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Why is Composting Good for the Environment?

Posted by Catherine Wainwright, on March 11, 2024.

In honour of Composting Week, we have written a special blog series dedicated to answering all your composting queries. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just getting started with sustainable practices, we’ve got you covered!

To begin our series, let’s delve into the fundamental question: Why is Composting Good for the Environment?

Composting is more than just a gardening trend; it’s a powerful eco-friendly practice with numerous benefits for our planet. Join us as we explore the incredible environmental advantages of composting and how it contributes to a healthier, more sustainable world.

Why is Composting Good for the Environment?

Composting is the process of transforming organic waste into a valuable, nutrient-rich soil amendment. Organic materials, such as garden waste and vegetable scraps, are broken down by soil microorganisms to produce humus — the biologically stable end product that provides nutrients and improves water retention. Known as ‘black gold’ among farmers, compost is a vital resource in both hobby gardening and large-scale agriculture.

From diverting waste from landfills to enhancing soil health, the environmental benefits of composting cannot be overlooked. Whether in a backyard bin, a community garden, or a municipal program, composting is a simple way to recycle waste and contribute to a sustainable, healthy ecosystem. Take a look at these four key ways that composting is good for the environment, and consider incorporating this simple process into your own gardening practice.

Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Composting your kitchen and garden scraps at home diverts waste from landfills. In landfills, organic matter decomposes anaerobically (without oxygen), producing methane as a by-product — one of the most potent greenhouse gases. On the other hand, composting is an aerobic process (requiring oxygen) that allows organic waste to decompose more efficiently and cleanly, producing carbon dioxide instead of methane. Although carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, composting waste can reduce more than 50% of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions compared to landfills. Additionally, the microbes in compost convert carbon into forms that can be stored in the soil for long periods, acting as a sponge for these harmful emissions.

Increases Soil Biodiversity

Soil contains organisms that are essential to maintaining Earth’s ecosystems. Compost enhances soil biodiversity by introducing a rich array of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. These microorganisms provide countless benefits to the soil and plant life:

  • Contributing to soil water retention.
  • Playing an essential role in the global gas exchange cycle.
  • Helping soils reach a natural equilibrium where pests and diseases are kept in balance. 
  • Converting nutrients, such as nitrogen, into forms that are available to plants. 

Applying compost to the soil will also encourage the presence of other beneficial insects and worms, which further improve soil aeration, nutrient cycling, and the production of humus.

Water Conservation

Incorporating organic matter, such as compost, into the soil is an impactful way to reduce water waste. Compost increases the soil’s ability to form aggregates, enhancing soil structure. For heavy or compacted soils, compost can improve aeration and porosity, while for dry and sandy soils compost can improve water retention. A healthy soil structure can help prevent soil erosion, leaching, and runoff. Compost can also be applied as a mulch to the soil’s surface to retain moisture.

Reduces Use of Chemical Fertilisers

Compost naturally enriches soil with essential nutrients. By improving soil structure, compost also enhances nutrient retention while the presence of microorganisms helps in nutrient cycling. Critically, this reduces the reliance on chemical fertilisers in gardening practices. These chemicals, while effective in promoting plant growth, can have detrimental effects on the environment and soil health. Their excessive use leads to runoff into water bodies, disrupting ecosystems and harming aquatic life. Synthetic fertilisers can also degrade soil structure, deplete biodiversity, and reduce fertility over time. Compost is called black gold for good reason — it nurtures healthy soils, creates thriving ecosystems, and supports a sustainable environment.