If you're brand new to composting, there's plenty of information to learn as you adopt this eco-friendly habit. Maybe you already know that it's great for the environment and that it provides essential nutrients to soil.
At some point, after researching compost bins and adding 1,000 worms to your online shopping cart, you may wonder: is composting better than landfilling? Wouldn't organic waste mixed into landfills help garbage break down faster? Sure, compost clearly benefits gardeners and their produce, but is it necessary if you don't have a garden?
These are all great questions! So today, we'll look at the difference between composting and landfill, what happens to compostable items in a landfill, and easy ways to compost at home. For your burning questions, use the following links to jump directly to the topic you're most curious about.
Table of contents
You're this close to learning how to take better care of the planet. Now, get ready to dive into the main differences between a landfill and a compost pile.
Food waste in landfills vs compost: what’s the difference?
If tossing food scraps into your garbage bin feels better than throwing away styrofoam take-out containers, you may be in for a surprise. Composting is significantly better for the environment than landfills. Here’s why..
It comes down to aerobic vs anaerobic decomposition. If those words are completely new to you, no worries. We'll take a look at what they mean.
Aerobic = With Oxygen: Compost is so beneficial to the earth, partly because of the plant-friendly microbes it contains. These living organisms require air to break down your apple core into nutrient-rich humus. Then, as bacteria feed on the organic matter, they generate heat—also known as aerobic decomposition. This is why a compost pile is naturally high in temperature. It's also why you need to turn your pile every so often, to give oxygen-loving bacteria more air.
Anaerobic = Without Oxygen: When food waste is sent to the landfill, it's literally treated like garbage. It piles up alongside non-organic items and is covered by tons of rubbish. Without any turning or oxygen in sight, anaerobic bacteria ferment organic material into acids and ammonia. Worse, CH4 (methane gas) is generated as a byproduct of this process.
Unfortunately, methane gas production has already doubled over the last 200 years because of our human influence. Compared to carbon dioxide, another potent greenhouse gas, methane is 25 times more effective at trapping radiation. In 2020, it was estimated that 17% of methane emissions in the U.S. were generated by consumer waste in landfills.
But it's not too late for us humans to reduce methane emissions! Methane lasts, on average, for about 12 years. Carbon dioxide on the other hand, sticks around for centuries or even millennia. Still, if we take action now to compost our food waste instead of sending it to the landfill, our planet benefits.
What happens to compostable items in a landfill?
A compostable item takes much longer to decompose in a landfill because it's trapped between stagnant layers of trash. Without the help of oxygen and aerobic bacteria, organic waste ferments and generates excess methane. Methane is more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in our atmosphere.
But what if you don't have a backyard compost pile to throw your organic materials into? Perhaps you live in an apartment building and worry that a countertop compost bin will be too messy to deal with.
Good news: You can still reduce your methane emissions with an electric composter. We recommend Lomi because of its ability to break down meal scraps into dirt that's high in organic matter, nutrients and organic carbon.
You can also toss Lomi-approved products and compostable bioplastics into this instant electric kitchen composter. In less than four hours, Lomi breaks down biodegradable materials that would otherwise take years to decompose in a landfill.
Next, we'll look at all the reasons that composting is better than landfills.
Why is composting better than landfills?
There are so many benefits of composting compared to sending your leftover take-out to the landfill. Whether you decide to start an indoor kitchen compost or an outdoor compost heap, your actions will help to create a healthier climate environment. Take a look at all the positives it entails.
- Reduce methane gas: Composting is better than landfills because aerobic composted organic matter reduces methane gas emission. Currently, high concentrations of human-created greenhouse gas emissions continue to trap more heat in our atmosphere, leading to global climate change.
- Cut down on waste: One of the main benefits of the composting process is overall waste reduction. If we throw less of our food waste into landfills, there'll be less garbage to produce methane gas.
- Enhance soil health: Composting improves soil's ability to hold onto positively charged nutrients by increasing its cation exchange capacity (CEC). This promotes overall soil fertility and health.
