What is Source Separated Organics (SSO)?

Source Separated Organics (SSO) is a waste management system that encourages waste generators—be it households, businesses, or institutions—to segregate compostable materials from other waste streams at the source, allowing for separate collection. The primary aim of the SSO system is to divert organic waste from landfills and convert it into valuable resources like compost and bioenergy.

The Importance of SSO

Organic waste constitutes a significant portion of the waste stream. When organic waste is sent to landfills, it decomposes anaerobically, resulting in the production of methane—a potent greenhouse gas. By separating organic waste at the source, the SSO system prevents this methane production, contributing to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Moreover, the separated organic waste can be composted or digested anaerobically to produce compost and bioenergy, respectively. Compost enriches the soil and reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers, while bioenergy provides a renewable source of energy, further contributing to sustainability.

How Does SSO Work?

In a SSO system, waste generators are provided with separate bins for organic waste, which can include food scraps, yard waste, and other compostable materials. These bins are then collected separately from other waste streams, such as recyclables and non-recyclable waste.

After collection, the organic waste is processed through composting or anaerobic digestion. Composting is a natural process by which organic materials are decomposed by microorganisms, resulting in nutrient-rich compost. Anaerobic digestion, on the other hand, involves the breakdown of organic materials in an oxygen-free environment, producing biogas (a source of bioenergy) and digestate (a nutrient-rich substance that can be used as a soil amendment).

Challenges and Solutions

While the SSO system offers significant environmental benefits, it does come with its own set of challenges. One of the main challenges is contamination, which occurs when non-compostable materials are mixed with organic waste. This can degrade the quality of the resulting compost or bioenergy and can also lead to operational issues at composting or digestion facilities.

To address this, education and outreach are crucial. Waste generators must be informed about what can and cannot be placed in the organic waste bin. Clear, easy-to-understand instructions and regular communication can go a long way in ensuring the success of a SSO program.

In conclusion, Source Separated Organics (SSO) represents a vital strategy in waste management. By harnessing the value in organic waste, we can create a more sustainable and circular economy.