Composting & Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Overview

Yard trimmings and food scraps make up 26 percent of the total U.S. waste thrown away each year. When it is put into public landfills, poisonous gases are created and released into the atmosphere. Public composting programs seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create "useful and environmentally beneficial compost instead," according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's report on compost.

Greenhouse gas

Greenhouse gases are emissions from burning fuel, industrial processes, land-use change and waste. It is a byproduct of burning fossil fuel. Greenhouse gases are primarily water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone in excessive amounts that contribute to global pollution and global warming. Atmospheric gas raises the temperature of water and air. Landfills produce significant greenhouse gas emissions.

Waste Management

Food scraps and paper products thrown away at home become landfill materials. When trash is burned in public waste management systems, it emits carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is "a greenhouse gas 310 times more powerful in atmospheric warming than carbon dioxide," according to a 2009 report on composting and greenhouse gas reduction by the state of Minnesota.

Waste Processes

A 2008 report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stated that poisonous gas emissions from waste processes "represents 36.7 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions." Reduction of waste in landfills is an important tool to reduce total waste and, therefore, greenhouse gas emissions. Public composting programs are an essential part of this effort.

Public Composting

Composting organic materials in public landfills reduces the release of poisonous gas into the atmosphere. Californians Against Waste reports 30 percent of California's waste is compostable organic materials. In landfills this material produces greenhouse gas emissions, but "well-managed compost facilities do not produce methane." Public composting also provides economic and environmental benefits such as production of an inexpensive alternative to chemical fertilizer.

Fertilizer

Public compost waste management systems produce inexpensive compost for use in public projects and sustainable agriculture. Californians Against Waste reports "the application of compost results in a reduced need for greenhouse gas-producing, petroleum-based chemical fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and additives." The use of compost reduces the need for fertilizers in vegetable crops by 33 percent to 66 percent.

Keywords: composting benefits, public composting systems, greenhouse gas emissions

About this Author

Joan Norton, M.A., is a licensed psychotherapist and professional writer in the field of women's spirituality. She blogs and has two published books on the subject of Mary Magdalene; "14 Steps To Awaken The Sacred Feminine:Women in the Circle of Mary Magdalene," and "The Mary Magdalene Within."