Sydney Landfill: Is Landfill Worse Than Composting For Organic Waste?
Sydney Landfill: We were very interested watching War On Waste on ABC television last week – and it got us thinking about whether dumping organic waste at landfill was actually worse than composting – or even for fruit rotting where it falls on a field (i.e. straight from the tree). Of course, it is easy to see the benefits of recycling for products such as cardboard or commingled recycling (see resource recovery).
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Is dumping organic waste in Sydney landfill worse than composting?
On initial inspection – there is no apparent difference from an environmental perspective from dumping at landfill or composting (or any other ways for organic waste solutions – i.e. through decomposition). However, the science makes it quite different. Recycle.com gives an overview on the science:
“you see, different greenhouse gases have more heat holding capability in the atmosphere. Methane (CH4) can hold 25 times more heat than carbon dioxide (CO2).”
“Landfill gas is comprised of roughly 50% CO2 and 50% CH4. The methane is developed due to the anaerobic decomposition – lack of oxygen – that takes place in a landfill. Whereas a compost pile decomposes aerobically – with oxygen – producing mainly CO2. This depends upon the types and ratio of material included in the compost (i.e., food, manure, yard waste), and how often the pile is turned or use of another method of oxygen introduction.”
In general we should think in this way – as per sustainablog.org:
“Landfill methane is a gas that is produced in a landfill because the things in the landfill undergo anaerobic decomposition. Basically, this means that because municipal solid waste that is buried in a landfill does not receive oxygen, it will produce methane.”
“A compost pile, on the other hand, undergoes aerobic decomposition. Because it is exposed to oxygen, either by turning it or through the use of worms and other living organisms, it produces CO2 (carbon dioxide) instead of methane.”
So there you have it – from a greenhouse gas perspective – composting does tend to be better than landfill – and of course, you also get nice compost from it! See our blog on organic waste in rubbish bins.
See the launch of our new cartoon mascot in Melbourne rubbish collection.
Check out our latest blog on how maggots can reduce food waste.
Landfills get a very bad reputation but when it comes to organic waste decomposition – it is not plain and simple that they are a terrible solution.
The best new development is using bio-reactors to create biogas from decaying food – and so generate significant amounts of electricity.
In the near future – decaying food could represent a very valuable energy source for our cities – and could make farms and remote properties completely energy self sufficient. We will see what forms part of a sustainable recycling plan.
You can see a video on how even your own house can create biogas from food waste. When you consider the tonnes of waste produced by both commercial businesses, local councils and households – you realise that many million tonnes of waste per annum will be available to create energy across Australia.
It is questions like these we consider when running a waste management tender.