Q&A from webinar – Linking recycling with climate change

This spring we conducted a webinar linking recycling with climate change. Below are some of the questions that were asked during the webinar. Our own organics specialist, Brian Rosa, answers.

1. What about comparing backyard composting vs. commercial composting in regards to climate change?

Back yard composting will do several things:
- Save transportation of waste going to a landfill or compost site,
- If composted correctly with a mixture of carbon materials like leaves, sawdust and paper products and nitrogen materials like food scraps, weeds and grass clippings which all get aerated and mixed with water, the compost pile should be aerobic and not generate any methane!

2. We've just begun composting our landscape materials on site. A consultant has told us that you can use compost as mulch instead of pine needles. Any experience using compost in this manner?

Yes, compost is the best mulch you can get! Spread a 3-inch layer around the plants to prevent erosion, act as a weed barrier and conserve water!

3. How realistic is having a drop-off site for food waste with only seven permitted compost facilities in the state? With it so difficult to get a permit, how can we get more facilities?

We are in the middle of a year-long committee (compost facility stakeholders, Division of Waste Management & Division of Water Quality) that is trying to improve the permitting process. Hopefully, in the next six months or so, permitting will be more defined and other facilities will come on line. Also, state, county and local leaders need to know that composting is the best option for organics.

4. Why would we increase landfill gas generation when composting has a much greater impact and beneficial use?

The main reason for the push to get more organics buried in landfill is that the landfill owners want more tipping fees under the guise that the organics will generate more methane. However, landfills can only capture about 30 percent-40percent of that methane for diversion to energy. The rest of it leaks into the atmosphere which isn’t good. A facility may also be able to collect carbon credits for those organics going into a bioreactor landfill. A bioreactor is a landfill that incorporates air and water to increase methane production and utilizes that methane to generate energy.

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