Composting is a great way to lessen your food waste and provide nutrient-rich fertilizer for your plants. But you may find yourself wondering if composting is good for the environment. You might want to start composting to reduce methane emissions but does the composting process produce methane gas? In this article, we will discuss this as well as the following topics:
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First, let's look at the big question of whether or not composting produces methane.
Does composting produce methane?
Yes. Food waste and other organic materials produce methane and carbon dioxide during the decomposition process. The aerobic composting process does not produce as much methane as anaerobic composting because aerobic composting requires ventilation.
Methane-producing microbes are not active when exposed to oxygen so they are less common in aerobic composting. Most household composting is considered to be aerobic. So if you are composting indoors or are backyard composting, you aren't producing much methane.
Methane emissions for composting vs. landfill
So now we know that composting does produce methane gas, but how does it compare to the amount of methane produced in a landfill? Is composting worth the effort? Food waste that is sent to the landfill still decomposes, but not in the same way that food that is composted does. When you put food waste into your compost bins at home, they are being exposed to air and only being mixed with other organic material. Meaning your compost primarily releases carbon dioxide. When you send food waste to the landfill, the organic waste is mixed with all other types of garbage and is not exposed to oxygen. This means it produces a lot more methane. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is another greenhouse gas produced during the decomposition process. These greenhouse gas emissions have a major impact on climate change.
Greenhouse gases warm the Earth by absorbing energy and slowing the release of that energy back into space. They act as a sort of blanket to keep the earth warm. So how do we measure the impact of these gases on the Earth?
The Global Warming Potential (GWP) was developed to compare the impact that different gases have on global warming. It's a measure of how much energy 1 ton of gas emissions will absorb over a given time (usually 100 years) compared to 1 ton of carbon dioxide. The larger the number, the more that gas warms the earth. Carbon dioxide has a GWP of 1.
Using the GWP, it has been determined that nitrous oxide has a GWP of 280 and methane (CH4) has a GWP of 30 which is 28-36 times larger than carbon dioxide (CO2). The greenhouse gas emissions from a landfill are roughly 50% CH4 and 50% CO2. Aerobic composting gas emissions are primarily made up of CO2. Since aerobic composting has more CO2 emissions, it contributes far less than sending your food waste to the landfill.
50% CH4 and 50% CO2
Made up of all organic material
Mixed with other garbage
Top 7 benefits of home composting vs. sending your organic waste to landfills
There are so many benefits to composting food waste at home. It is super simple to take your organic waste and turn it into nutrient-rich fertilizer for your plants. Here are 6 benefits
- Makes soil healthier: Adding compost to your soil helps add beneficial nutrients and improves soil structure. Healthier soil means larger, healthier plants.
- Lessen methane emissions: Because composting produces mostly carbon dioxide, it results in less methane production. This means you are reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- Keeps waste out of landfills: We send a lot of organic waste to landfill each year. Instead of sending all of that organic waste to the landfill site, get a compost bin and start making nutrient-rich fertilizer for your plants.
- Creates a more sustainable system: By composting, you are creating a closed-loop system. You can turn your food waste into food for your plants, which in turn can provide you with more food.
- Feeds your plants: Compost is often referred to as black gold, and for good reason. It is full of nutrients that your plants need to grow large and healthy.
- Creates awareness of food waste: When you are collecting your food scraps to add to your compost, you become very aware of how much food waste you are creating. You can then make adjustments to your grocery bill to lessen your waste.
- Saves you money: Composting at home can save you money not only on fertilizer for your plants but at the grocery store. If you are more aware of wasted food, you can avoid wasting your money on foods you are just tossing out.
4 home composting methods to help reduce greenhouse gases
There are many different ways to compost at home. You might not have the space for backyard composting, but can put a small compost bin in your kitchen. No matter the method you choose, you can still find a way to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. We have a list of the best composters if you want some help to find the right one for you.
1. Cold composting
This is a popular form of backyard composting. With this method, you create one or more compost piles in your yard. Most people use wood pallets to create designated spots for their piles. Then you simply add your organic materials (food scraps, yard waste, etc.) and let them naturally decompose.
This method takes quite a bit of time, so if you are looking to compost quickly, this method is not for you.
Pro tip: Make sure you turn your pile every couple of days to allow oxygen into your pile and speed up the decomposition process.
2. Electric composter
If you don't have a ton of space, but still want to compost at home, try an electric composter. Electric composters are small kitchen appliances that turn your organic waste into nutrient-rich dirt for your plants.
An electric composter like Lomi makes composting super quick and easy. You don't have to worry about any smell or pests with Lomi. It's quiet and efficient, making fertilizer for your plants in a matter of hours.
Pro tip: Want to speed up the decomposition process even more? Toss a Lomi pod in with your food scraps.
Vermicomposting is also known as worm composting. You can do this method inside or outside. You need a few worm bins (or you can use plastic storage bins with some holes drilled in), worms (red wigglers to be exact), and some soil.
Pro tip: Make sure your worms are getting enough oxygen. Most commercial worm composting bins have enough ventilation but if you are making your own, make sure you drill enough holes.
4. Aerobic composting
Aerobic composting is one of the best ways to home compost, and it is easy for beginners. It can be done in large batches or on a smaller scale, so you can easily do it while living in an apartment. Just use an indoor compost bin or create your own using a plastic storage container with a lid and some soil. Make sure you drill some air holes throughout the bin to allow proper airflow.
Pro tip: Just like cold composting, you want to make sure you turn your compost often to aerate the waste.
While composting at home does still produce some methane gases, it is far less than sending your food waste to the landfill. Consider investing in a Lomi electric composter to make composting less of a chore and still lower your greenhouse gas emissions. Users love how much time Lomi saves them and they can feel good about keeping their waste out of landfills. Try Lomi out today and you'll be glad you did!
Written by: Sarah Kendal