Composting our relationship so future generations can enjoy this earth

Composting is not only a great solution to waste food scraps, it's also great for the garden.
Composting is not only a great solution to waste food scraps, it's also great for the garden.

OPINION: The barbeque was a success.  Everyone enjoyed themselves, there was plenty of food and no-one objected to the chicken.  The kids approved and wondered why I didn't opt for veggie burgers. Lower emissions, they argued.

Now the yard is littered with leftovers and half eaten plates of food.

As I was getting ready to dump the scraps into the tip, Marg came by.  "Aren't we going to compost those? Composting creates lower greenhouse gas emissions than if they go to landfill and makes good soil for the garden."

I hadn't thought of that.  It was time to consult Google Assistant again: "Hey Google…"

Google cuts me off, in its usual fashion: "According to the Ministry for the Environment, composting one kilogram of organic waste produces greenhouse gas equivalent to 0.17 kg CO2, whereas burial in landfill creates emissions equivalent to 1.13 kg CO2, six and one-half times more."

Whether it's a delicious steak or a beefsteak tomatoe, whatever is left over should be composted, not thrown in the rubbish bin.
123rf.com
Whether it's a delicious steak or a beefsteak tomatoe, whatever is left over should be composted, not thrown in the rubbish bin.

But wait a minute, our Blenheim landfill has a gas recovery system.  "Hey Google, what about…

Google: "Gas recovery drops the emissions from landfill to the equivalent of 0.23 kg CO2; about a fifth of landfill with no gas recovery, but still about 35 per cent more than composting."

Google finds its stride: "In terms of landfill emissions, even with gas recovery to burn off the methane, it's a bad place for organic waste.  A kilogram of garden waste generates the equivalent of 0.31 kg CO2. A kilogram of paper creates twice this; equivalent of 0.62 kg CO2.  A kilogram of wood is highest of all, generating an equivalent of 0.67 kg CO2, slightly less than if it is burned in your fireplace."

"It is best to compost garden waste or take it to the green waste centre to be turned into mulch.  Recycle paper and cardboard. Untreated wood waste can be cut up and burned for heat but treated wood, or wood you're not sure about, should be taken to the resource centre for reuse."  

The gas that's emitted from landfills is nearly seven times the amount that comes from composting organic waste.
CAMERON BURNELL/STUFF
The gas that's emitted from landfills is nearly seven times the amount that comes from composting organic waste.

"Would you like to rate my answer now?"

"No Google, I have to cope with the fact that Marg is right again!"  As I walk the food scraps back to the compost bin, I remember a conversation with a friend at the barbeque.  He tells me barbequing with charcoal isn't better than propane! Time to consult Google Assistant again.

"Hey Google…"

Google: "Charcoal emits about twice the CO2 of propane for the same amount of heat. There are also greenhouse gas emissions due to the production of charcoal.  According to the US EPA, charcoal produced in a modern retort furnace produces about 1.2 kg CO2 per kg charcoal but total emissions after burning are about the same as firewood."  

According the wise old owl that is Google, it's best to compost garden waste or turn it into mulch.
123RF
According the wise old owl that is Google, it's best to compost garden waste or turn it into mulch.

"If produced in a traditional kiln, a UN FAO study finds the emissions from charcoal production are equivalent to up to 5.7 kg CO2 because the process also produces methane, carbon monoxide and soot.  Most charcoal sold in New Zealand is imported from Asia and likely produced by the kiln process."

So, barbequing isn't as climate-friendly as she said.  Marg was wrong this time and I'm going to take great pleasure in setting her straight.

"OK smarty pants, you were wrong about the charcoal and propane" I announce triumphantly as I enter the kitchen.  "Charcoal emits about twice the CO2 for the same heat and imported charcoal creates lots of emissions when it is made.  It is actually much worse than propane."

Marg looks over at me, raising an eyebrow.  "Yes, but it is made from wood grown from CO2 in our atmosphere, so when it is burnt it simply recycles back CO2 that was already in the air.  More sustainable all around. We just need to buy charcoal made by low emissions methods"

If you have any questions about climate change and what you can do to help, get in touch with us at Climate Karanga Marlborough.
Eva Bradley
If you have any questions about climate change and what you can do to help, get in touch with us at Climate Karanga Marlborough.

Good point.  What's my comeback? I know; we'll let Google settle this.  "Hey Google, who is right in this argument?"

Google: "Tom, may I recommend couples counselling in your area?"

If you have any questions about climate change and global warming, feel free to visit and ask at Climate Karanga Marlborough's website (www.climatekaranga.org.nz) or on our Facebook page.  We'd be happy to answer them.

* Tom Powell is from Climate Karanga Marlborough, an education and lobby group based in Blenheim

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