Comparing Composting vs Landfill


Image shows composting vs landfill example
Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons – Joi Ito

Want to compare composting vs landfill?

The average person will know of the two options but might not understand the nitty-gritty details. It’s a question that arises all the time, and it’s important to dissect the query.

So, which one is better and how do they compare?

Science of Composting vs Landfill

It all comes down to science.

With landfill, you’re looking at gas made of 50% CH4 (Methane) and 50% CO2 (Carbon Dioxide). With methane, the development takes place due to underlying anaerobic decomposition (i.e. minimal access to oxygen). While the opposite occurs with a general compost pile. The reason you want to avoid methane has to do with the development of excess heat. This is how greenhouse gases become a major cause for concern.

Since both options promise to decay, why not go with the safer option? This is where people tend to veer towards composting.

Based on scientific studies on the subject, methane can retain 25x the amount of heat carbon dioxide can. Yes, this is a tremendous difference and one of the main reasons you want to avoid the landfill route. In the composting vs landfill battle, you don’t want to come out on the wrong end of things and contribute towards the planet’s downfall.

Control of Gases

What about the control on offer with landfill options?

Aren’t you looking at a solution where the gases are collected and monitored instead of spreading into the atmosphere? While the internal systems do this, current technology is still behind and doesn’t provide 100% efficiency. Instead, you will see 60-70% efficiency while the remaining gas does release into the atmosphere. Please remember, the 25x multiplier on methane gas means even a 30% release is excessive and harmful.

It gets worse when you estimate how quickly food can decay!

For example, food waste decomposes within 14-28 days. If so, the gas collection system at the landfill won’t suffice. They act later on, and by that time all of the gas is going to spread causing tremendous damage.

The Right Choice

So, what is the right choice and how should one approach it when the topic veers towards composting vs landfill?

The right answer is to choose to compost in the “composting vs landfill” battle.

Now, you are going to have a few ways to slice this, and it’s important to pick the one that suits your setup.

The options include:

  • Static Pile: Placement of organic material in a windrow. Composting process is completed without rotational movements. Aeration occurs from below with cover on top.
  • Open Pile: Organic material is placed into a large pile. Airflow passes through the pile to create aerobic structure.
  • Vermicomposting: Worms are utilized to help with composting. They break down material.
  • Windrow: The idea is to create piles of compost while using a turner to rotate them for aeration purposes.
  • In-Vessel: Drum is used for turning organic material. Temperature, moisture, and air flow are controlled with its movements.

This is valuable information for those who are looking to make a decision about composting vs landfill.

It’s a no-brainer. Composting is the way to go and is the natural option.