By Estella Young
Composting. To compost, or not to compost? Now, that’s a good question
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), tells us composting enriches soil, retains moisture and suppresses plant diseases and pests. It also encourages good bacteria and fungi that improve the nutrients in our food and reduce the need for chemical fertilisers.
A Key Battleground Against Climate Change
But if you’re not a gardener composting may seem more of a chore than anything else.
However, composting is actually a key battleground in the fight against climate change. To understand why, we need to follow our food waste to landfill. Composting is a great way to recycle our food waste responsibly, that’s how our natural world fundamentally works.
We sometimes see life and death as a beginning and end to things. Yet, they are really part of a never-ending cycle happening every second, of every day, all over the world. One simply cannot exist without the other. Plainly put, dead things help the living.
So, when you remove organic matter from that cycle, and bury it deep in the ground in a plastic bag (that will take 10-20 years to biodegrade) you are indirectly removing nutrients from where they are most needed.
We All Produce Gas!
It may also come as no surprise that decomposing food produces gases, which is why animals, including us, produce gas when we digest food. However, one of the main gases that gets released during decomposition is methane, a greenhouse gas that is at least 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
When we dispose of organic waste responsibly, we can capture those gases and use them as energy. Once in landfill it becomes far more difficult to capture these gases. The hazardous chemicals then inevitably seep into our waterways and out into the ocean.
Worms are also a key component in decomposition and also in composting. If we want nutrients that new life can really use, we need worms as well as fungi and bacteria. Worms have adapted and evolved to move through soil, not mountains and mountains of our old junk. This again, interrupts the cycle and threatens future life on the planet. Nutrient depletion in soil is one of the leading causes of desertification.
Food waste in landfill also attracts wildlife which spread it far and wide, threatening the survival of many species. Not just the animals searching through our dumps for an easy meal.
The good news is that there are more ways than ever before to compost. No matter where you live, or how you live, there are a number of recycling systems and composters designed to tackle the war on waste, and indeed the fight against climate change.
Estella Young is a teacher, story-teller and passionate climate activist @estellayoung27