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Why composting food scraps is better than sending them to a landfill

As part of Compost Awareness Week, MI Environment is highlighting a common question: Why is composting food scraps and yard waste better than sending them to a landfill? Isn’t the decomposition the same?

 Compost bin with food waste. Courtesy of Kent Walters.

Compost bin with food waste. 


As gardening season approaches, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) encourages Michiganders to start composting, to recycle food scraps and yard waste instead of throwing them in the trash. Composting not only helps fight climate change but it also produces a product, a rich soil supplement that is known as “black gold” to gardeners.

Composting breaks down organic matter without creating and releasing significant amounts of methane. To break down efficiently, the organic materials need oxygen from the air to decompose without producing methane. That is why compost piles need to be “turned” or mixed periodically. Landfills are an ‘oxygen poor’ environment, leading decomposing organics to create larger amounts of methane.

“Composting is an important part of Michigan's strategy to fight climate change,” notes Aaron Hiday, EGLE compost program coordinator. “When you throw your food scraps in the trash, they get taken to a landfill. And when that decomposes, it can generate a lot of methane, a greenhouse gas.”

Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Composting is one tool for sustainable organics waste management.,” added Hiday. He provided this guidance: “When it comes to food, eat it -- don't throw it in the trash. When we do generate organics waste, compost it. It's one of the best things you can do for our environment.”

Composting resources

EGLE’s at-home composting guide.

Learn more about composting and help teach others about composting by watching and sharing EGLE’s videos:

EGLE’s Sustainable Food Management Hierarchy, highlight options for managing food waste and the importance of keeping food and yard waste out of landfills.

Don’t have time to compost at home but want to help fight climate change by sending compostables to a commercial composter?  Check out our map of commercial composters, call your local municipality, or recycling vendor to see if they offer compost pick-up services. 

For more information, visit ELGE’s Compost webpage.