It is my pleasure to preface this collection of success stories in the field of biodegradable waste management published by the Directorate-General for the Environment.
These stories are addressed to people who are responsible for waste management in local authorities, who are members of an environmental NGO or who are simply interested in improving the way in which waste is managed in our society.
Every year more and more waste is generated in the European Union. The volume of waste generated constitutes one of the parameters for measuring the degree of sustainability of our way of life. More has to be done to minimise the quantity of waste produced and to maximise the quantity of waste recycled. This booklet is about how local authorities can be at the forefront of waste management and help all of us contribute to a better environment.
When we eat, mow the lawn or prune trees - we produce waste. But this waste is a special type of waste. It can easily be transformed into a useful product that can enhance the quality of our soils, especially the soils that an intensive agricultural system is making less fertile. This product is compost.
Compost is the odourless, stable and humus-like material rich in organic matter as well as proteins and carbohydrates, which originates from the composting process of organic wastes. The "magic" of transforming a putrescible, pungent and wet waste into an organic material smelling of soil and freshly turned earth is performed by nature. Bacteria, fungi and worms are all involved. Human technology is only mimicking and speeding up what nature is doing every day under our very own eyes.
The success stories in this booklet will show you that it is not necessary to make big investments and have a sophisticated industrial plant for producing compost - you can do it in your garden!
I would like to underline that to produce good quality compost you need to collect the biodegradable waste separately from other wastes. We all have to make our contribution, if we want to improve the status of our environment. Consumers will have to make an effort to actually separate the waste. Local authorities will have the task of organising an effective collection system so as to minimise costs. Economic operators will have to improve the way in which they handle biodegradable waste. Finally, national governments and the Commission will have to find ways of ensuring that the compost produced will improve the quality of our soils.
I hope that - with the goodwill of all those concerned - this booklet may be useful in generating ideas, suggesting new pathways, shedding light on separate collection and composting of biodegradable waste in the Community at the turn of the 21st century!