Emissions are on the rise and it’s time we do something about it. While most people think of leading emissions contributors like manufacturing and mining companies, organic waste and fertiliser also contribute to the greenhouse effect. While it’s hard to see the world’s major corporations changing their ways when it comes to reducing their ecological footprint, a focus on these two overlooked contributors could be an easy way to cut down on global gas emissions.
All we need to do is start composting.
Greenhouse gas emissions are bad; for the environment and as a result, us. Carbon, methane, water vapour and nitrous oxide are all such gasses that are leading to global warming. Global warming, however skeptical you are, has had proven disastrous effects on the environment including the melting of polar ice caps, rising sea levels, desertification, increased ocean acidity and the death of coral reefs. So, where do these dangerous emissions that are degrading our planet come from? And how exactly is composting going to cut them out?
People see this and typically think of coal factories or giant tanker ships and maybe if you're into it, you'll think of cow burps. However, there are two producers of greenhouse gas emissions that people don't tend to think of:
More specifically, organic waste in landfill. Almost two million tonnes of organic waste hits landfills all over the world every day. Once it's there, because it isn’t exposed to oxygen, it decomposes anaerobically. This is pretty much just a fancy word meaning the bacteria breaking it down produce the greenhouse gas methane.
Methane is 25 times stronger at retaining heat than carbon dioxide over 100 years.
While a small number of landfills in developed countries use methane capture technology, the absolute best these technologies can reduce emissions to is around 46% and this is rarely ever achieved.
This results in almost one billion tonnes of carbon equivalent emissions every year which translates to an estimated 2% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The manufacturing, transport and use of artificial fertilisers is also a massive emitter of greenhouse gasses. These emissions not only come from the energy intensive production process of manufacturing fertiliser but also the nitrous oxide emitted when the nitrogen in the fertiliser reacts with soil.
Nitrous oxide is around 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide and as demand for food rises, so will the demand for fertilisers.
In addition to the release of nitrous oxide, manufactured fertilisers also cause nitrogen burn, soil degradation and the eutrophication of waterways which are highly detrimental to the environment.
All up, manufactured fertilisers contribute to 2.5% of annual global emissions.
Together, organic waste in landfill and manufactured fertilisers produce over two billion tonnes of carbon equivalent emissions per year, translating to around 4.5%. That's the same amount as half a billion cars or 300 million American homes. Alternatively, cutting these emissions would be like installing 500,000 wind turbines or planting 500 million trees.
Or just by composting.
How composting can reduce emissions
By choosing to put your food scraps and organic waste into compost rather than throwing them in with the rubbish, you divert this organic waste from landfill where it will sit and produce massive amounts of methane gas.
By choosing to compost you will produce a soil enhancer that can substitute the artificial fertilisers that emit nasty nitrous oxide into the atmosphere.
So, want to turn your organic waste into nutrient-rich plant food? Learn how you can compost here. Make sure to keep up-to-date on all things compost as well by following EarthOffset on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.