In 2010, 882 million tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) was released from trash globally. The United States was the leader in that number with 130 million tons of CO2 being released (3).
What is all the stink about?
Landfill gas-the natural byproduct of decomposing trash -is made up of ~90-98% methane and CO2. Nitrogen, oxygen, ammonia, sulfides, hydrogen, and various other gases make up the remaining 2-10%. It is ammonia and hydrogen sulfide that are responsible for the odor that make driving by a landfill unforgettable.
These greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere fueling global warming and climate change and are associated with health conditions including, leukemia, bladder cancer (1,2).
What can I do? Great question!
It is estimated that 40% of food in the United States goes uneaten. This means that almost 20 pounds of wasted food per person ends up in landfills monthly (4). Reducing food waste in landfills is one way to help reduce landfill gases and slow down climate change.
By taking food scraps and yard waste and composting we are not only helping to reduce methane and CO2 being released into the environment, but we are also finding alternative solutions to the topsoil erosion problem here in the United States. In addition, compost that is incorporated into soil, increases moisture retention-less watering of vegetation, reducing need for chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and fungicides-also helping to reduce climate change.
"Investigation of Cancer Incidence and Residence Near 38 Landfills With Soil Gas Migration Conditions, New York State, 1980-1989," State of New York Department of Health, (Atlanta, Ga: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, June, 1998).
"Landfills are Dangerous," RACHEL's Environment & Health Weekly #617, September 24, 1998. http://www.rachel.org/bulletin/index.cfm?issue_ID=1149