Carol Reimer Williams, MS, RDN
The California governing elite have put into law that it will soon be illegal to place food waste into landfills due to the methane gas emissions this garbage may produce. It is greenhouse gasses such as CO2 and methane that in turn allegedly contribute to global warming. Beginning January 1, 2022 such food trash must be handled separately in similar fashion to separating bottles and cans for recycling purposes. You will need to collect your food scraps as well as any paper products with food stains and place them in the designated trash receptacle. The food garbage, together with yard waste, is to be composted rather than going into landfills.
Proper composting creates an aerobic environment, which slows the methane gas-producing bacterial growth. However, landfills are anaerobic environments—no stirring, no oxygen infusion—hence, organic waste in a landfill may create methane gas.
Here in the US, CO2 emissions per capital have fallen by 31% since 1970. Methane emissions have fallen a very significant 73% since 2011. Carbon Brief, a climate change thinktank, reports three main causes for these declines: (1) the transition from coal to natural gas,(2) reduced electricity use by the industrial sector and (3) improved vehicle efficiency. Composting was not even mentioned in their analysis. Whether you believe there is global warming or not, a discussion concerning greenhouse gasses should stick to the big picture perspective.
As a fuel source, natural gas produces much less CO2 than coal, oil, propane or gasoline. Despite the mostly misguided concerns about fracking, natural gas consumption in the U.S. has increased by a third in the past 30 years, while coal consumption declined by half and oil has held steady.
Energy bills represent some of the biggest costs for most American businesses. Thus, energy efficiency is closely associated with good management practices which causes private sector and environmental interests to overlap resulting in a win-win.
Car makers have been willing to provide more eco-friendly vehicles with General Motors recently announcing a $7 billion investment in electric vehicle development. One report found that electric vehicles may outsell nonelectric vehicles by 2040. Also, there has been great progress in making air travel more efficient with average aircraft today producing 80 percent less carbon dioxide per seat than it did in 1950.
Wind, solar and nuclear energies boast the lowest CO2 emissions, and thanks to our private sector investment and natural free market forces, their efficiencies have improved while costs have gone down over the past several decades. Growth in the solar and wind infrastructure has been negatively impacted by our government subsidies that impede the competitive nature of the market since inefficient companies are protected from bankruptcy and their own unpopularity. Likewise, it is governmental red tape that stifles nuclear energy growth by imposing a sea of regulations making plants expensive and less profitable- if allowed at all.
Thanks to our private sector the US has been doing an effective job of reducing CO2 emissions. Innovation and infrastructure improvement are the contributions of free enterprise and competition, not government over-reach and regulation.
But beyond our shores, many of our global neighbors cannot report similar good results. Despite pledges to cut CO2 emissions, China is currently on a coal spree, building large numbers of coal-fired power plants at a rate that outpaces the rest of the world combined. China does not plan to BEGIN to reduce CO2 emissions until 2030 with current emissions 4% higher than a year ago.
China accounts for 28% of all global CO2 emissions with coal as its main energy source. This equates to 12.9 to 14.7 billion TONS of cardon dioxide annually for the next decade. China wants to grow its post-pandemic economy by 6% per year and they lack the energy to do it without coal dependency. Meanwhile in California, we’re required to sort our food trash in order to potentially lower greenhouse gas emissions. It would seem that the scope of absurdity for climate protection knows no boundary -inside our own borders.
Come January 2022 as you dutifully separate your egg shells and chicken bones, you can gauge your composting efforts against the proven results achieved through American know-how and industrialization to successfully reduce greenhouse gasses as compared to the complete disregard for decarbonization by our global competitor, China, and many other countries with whom we share this planet.