While many people compost to help their gardens thrive, composting minimizes the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. According the the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we dispose of more than 250 million tons of trash a year. Of those, only 34.1 percent of it was recycled or composted, a figure which could be much higher if we make an effort to lessen the burden on landfills
The number of usable landfills in the United States has sharply declined in the past few decades. In a 2005 report on municipal solid waste generation, the EPA noted that there were 7,924 landfills in 1988, yet only 1,654 in 2005. One of the most-notable landfill closures was Fresh Kills in New York. Once the world’s largest landfill, it was closed in 2001 after being filled with 53 years worth of garbage from the largest U.S. city, according to the Staten Island Advance.
While many landfills are closed when they are full, others are expanded. In Delaware, an expansion of the Cherry Island landfill was recently completed, adding 20.7 million cubic yards in capacity, as noted in a press release from Sevenson Environmental, the environmental remediation company that completed the expansion. The expansion “extended the life of the landfill by about 20 years,” according to the CEO of Sevenson Environmental, Michael Elia.
The EPA estimates that each American generates around 4.43 pounds of municipal solid waste per day. The agency defines municipal solid waste as any of the everyday items you routinely throw away, including everything from grass clippings and food scraps to clothing, newspapers, bottles and paint. Given the ever-growing U.S. population, we must look to alternative methods to dispose of waste instead of tossing everything in landfills.
San Francisco residents have proven that composting can be the answer, especially when paired with recycling. A recent PBS interview with San Francisco mayor Ed Lee explained how the city has been able to divert more than 80 percent of their trash from landfills by legally requiring residents and businesses to compost and recycle. We could dramatically reduce the amount of waste we send to landfills each year if we adopted similar habits as a nation.
The U.S. Composting Council defines compost as the resulting product of the controlled biological decomposition of organic matter. Produced by microorganisms that feed off of oxygen, the decomposing waste matter used in composting provides the ideal environment for these micronutrients to flourish and aid in the breakdown of waste to nutrient-rich organic matter. According to the U.S. Composting Council, composting is beneficial in the following ways:
For more information about composting and how you can get started go to: