But Now You Know

The search for truth in human action

WARNING: Composting Increases Your Carbon Footprint!

We are slowly coming to face the fact that many trendy “green” things actually harm the environment, instead of helping it.

Unfortunately, some of us are not learning their lesson, and new “green” activities are being pushed that are just as lacking in forethought, just as harmful to the planet.

One perfect example of this is the new composting fetish:

It is actually better for the environment to throw away garbage, than to compost it, if you’re worried about greenhouse gases, instead of just wanting good, free fertilizer.

Composting Releases Greenhouse Gas

Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are the second through fourth most significant greenhouse gases, after water vapor.

The materials in a compost heap contain nitrogen and carbon, locked away from the atmosphere.

The act of composing specifically converts nitrogen into nitrous oxide, and carbon into prodigous amounts of methane and carbon dioxide. No actual environmental scientist will deny this. It’s just a fact of chemistry…the two links above are pro-composting, environmentalist organizations, yet they confirm this.

Just to be clear on this:

  • Water vapor is the main source of the natural greenhouse effect, causing about 50% of all heat retention, depending on local humidity. All scientists agree that nothing humans can do changes the overall amount of water vapor in our atmosphere.
  • Carbon Dioxide, CO2, is the next greatest source, producing about 20% of warming.
  • Methane, CH4, is 30 times more powerful, but there’s less in the atmosphere, so it contributes about 6%.
  • Nitrous Oxide, N2O, is THREE HUNDRED TIMES more powerful, but even rarer, producing about 2% of natural warming. The biggest impact we could have, if any, would be to produce more of this more powerful, less common gas.

To be clear, composting produces extremely high amounts of nitrous oxide, as well as large amounts of methane, and even under the best conditions, more CO2 than almost anything else, in your entire household.

Landfills Reduce Greenhouse Gases

On the other hand, if you were to throw those compostables away, they would probably end up in a land fill. Recently, environmental scientists have bothered to actually check, and have realized that, in fact, materials in landfills do not rot the way they normally would, because of the way they’re compacted together. The International Encyclopaedia of Environmental Laws,  pointing out that paper and corn don’t rot in landfills, asks why one should even bother substituting paper for plastic, or “biodegradable” corn bags.

Again, those are environmentalists saying these things.

Environmental scientist and Green advocate Bill Rothje says that you can find readable newspaper that has been in landfills for at least 30 years. That means the carbon in newspaper (which comprises 19% of all landfill space) can be retained in the landfill for decades…or released into the atmosphere by composting.

So, according to Environmental scientists, trash in landfills is removed from the carbon/nitrogen cycle, staying out of the atmosphere. A landfill is, in fact, a tremendous REDUCTION in our “carbon footprint”.

In fact, next time you’re thinking about “recycling” paper, remember that this requires more energy, fossil fuel, and chemicals than making new paper…and that if you just throw the paper away, you’re removing its carbon from the atmosphere for the long-term.

It Gets Worse

Some governments are using taxpayer dollars to force the production of “worm composting”. Yet nitrous oxide is an inevitable by-product of worm composting. Remember, this is about 300 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2.

Earthworm Jim farts Nitrous Oxide into his space suit, compost worms do it in our atmosphere

Meanwhile, not only do landfills produce mainly methane, not Nitrous Oxide, but nearly half of the methane they produce can be captures for use as green energy. Methane engines simply produce water vapor as a waste product.

Jim Frederickson, senior research fellow at Britain’s Open University, says “”We need to investigate all alternative systems for greenhouse potential.

“The emissions that come from these worms can actually be 290 times more potent than carbon dioxide and 20 times more potent than methane. In all environmental systems you get good points and bad points.”

The whole “composting” craze, from expensive plastic countertop bins to government-mandated worm farms, is just another example of people not caring what is ACTUALLY good for the environment, but pushing any ill-thought-out plan down our throats.

September 7, 2010 Posted by | environment, Politics, Science | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments


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