When the hot sun beats down on garbage bins, the stench can become unbearable. It can also attract vermin. But what exactly is causing that terrible smell wafting from your garbage bins?
The reason for foul-smelling garbage bags is actually quite simple: They contain putrescible materials that are in the process of decomposing, such as meat, vegetables or diapers. And this decomposition creates a real playground for bacteria.
These hungry microorganisms are found virtually everywhere (among others, on the surface of most food). After a while, these bacteria begin to devour everything in sight with gusto. Part of this process involves breaking larger molecules into smaller pieces. Unfortunately for our noses, it’s the smaller molecules that are the most foul-smelling!
The worst among these molecules are nitrogen and sulfur, which is produced during the decomposition of proteins.
This explains why food that’s high in protein (such as eggs, meat and fish) smells so bad when it begins to rot. In contrast, food that’s rich in carbohydrates doesn’t smell much when it decomposes. A slice of bread, for example, normally won’t smell at all – even when it’s covered in mold.
The other problem with foul-smelling garbage is that the odour can last for days, even after the source of the odour is gone. It’s not that bad smells stick around longer than pleasant ones; it’s just that our brains are better programmed to detect them. In addition to being downright unpleasant, smelly garbage can also attract vermin, which brings its own slew of problems. That’s why it’s so important to eliminate odour problems.
Tips and advice:
- Clean garbage bins several times a year with soap and water. This will remove any remaining odour-creating bacteria.
- Empty garbage bins regularly. Unfortunately, the larger the garbage bin, the less we tend to empty them – giving odours plenty of time to grow. Change that habit.
- Use newspaper to absorb odours. Wrapping leftover food in newspaper before putting it in the garbage bag will create an additional and inexpensive barrier against odours.
- Let garbage bins breathe. Heat accelerates decomposition and intensifies smells. Leaving the lid of garbage bins open will reduce the intensity of otherwise trapped odours.
- Use sealable garbage bags to tightly seal organics. Vegetables slowly liquefy as they decompose. As microbes attack the cell structure of vegetables, this liquid ferments, heating up the garbage bag. As the quantity of these produced gases and liquids increases, the bag also becomes more likely to break.
- Recycle and compost as much as possible. This will minimize the amount of potentially smelly garbage you produce.
- Use an odour neutralizer to eliminate foul odours (rather than simply masking them). What’s more, they even emit a pleasant scent that will also keep flies away.
And remember, a neutralized odour means no odour, whereas a masked odour is still noticeable; it’s just covered by another smell. So don’t just hide odours, eliminate them altogether!