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SUB-PROBLEMS INCLUDING LEADING TO IMPAIRMENT AND BEST PRACTICES FOR SOLID WASTE DISPOSAL USING COMPOSTING

(See endnotes 18, 19, 20, 21)

Composting is the enhancement of a natural process used to break down organic wastes from raw, putrescible, organic material to a stabilized product, carbon dioxide, and water. Carbon and nitrogen are the two most important elements of the process. Carbon is the basic energy source for the microorganisms and nitrogen is necessary for microbial population growth. Too much nitrogen turns into ammonia gas and other nitrogen compounds and may cause odors. Moisture is essential to the process because most of the microbiological activities take place in a thin film on the surface of the material. However, too little moisture (under 40-45%) slows down the process and too much moisture (over 55%) reduces the oxygen level. Oxygen is essential for proper decomposition by aerobic organisms, whereas too little oxygen can lead to growth of anaerobic microorganisms in part of the mix and cause odors. Heat is a byproduct of the decomposition of the organic matter and needs to be kept in the range of 113-138°F. The compost pile must be turned periodically. The factors above lead to different types of composting systems.

Composting is the means of disposal for about 27% of the US municipal solid waste. When done properly, the volume of the material is reduced substantially and the remainder may be used for numerous purposes including erosion control, improving topsoil, biofiltering, etc. The organic material may consist of leaves, grass, other yard trimmings, soiled paper, garbage, and unfortunately other wastes including tennis balls, plastic bags, and street sweeping material which may contain used oil, asbestos, lead, cans, etc. These items cannot be composted and may interfere with the process. Further, people tend to throw hazardous items and materials into the solid waste and may readily do so into the waste which is to be composted. This creates further problems and may make the compost hazardous and therefore not able to be used. Municipal solid waste is made up of materials of various sizes, quantities of moisture, and nutrient content. Major concerns are that the compost may be a source of odors in the community and a potential source of food and harborage for insects and rodents. Worker safety is a concern since the physical contaminants may contain inorganic and organic chemicals which can cause short-term or long-term health problems.

 
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