Environmental Issues

Environmental Benefits of Composting

Some composting benefits are well known: the practice keeps stuff out of landfills, which are rapidly reaching capacity across North America; it promotes healthy plants; and it reduces the use of pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers, many of which can be harmful to the environment (and to the fish, animals and humans that live in it.)

But compost can aid the environment in a number of less obvious ways. Fertilizers, a major source of water pollution, bind to compost in soil, preventing them from leaching into groundwater or waterways. Some of the micro-organisms in compost can also bind heavy metals in soil, again keeping them from leaching into water. Other micro-organisms can actually break down some pollutants into less toxic chemicals. Compost is now frequently used to help remediate (or decontaminate) polluted sites.

On a slightly bigger scale…

More and more cities, towns, universities, farms and schools are composting what used to be thrown away. These composting facilities often dwarf backyard operations. The photo below shows a worm bin at Southern Illinois University, where two million worms dine on cafeteria waste including milk cartons and napkins.

Vermicomposting

Troughs of hungry redworms feast on university leftovers as part of SIUC’s vermicomposting project. Source: “Vermicomposting Center” Southern Illinois University – Carbondale.