Organic waste and greenhouse gasOne thing I hadn't fully understood about municipal landfills how much food waste ends up there, and how the anaerobic conditions cause organic material to release methane. According to this explanation from the EPA, methane is 21 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. And two researchers at Penn State recently found that 34% of the material going to state landfills is compostable organic material (press release).
Like many apartment dwellers in Pittsburgh, I throw away all of my food waste. I'd guess that two-thirds of my garbage is produce scraps. Living on the 5th floor (without a garden) has prevented me from composting, so I'm contributing to the creation of unnecessary methane, as well as extra CO2 from the garbage trucks needed to haul the food waste. Pennsylvania has plenty of landfill space, so the state hasn't tackled this problem.
But what if the city provided garbage disposals in all homes? Would the extra cost for installation, maintenance, and wastewater treatment be offset by savings in transportation and storage, as well as have a longterm impact on the climate? (Curbside pickup of more recyclables and compostable material would be the ideal, but that sounds even more unlikely.)
This is waaay outside my area of expertise, so I'm slowly tracking down the original sources and stats and trying to figure out what info you'd need to do the calculation. More updates here as I have them. But I'd appreciate any ideas from environmentally savvy readers out there.