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
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