• Lilla Schottner

The Benefits of Composting.

Updated: Jul 11


An average person in the U.S. throws away almost five pounds of solid waste every day, a major environmental problem. Most of it ends up in landfills or incinerators emitting greenhouse gases (GHG), heating the planet, contributing to climate change, and poisoning the land, air, and waterways. People who live close to landfills often complain about odors. In some research, the proximity of landfills was related to a heightened risk of cancer (Friis,2017).

Most municipal solid waste (MSW) is sent to landfills or incinerators. 24 % of trash can be composted to reduce the amount of waste in landfills decomposing and generating greenhouse gases. The gas given off by landfills consists of 50% methane (CH4), 50% carbon dioxide (CO2) gas, and volatile organic compounds. Landfills are the single largest methane source in the U.S., and they are 28 times more potent than CO2. Landfills also produce leachate, possibly contaminating soil and aquifers. Anaerobic bacteria release methane as they break down paper, food, and other organic waste (Robertson, 2018). Therefore, composting is an excellent solution to reduce methane emissions from landfills.

The following items can easily be composted:

Browns, high in Carbon: cardboard, paper, ashes, wood, corn stalks, leaves, fruit waste, pine needles, sawdust, draw, wood chips, wool and cotton rugs, hair, fur, hay and straw. (Also adds aeration to the compost)

Greens, high in Nitrogen: vegetable scraps, healthy plants and plant parts, some food waste, tea bags, coffee grounds, nut and eggshells, yard trimmings, and grass clippings.

Why Compost and the benefits of composting.

Improves the soil quality, strengthening the sink (land, ocean) and buffer capacity.

Compost enhances water retention in soils, reduces erosion and evaporation, and reduces the amount of watering.

Compost reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and provides free organic nutrients, nitrogen, carbon, and many micronutrients, increasing yields.

Compost is also suitable for potting soil and as a soil amendment.

Decontaminating polluted soils binds with toxins like lead and cadmium so that plants cannot absorb them.

Improves degraded lands and soils.

Suppresses some plant diseases, such as clubroot in cabbage.

Most fruits and vegetables are grown in nutrient-depleted soils; these soils contain fewer minerals and vitamins. Growing vegetables in rich compost can improve the products' nutritional value, improve people's overall health, and address food security.

Healthy soil, healthy plants.

Compost is locally available; there is no need for manufacturing and transporting.

"The compost becomes food, and the food becomes compost" (Smith,2011).


"Composting proceeds best at a moisture content of 40-60% by weight. At lower moisture levels, microbial activity is limited. At higher levels, the process is likely to become anaerobic and foul-smelling". (Cornell)


From Waste to Compost.


Conclusion

By 2050 there will be 9.5 billion people living on this planet, and most of them will be in big cities. Resilient cities must address, among many other things, waste management/reduction and food scarcity. Cities around the world must adapt to a circular economy or closed-loop economy.

Composting and after that using it as fertilizer reduces society's environmental footprint. Turning municipal solid waste into a resource for plants reduces GHG emissions, improves soil quality and water absorption, therefore improving the nutritious value of the plants, combating food scarcity.


Let's start composting,

Lilla


My compost bin in Washington,D.C



References

“Circularity Is Key in Developing Bioeconomy.” Interreg Europe, www.interregeurope.eu/bioregio/news/news-article/2986/biowaste-challenge-in-europe/.

Compost Connection, compostconnection.com/.

Estabrook, Barry. Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit. Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, 2012.

Friis, Robert H. Essentials of Environmental Health. Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2019.

Plastrik, Peter, and John Cleveland. Life after Carbon: the next Global Transformation of Cities. Island Press, 2018.

Razza, Francesco, et al. “The Role of Compost in Bio-Waste Management and Circular Economy.” Designing Sustainable Technologies, Products and Policies, 2018, pp. 133–143., doi:10.1007/978-3-319-66981-6_16.

Robertson, Margaret. Sustainability Principles and Practice. Routledge, 2017.

(http://compost.css.cornell.edu/monitor/monitormoisture.html)

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