Many people have littered the environment with organic food peels giving the excuse that they will just decompose. I’ll admit that I have done this one too many times. Even if you haven’t done it, you have probably witnessed it. Someone just rolls their window down and casually throws their banana peel out the window. When you try to inquire, they will be quick to say, “this doesn’t even really count as littering. It’s organic, it will decompose.”
I’ve once asked someone about this and they even went ahead to say that if we drove by an hour later we wouldn’t find the peel there because by then decomposition will have taken place. The funny thing is that the peel was thrown on a cement surface. Now looking back, I start to wonder how possible it is for something to decompose in cement. Aside from this fact, another argument is that if everyone passed by and threw their banana peel on the ground the place would look very untidy. Litter begets litter. People who pass by a place that is already littered will find it much easier to throw their garbage in the same place, as opposed to if they found it clean. While it may be true that organic foods decompose in the soil, they take quite a while before doing so.
The truth is that if an animal or insect does not actually eat these peels, the decomposition process is much harder than we think. Organic foods do not just magically disappear into the ground. Decomposition is a complex process that involves the breakdown to simpler organic matter that eventually becomes part of the soil.
Let’s take a look at the process of decomposition. After you throw your peels on the ground, microorganisms start breaking it down by secreting enzymes that cause the decomposition. This process is quite slow. Eventually, insects will start to get attracted and begin aiding in the process. They work with the microorganisms to decompose the waste. In addition, several factors affect this process of decomposition. These factors include the soil temperature, moisture content and the biological activity of the soil. Meaning that you cannot exactly tell how quick decomposition will take place, but rather just give an estimate.
The idea that decomposition is a fast and easy process is misleading. In fact, an orange peel can take up to 6 months to decompose. An apple core or a banana peel takes around one month. Within this period of time, an animal that isn’t supposed to eat these fruit peels can very easily come into contact with the peels and this is harmful to its health. Therefore, if your excuse is that you are feeding the animals, you might just be affecting them negatively without your knowledge. Which is why you might want to keep your peels until you have access to a dustbin.
An experiment was done by a lady called Marjorie Woodruff. She put a banana peel and an orange peel in a cage of chicken wire to allow animals to go in and out. After six months, she found the orange peels had dried out and the banana peel had turned black. Animals hadn’t eaten them and the organic stuff hadn’t rotted. She also buried the same items in sand and soil, and yet after six months, nothing significant had happened.
So the next time you think about throwing biodegradable litter out the window, remember that you may end up affecting the health of the animals or insects and encouraging people to carry on with the trend. By littering, you make a place extremely untidy. How about you wait until you can access a garbage can, or better yet compost it?
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