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[greenyes] Comparing Incineration to Composting

I maintain a landfill listserve that, this past week, had a
query about incineration v. composting, in view of all of the putative
life-cycle studies in recent days claiming that the two are equivalent. To
which Gerry Gillespie from Australia, an expert on composting, made the
following reply that I thought Greenyesers would thoroughly enjoy. Rarely
have these thoughts been so eloquently stated.


Dear all,

Unfortunately composting, like incineration or landfill is seen as one of a
range of end-of-pipe solutions for the perceived waste problem and it is
never given its true worth.

If all three of these 'solutions' are evaluated from a life cycle assessment
perspective, composting will always be way out in front.

The compost cycle does not finish when the compost is made. The compost
cycle finishes when the organic material with its precious load of fungi,
bacteria and nutrient is returned to farm land to replace the materials
mined from the farmland through agricultural processes.

Composting should not be regarded simply as a process that provides a
solution to a waste problem.

The return of quality organic products such as compost to our lands is the
only possible way we will ever have sustainable agriculture.

For those of you unfamiliar with farming consider that it takes 60 to 90
minerals, nutrients and trace elements, in balance to grow a plant - plants
feed animals - all flesh is grass.

All of that product is taken from the farm as produce and in the manner
which most factory farming is conducted today, only three chemicals,
nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is returned to replace the 60 to 90 taken

Could you run your home or your business like that and succeed? The figures
tell a story of degradation!

Not only is composting cost competitive with any other means of waste
disposal as a process, but in addition, when the product gets to the farm is
also gives the community and the farmer the following;

Increased yield - Improved crop quality - Reduced water use - Improved water
efficiency - Improved soil structure - Increased microbial activity -
Reduced nutrient leakage - Reduced fertiliser costs - Reduced erosion -
Carbon sequestration and increased land value, to name but a few.

All of these benefits have a measurable commercial and social value.

The comparison between incineration and composting is, at its heart, a
choice between death and life.

Incineration is the total destruction of organic materials - because only
organic material burns - its outputs are heat, overpriced electricity and

The outputs of composting are the preservation of humanity, quality of life,
quality food and the future.

We constantly speak of waste, recycling and sustainability when we should be
discussing composting, agriculture and survivability.

Soil is literally the mother of us all - many of the nations which have been
destroyed before us are gone because they ignored her.

Landfilling is negative, incineration is dangerous - composting is the only
road home.


Gerry Gillespie

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