Two ecologists had an innovative idea, which lead to an amazing discovery. Their project will change the way you think about waste.
Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs, two ecologists, had an interesting proposal for a local juice company, back in 1997. The two asked the company to dump their waste for free on a deforested land, if they donate a piece of virgin forest to the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste.
The Costa Rica orange juice company agreed with the deal and one year later, they started to dump their orange peels and other organic waste resulted from the company’s activity on the deforested land. The company dumped around 12,000 metric tons of waste. The two ecologists marked the land by placing a wooden sign on it. The land was then left untouched for more than a decade.
After 16 years, Janzen sent one of his graduates, Timothy Treuer, to take a look at the land and write a report. Treuer was given the exact location of the land, so he should have been able to locate the area without problems, as well as the sign placed there by Janzen and Hallwachs.
But Treuer couldn’t find the sign. After multiple failed attempts to locate the sign, Treuer and Janzen realized they were on the right plot, but the area looked nothing like they expected. Instead of a deforested area, Treuer was sitting in a lush forest. Treuer compared the plot with an adjacent one and found the two were dramatically different. While their plot, where the orange peels were dumped, had grown a lush forest, the plot next to it has little vegetation.
Treuer’s findings were published, showing how much the orange peels changed the land. Treuer gathered a team of scientists from Princeton and continued to analyze the plot. After three years, they were amazed at their findings. Not only the plot had a completely different ecosystem, but there were more than two dozen species of trees on it. By comparison, the near-by plot had only one species of tree.
The soil quality on the orange plot was better, which allowed the forest to grow thick and strong. In the forest, Treuer and his team found several species of animals, which thrived in the rich environment. The team’s research revealed that the second forest, which grows after the initial forest had been torn down, is essential for the climate.
Treuer found that secondary forests absorb 11 times more carbon from the atmosphere, compared to the old forest. His research shows that if scientists would repeat Janzen’s experiment all over the world, on deforested areas, the atmosphere would restore itself quicker.
In US, about half the produce is discarded in landfills. If the procedure would be embraced by more companies, it could help restore the forests on empty land plots. According to Treuer, companies need to work with scientists, to plan where they should be discarding their organic waste. In 2015, Treuer eventually found the wooden sign placed on the land almost two decades ago.
Something as simple as fruit peels helped change the environment and supported the growth of a new, stronger forest, on an empty land. The orange peels helped save the environment and improve the atmosphere.