New Green Horror: Composting

As Lord Monckton might say… ‘Mee-thane is the problem.’

“Most people think of composting as a very ‘green’ thing to do, but few realize that composting actually generates a significant amount of the potent greenhouse gases (GHG), methane and nitrous oxide. Yes, composting is better than putting organic wastes into a landfill, but it is not the ideal way to handle large volume, organic waste-streams like animal manure. The better option is anaerobic digestion which I will describe at the end of this post.” [Applied Methodology]

7 thoughts on “New Green Horror: Composting”

  1. Hi Folks. I’m Steve Savage, the author of the post referenced here. I take a lot of grief from the anti-GMO and anti-pesticide folks, and I also take a lot of grief from climate change skeptics because, as someone involved in agriculture I prefer a cautious approach which says, why not do the things that make economic and strategic sense anyway that might have some impact on climate change. If we were wrong about climate change, at least we did smart things economically and strategically. If the models were right, to have passed up on otherwise logical things will look pretty stupid down the road. As for the comments

    caohaoim: I can only assume you meant septic tanks which is not the same thing as an anaerobic digester. Leaves decomposing on the forest floor don’t compost. They just decay with plenty of oxygen.

    Mitchel Ivy: Earthworms also produce lots of nitrous oxide (or the microbes in their guts do). All of those sources are real, I doubt anyone has a very good estimate of the total. What microbes do in the soil is probably far bigger a component including those that consume methane.

    Gamecock: I’m hardly the voice of the green “other.” I’m very unpopular in some environmentalist circles for pointing this out about compost. I dare question the virtue of Organic!

    MT Geoff: you are right about some landfills harvesting methane. That is just smart – its energy. Its worth money.

    Robert of Ottawa: Combustion (or its controlled version called metabolism) is certainly the name of the game. I’m arguing that we should combust what we can nicely do from waste streams and get energy. That is just rational.

    Best to you all

  2. Look guys, we are a carbon based life form on this planet. Combustion is the name of the game. If you don’t like it, quit the game.

  3. Resistance is futile, below one ohm. I hope to be at least a 1,000 ohm-er.
    Some landfills are harvesting the methane as an energy source. Turns out methane is both a fossil fuel and a renewable resource.
    Given the actual trends in the fishy metric of global average temperature, it’s obvious that human greenhouse gas production has nothing at all to do with temps, or at least that our GHG production is overwhelmed by the myriad other forcings.

  4. Being green means accepting how to live as defined by others. The Others have now pronounced composting, a former sacrament, as bad, so all Green people must follow. The Others will be issuing more instructions on how to live soon.

    Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

  5. What about termites, camels, cows, andLabrador retrievers? They produce more methane than man and termites alone produce more than all the mechanical equipment combined. The stat stated pollutants than mechanical equipment. I could not tell if it meant all gases or just methane

  6. I spent my childhood, I am now 55, being dragged from one farm waste digestor to another with sewage plants in between. if composting is an issue we had better mow down all the forests as those leaves keep on a ‘posting.

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