Composting may be well-defined as the method through which the organic wastes are broken down into small forms by microorganisms, usually fungi and or bacteria. These microorganisms get their energy from carbon present in the waste. The nitrogen-containing substances are degraded and broken down into a uniform product which can be useful in amending the soil. This process causes heat production which is helpful in killing several unwanted organisms like pathogens and weed seeds. The significant advantages of composting include the removal of heat-killed pests, reduced waste volumes, and the creation of marketable and beneficial materials. When compost is added to the soil, the content of organic matter increases, these causes the soil characteristics to improve and also allows the crops to use its nutrients for several years as the crop nutrients are released slowly. This paper aims to describe how certain composting foods helps the environment. Some of the ways in which composting helps the environment as we are going to see include, it helps landfills, feeds the soil, improves the soil, minimizes the chemicals, greenhouse gas reduction, habitat restoration and the reduction of non-point source pollution.
Helps in landfills: Composting enables the vegetable matters to be kept away from the landfills. It not only helps in ensuring that landfills don’t pile up prematurely but also prevents the occurrence of pollution. Foods like the plant matter do not decay in a clean way when placed in the landfills. Therefore, an anaerobic environment is created in the layers of the plant that bury the plant matter. This, in turn, creates an airless environment making the plant matter to decay and produce methane gas. Methane is a strong conservatory gas that is around 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Therefore, composting helps in landfill minimization hence contributing to climate changes. For example, an estimate by EPA confirmed that the average rate per capita of discarding was 2.5 pounds per day in 2007. This figure is equal to approximately 1000 pounds per person in one year. When fruits and vegetables are put in compost, a garden or lawn with a high-quality organic material source as the use of fertilizers in the land is minimized. Since they are biodegradable foods, one can easily enjoy the benefits of composting such foods (Susan P.), (Eureka Recycling).
Feeds the soil: In a classic 1748 book by Jared Eliot called Essays upon Field Husbandry,” he introduced an interesting metaphor where he compares the soil with a bank. A person who grows food and harvests it and does not return manure and plant waste is like a man who continuously withdraws money from the bank and never puts a deposit. Composting food wastes are important as it allows us to return the compost (nutrients) to the soil that feeds us (Susan P.).
Improves the soil: There are different ways in which compost improves the soil. For instance, it helps sandy soils to trap and hold water for long, loosens heavy soil compaction. When compost is mixed with the soil, it functions like a sponge allowing water to be held in the plant roots hence reducing the amount of water required for irrigation. Composting also helps add nutrients and promotes the growth beneficial insects, microorganisms and earthworms. It also contributes to the health of the soil hence increasing plant success (Susan P.).
Minimizes Chemicals: The use of compost on soil reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. Compost is beneficial as it not only provides the nutrients supplied by fertilizers but also an array of nutrients and metal traces that are not present in chemical fertilizers. Reducing the application of chemical fertilizers in the soil reduces its associated problems to the environment such as water pollution, algae blooms from nitrogen fertilizers and leaching in the groundwater (Susan P.), (Dinesen C.)
Minimizes Nonpoint Source pollution: Composting fruits and vegetables is advantageous as far as nonpoint pollution is concerned. The use of compost from the scraps of food helps prevent or reduce harmful runoff from the use of synthetic fertilizers. In turn, plants become healthier and more resistive to pests and parasites hence reducing the need for pesticide use (Dinesen C.)
Habitat Restoration: Food scraps contain nutrients that are beneficial to the environment as it provides a rich source of organic material that can revive the habitats in your property. One can add a nutrients boost to native plants and start a personal restoration project along the streams or wetlands. This, in turn, prevents soil erosion in the shorelines and helps in anchor soils that could harm the water sources (Dinesen C.).
Greenhouse Gas Reduction: Composting vegetables and fruits can reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses caused by decomposing foods. These foods are organic hence decompose faster, and as earlier stated, methane gas is released to the environment into the atmosphere. Composting these foods can help reduce methane emission generated from landfills and hence decreasing one’s contribution to climate change (Eureka Recycling) (Dinesen C.).
Mu, Dongyan, et al. “Environmental and economic analysis of an in-vessel food waste composting system at Kean University in the US.” Waste management 59 (2017): 476-486.
Peterson, Susan. “How Composting Helps the Environment.” Home Guides | SF Gate, http://homeguides.sfgate.com/composting-helps-environment-23577.html. Accessed 09 April 2018.
Dinesen, Chris. “How Recycling Fruits & Vegetable Can Help the Environment.” Home Guides | SF Gate, http://homeguides.sfgate.com/recycling-fruits-vegetable-can-environment-79348.html. Accessed 09 April 2018.
Eureka Recycling, Environmental benefits of Recycling and Composting, Excerpts from “Recycling, Composting and Greenhouse Gas Reductions in Minnesota,” 2008.