- Prevent erosion of soil: When soil is hard packed and over fertilized, there's a greater chance of stormwater runoff. Dirt with compost mixed in, is more capable of absorbing and holding onto water.
- Reduce need for chemical fertilizers: Chemical fertilizers often over-fertilize soil and lead to groundwater contamination. Because compost breaks down slowly over time, crops benefit from this gradual release of beneficial plant-food.
- Grow healthier vegetables: Composted waste is full of beneficial minerals, fungi and microorganism that produce thrive on. This biodiverse soil strengthens fruits and vegetables, increasing their resistance to pests and disease.
- Save money: When you compost at home, you significantly reduce your garbage bill. It requires less plastic trash bags on a weekly basis and you’ll pay less money for trash pickup.
- Repurpose yard waste: Once you start composting, you may be surprised by how much extra stuff can be tossed into the pile. Yard trimmings, grass clippings and dry leaves can all be added to compost. If you're lucky enough to have a green bin waste collection service in your city, this is also a great place to add leftover, bulky landscaping debris.
4 easy ways to compost at home and reduce food waste in landfills
If you've read everything on compost vs landfill up until this point, you're probably eager to get started on your own home composting routine. Luckily, we've highlighted the best ways to compost at home so you can reduce your contribution to landfills starting today.
1. Aerobic composting
An aerobic compost pile is a great option if you have time to commit to the process. It's especially great for gardeners who want a surplus of carbon rich soil to fertilize their crops. With the help of naturally occurring microbes and carbon dioxide release, your leftover food is transformed into robust plant fertilizer.
This composting method can be done indoors or outdoors. All you need is a bin and a tool to turn your compost with. It's important to mix up the compost heap so that beneficial bacteria can properly break down the decomposing food.
Pro tip: Get a compost tumbler if you want to make the process of turning your organics even easier.
2. Compost with Lomi
If you don't have the space or time to deal with a smelly compost bin in your backyard, a Lomi electric kitchen composter is the next best solution.
This handy appliance fits into any corner of your kitchen and quietly breaks down organic waste in less than a day. Give your dinner scraps, coffee grounds, and eggshells to Lomi and it'll return nutrient-rich dirt that's high in organic carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Sound too good to be true? Discover why eco-conscious individuals love Lomi so much.
Pro tip: Fortify your Lomi dirt with beneficial microbes that plants love. Simply add a Lomi Pod to each grow mode cycle. The final product will be a natural fertilizer that you can use to grow plants that are strong and healthy.
3. Cold composting
Do you have a yard but don't want to worry about rotating smelly decomposing kitchen scraps? Sort out a dedicated space on your property to create a cold composting mound. Then, just throw your organics onto this area and wait.
Other than outdoor space, all cold composting requires is time and a bit of patience. It can take up to 6 months or even a year for the composting scraps to fully degrade.
Pro tip: Surround kitchen scraps with a wire fence or wooden enclosure. This will help keep critters like raccoons and possums away from the mound as it degrades.
4. Trench composting
If you want an out-of-sight solution, digging trenches is a great way to get rid of that leftover broccoli no one will eat. You'll have to commit to digging quite a few trenches if you'd like to use this as your main method of breaking down food scraps.
Dig a 12 inch hole near your flower patch and fill it halfway with unwanted food items. Cover up the hole and voilà! You've now successfully trench composted your leftovers. The best thing about this method is that it doesn't attract pests.
Pro tip: Dig 10-12 trenches ahead of time so you quickly dispose of after-dinner leftovers without breaking a sweat.
Now that you understand the difference between compost vs landfill and the benefits of composting, consider adding this habit to your daily routine. Every little bit counts towards reducing excessive atmospheric greenhouse gasses like methane and carbon dioxide.
If you're worried about the mess, smell, or pests that may come with traditional composting, skip the hassle and buy a Lomi instead. Even if you don't have a garden to add Lomi dirt to, you'll prevent pounds of food waste from entering an unsustainable landfill system.
Written by: Anna Buck