies Capstone Projects

Author(s)

Paige Hasling

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version

12-2012

Abstract

Any material thrown into the trash may contribute to global climate change (Fig. 1). This is alarming, since the US generates 250 million tons of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) annually; per capita, each person generates 4.43 pounds of waste per day (EPA, 2012e). Some of this material is recycled or incinerated for energy, but most waste is discarded in landfills. The abundance of organic waste in landfills – food scraps, yard trimmings, leaves, textiles, paper and paperboard – is of particular environmental concern. Compostable materials that decompose without oxygen produce large quantities of methane gas as well as trace quantities of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Although billions of federal dollars have been invested to harness this methane gas, experts debate if the capture rate is 17-20-49 or 75% (Brown, 2011). An effective strategy to avoid these toxic emissions is to divert recyclable and organic materials from landfill through recycling and composting. Composting is no longer a backyard initiative for gardeners; it is a climate change reduction strategy. However, a cultural shift is needed before composting is embraced as a sustainability strategy. Most composting experts agree that public education and outreach is needed to help individuals, communities and businesses separate organics from trash to promote national composting. Conclusive research has been published to prove the benefits of composting and mega-resources are available to promote composting. However, until now, there has not been a single, integrated website to guide concerned citizens from basic composting instruction, through the path of state regulation, and into the maze of policies and subsidies that shape the waste processing industry. After months of research, multiple in-depth interviews and a circuitous capstone journey, the culmination of this project is a website intended to transform a general environmentalist into a compost activist. Join the movement and visit www.compostactivist.org.

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Date Posted: 29 March 2013