Chances are that you’ve heard of composting. It’s very likely that if you are reading this you probably know someone who is currently composting at their home, school, or workplace. Exactly what you’ve heard may vary depending on who you’ve spoken with but you’ve heard that it’s difficult, messy or smelly then you’ve been misinformed!
Composting is a super simple way to combat climate change in your own backyard, the kitchen counter, or anywhere really (Climate Central, 2016). The process takes organic matter that would typically end up in a landfill, diverts it, reduces your household waste and through decomposition, turns it into a nutrient-rich soil additive.
First up let’s talk about everyone’s favorite biological process DECOMPOSITION! Decomposition is the natural process that breaks down all organic substances into smaller and simpler organic matter. Food scraps, wood, plants, human hair, that pizza box from last week and even bones; all of it will decompose eventually. Something you will hear compost advocates say is, that if it was once alive it can probably be composted.
The overwhelming majority of the organic waste produced in Nashville decomposes in the landfill, only about 6% is diverted through composting (Solid Waste Master Plan, 2019). This brings up a key question: what’s the difference between organic waste decomposing in a landfill versus a compost pile if it all just decomposes?
The dominant process in which organic waste is broken in landfills is through anaerobic decomposition/digestion. This means the waste is broken down by microorganisms in the absence of oxygen. This process results in the production of methane is 25 times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (EPA, 2019).
Conversely, organic waste in a compost pile is broken down through aerobic decomposition which means oxygen is present in the process. This process does not produce harmful methane, can be more efficient at breaking down waste, when properly oxidized produces no smelly odor and leaves you with a nutrient-rich humus.
So why should you, residents of the Nashville area, drop whatever it is you’re doing and get a compost pile started? It’s estimated that the Middle Point Landfill, the metro areas largest, will be at capacity in as little as 5 years. This coupled with the fact that only 6% of our waste is composted AND almost half of what ends up in the landfill is organic means we have some work to do (Solid Waste Master Plan, 2019).
Get after it Nashvillians.
Compost Company: https://www.compostcompany.com/
Metro Nashville: https://www.nashville.gov/Public-Works/Neighborhood-Services/Yard-Waste-Composting/Composting.aspx