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Keep your compostable food waste out of the landfill!

When it comes to food and other biodegradable waste, there is still an uncomfortably common misconception that separating compostable waste from noncompostable items is unnecessary because biodegradable waste will ‘decompose the same way no matter where it ends up.’

This is absolutely incorrect.

Food waste that decays in a landfill versus a composting facility releases methane, one of the most significant contributors to global warming and climate change.

 

Separate Your Food Waste

At present, one third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. This amounts to a whopping 1.3 billion tonnes per year.

Food waste that is discarded into a landfill does not receive the oxygen required for a clean decomposition. This results in methane production during the decomposition process. Methane is 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide at retaining heat within the atmosphere over a 20-year period. Already methane is the cause of 25% of current global warming.

 

compost reduces greenhouse gas emssions

 

However, when food waste is separated from landfill waste and composted instead, it undergoes the natural aerobic decomposition process, which produces carbon dioxide (a far less potent greenhouse gas) instead of methane. Composted waste can then be used to fertilize and produce more nutrient-rich food for consumption.

 

Creating a Closed Waste Cycle

The arguments for composting outweigh those against. The most prominent is that composting allows for a closed waste cycle with relatively less averse environmental effects than disposing of food waste in a landfill.

Composting does still produce the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, but carbon dioxide, unlike methane, can be absorbed by plants and recycled back into oxygen. The methane produced by anaerobic decomposition of food waste in landfills will remain in the atmosphere resulting in heat-trapping and global warming.

When the aerobic decomposition process of composting is complete, the nutrient-rich compost can be applied as fertilizer to new crops that will be used for human consumption.

Currently, researchers are developing ways to convert the greenhouse gases produced by food waste into bioenergy. This will complete the closure of the food waste cycle.

 

The more popularity compositing gains in our North American communities, the more economical it will become in a traditional sense. Contact your local government to find out what composting and other sustainability initiatives are active in your community. If composting is not yet a priority in your region, you might be interested in jump-starting an initiative by pushing for a commercial composting facility or starting one yourself!