Why composting can be a great player in combating climate change?
South Africa is running out of landfill space, which makes it a must to reduce, reuse, and recycle. One way to reduce our waste that goes to the landfill is by composting, however, composting plays a much more important role in nature than you might have thought.
Organic waste should never end up at the landfill in the first place.
Why is composting good for nature?
Composting is a controlled decomposition of raw organic material into biologically stable humid substances, called compost. This compost is a source of organic matter which microbes need, and the microbes then transport water and mineral to plants in exchange.
The average soil loss in South Africa is 12,6 tons/ha/year, while the soil formation rate is less than 5 tons/ha/year.
This means that we are losing much more soil than we gain. With the loss of soil, comes the loss of life itself, because our food is coming from the soil.
Then is there no way to reverse this?
This is where composting plays an important role. Composting helps to regenerate poor soils, and bring back life into the soil. Good soil increases the water retention ability of the soil, strengthens the plant's immune system, increases the fruit's nutrition, and increases crop yields.
Imagine how many plants and trees will be able to grow stronger and live for longer to help us in reversing climate change?
That brings us to our second point,
composting indirectly reduces climate change by decreasing emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas, which is released when landfilled organic waste rots.
“When organic waste is landfilled, it rots and produces methane. This methane is 22 times more damaging to the environment as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This makes it difficult to meet our climate change obligations. It also attracts pathogens and produces leachate that will eventually pollute our increasingly scarce water sources,” Gavin Heron, co-founder of on-site food waste composting business, Earth Probiotic.
We managed to break the carbon balance of nature through the extraction and burning of fossil fuels; a lot of carbon in the air is not good as it causes climate change but a lot of carbon in the ground is great! While trees do their best to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, a good soil would trap that carbon and releases it to plants when needed - this is called carbon farming. Our actions can result in either pumping carbon into the air or into the ground, the solution to climate change can be literally under our feet.
Organic waste does not belong in a landfill, nature designed organic material to belong in a continuous cycle of growth and decay with all its nutrients being reused as nature intended, but sadly enough, we are sending much of our compostable waste to the landfill and negatively contributing to climate change.
The stats are staggering
In the US, 27 billion tonnes of food waste goes to the landfill each year, by weight that is nutrients about 4.5 great Egyptians pyramids that are wasted each year.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) had an audit that showed that
almost 40% of all waste that ends up in South African landfills is indeed organic and biodegradable
signifying a great loss of nutrients that could have been used for composting and soil fertilization. And another study by the CSIR also showed that South Africa lost a staggering R71.4 billion to food waste in 2013, as South Africa produces an average of 12.6 million tonnes of food waste annually.
By composting, food waste is diverted from the landfill which decreases the amount of methane released into the atmosphere and by improving the quality of soils, desertification is minimised increasing vegetation and trees that aid in reversing climate change.
With composting comes many benefits, and you can be a part of it!
Be sure to look for our next post in this series where we will touch on the what and how to compost.