Composting Gases vs Landfill Methane Gas: Does it Really Make a Difference? WIH Resource Group

compost

This past spring, my family and I were able to get all the compost we needed for our vegetable garden from a local community’s compost pile at their department of public works. The compost was created from all of the leaves and yard clippings that had been collected curbside. Many communities collect leaves, clippings and other outside organic matter to turn into compost, but some communities are taking it a step further.

Cities such as San Francisco, Minneapolis, Toronto, and Boulder all have programs in place that allow residents to place food scraps curbside to be turned into compost.

Food that is mixed in with regular trash is estimated to make up about 40% of the trash in landfills. It also is the biggest offender in creating landfill methane which is a powerful greenhouse gas – 72 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Reducing landfill methane is just one of the benefits of keeping this type of waste out of landfills.

According to San Francisco’s environmental site

Curbside composting’s many benefits include:

  • saving money by reducing trash to landfill service and thereby lowering garbage bills;
  • conserving valuable organic resources by returning organic matter and nutrients to the soil;
  • reducing climate warming gases from landfills and reducing the risk of potential groundwater pollution
  • extending the life of our landfill by saving space

Since it is not possible for everyone to compost in their home, curbside composting programs like these are valuable community services. I’m going to bringing up the idea at my town’s next Green Team meeting. Right now, my community does pick up vegetative waste but it is limited to things like “grass clippings, sticker balls, acorns, pine cones and viney type materials such as ivy, honey-suckle, poison ivy, laurel and plant clippings.” I wonder what would need to be changed to include food waste in the can that is provided to collect these other things.

If this sounds like an idea that would work in your community, contact your department of public works to see how you can help implement a curbside composting program.

One of the benefits of keeping compostable food out of landfills is that it reduces landfill methane – a greenhouse gas that is 72% more powerful than carbon dioxide.This begs the question, does this actually reduce methane emissions?  It seems, based on the lack of detail in the article, that the same amount of methane would be produced whether the organic waste was sitting in a compost pile or a landfill. Why wouldn’t that be true?

This is a good question, and deserves to be answered in a post instead of just a reply in the comments section.

Landfill methane is a gas that is produced in a landfill because the things in the landfill undergo anaerobic decomposition. Basically, this means that because municipal solid waste that is buried in a landfill does not receive oxygen, it will produce methane.

A compost pile, on the other hand, undergoes aerobic decomposition. Because it is exposed to oxygen, either by turning it or through the use of worms and other living organisms, it produces CO2 (carbon dioxide) instead of methane.

Of course, not all compost piles are treated the same, so some attention needs to be paid to the compost pile to so that it receives the oxygen that it needs. But, if a compost pile is being taken care of properly, it will produce far less methane than a landfill.

This is a very basic answer, but I think it should answer the question as to why food waste is better off in a compost pile than in the local landfill.

Source: Sustainablog WIH Resource Group

Should you have any questions about this news or general questions about our diversified services, please contact Bob Wallace, Principal & VP of Client Solutions at WIH Resource Group and Waste Savings, Inc. at admin@wihrg.com

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11 comments on “Composting Gases vs Landfill Methane Gas: Does it Really Make a Difference? WIH Resource Group

  1. jlhuff2 says:

    I enjoy your writing and you site. Thank-you.

    Like

  2. […] article from WIH Resource Group about the benefits of composting instead of allowing methane gas build up in […]

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  3. mohan says:

    This is a great post. Very informative and useful. Will try to build my blogs this way. Keep it up.

    Like

  4. Emily says:

    I enjoyed your post, but I am curious about the “72 times CO2” emissions. Methane is only about 21 times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2. This information is from several books and peer reviewed sources. I am just hoping for some clarification.

    Like

  5. Brent says:

    What does it mean that methane is 72% more powerful? Does that mean that methane traps heat more? Makes the ocean more acidic than CO2? Is 72% more harmful to breathe than CO2?

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  6. […] Ok, I’ll probably never be much of a gardener but while I was doing some research for this post, I found out why my compost never got hot or turned into great mulch – I needed to turn it. Oops. In fact, the reason compost piles don’t produce as much methane as landfills is because of watering and turning.  Turning prevents anaerobic decomposition. […]

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  7. melisa says:

    what can you do with this compost.
    can it create more globe warming

    Like

  8. Alfie says:

    Usually I don’t learn article on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very compelled me to try and do it! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thanks, very great article.

    Like

  9. Close says:

    Close

    Composting Gases vs Landfill Methane Gas: Does it Really Make a Difference? WIH Resource Group | WIH RESOURCE GROUP

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  10. […] garden. Most importantly, it keeps organic matter out of landfills and can reduce the amount of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is emitted during the decomposition process, from being released […]

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  11. […] What you put into the compost doesn’t go into the garbage—and about 20% of America’s total trash is food waste. Not only is trash collection a major taxpayer or household expense, but what we carelessly toss is hauled hundreds of miles away in fuel-guzzling CO2-emitting big rigs to upstate mega-landfills, creating an unhealthy environment for neighboring communities—and much more global-warming methane. […]

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