Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Food Trash and Climate Change, or Don't Flump Muffin Stumps in Dumps (for the Week of June 15, 2008)

June 13, 2008

Q. Dear Twig: Where do the burnt black French fries that I throw out at a restaurant go?

A. Probably into a hole in the ground. Here's their trip, in a nutshell:

The trash in the can gets dumped with a flump in the back end of a garbage truck. The garbage truck drives to a dump, a landfill. The trash gets dumped in the dump, pa-dump. The trash and the burnt black fries in the trash get buried by tons of more dumped trash. The fries get cut off from oxygen, gak! But anaerobic ("an-air-OH-bik"; no oxygen) microbes jump in. They decompose the fries.

The problem: Anaerobic decomposition — of burnt black fries, apple cores, muffin stumps, etc. — gives off methane, a strong greenhouse gas. And greenhouse gases, at too-high levels, can make Earth hotter and cause global climate change. Scientists say that's happening now. They say we should do things to slow down or stop it.

Next: A thing we can do with those fries that can help!

Biodegradably,

Twig

P.S. How big's the problem? The U.S. alone dumps some 26 million tons of food trash a year.

Notes:

The figure of 26 million tons a year comes from the Ohio Compost Association (OCA). The group is helping sponsor a conference on the topic June 27. A press release on it by Twig's little friend is here: http://www.ag.ohio-state.edu/~news/story.php?id=4679. The conference Web site: http://www.ohiocompost.org/Conference.html. The conference title: "Create a Diversion."

Also check out the Compostable Organics Out of Landfills (COOL) 2012 campaign, http://www.cool2012.com/, whose name spells out what it thinks we should do and by when it thinks we should do it.

About This:

"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," published by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences — specifically, by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, the research and outreach arms, respectively, of the College — is a weekly feature for children about science, nature, farming and the environment. It's written at, to and for a 4th-grade reading level.

For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, CommTech, OSU/OARDC,1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691, knebusch.1@osu.edu, (330) 263-3776.

Online at http://extension.osu.edu/~news/archive.php?series=science.

Author(s): 
Kurt Knebusch
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