LA Compost: Reducing GHG emissions with a Better Waste System

Creative Commons: Dylan De Jonge

LDF Grantee LA Compost is bringing LA’s food system closer to a closed circle with many co-benefits with overall reduced emissions. LA Compost has decentralized community compost hubs throughout Los Angeles that are managed and run by community members. The hubs are based at churches, community gardens, schools and other eager sites. Participants in the local hub can drop off food scraps on-site and turn the compost pile, furthering it along in its decomposition process. The finished product, the dark, rich powdery soil, then goes back on to the site where they are growing food and continues along the circle. The compost provides nutrients for the food to grow better, the food goes home with the community, and the scraps come right back to the garden. 

LA Compost brings overall expertise and support to composting systems and empowers and educates the communities on how to manage them so that they can keep the knowledge and enthusiasm in the community. They particularly want to demonstrate the power of composting to neighborhoods where landfills are typically placed – these large-scale landfills make neighborhoods odorous and have diesel fuel trucks constantly coming in and out further polluting the air. LA Compost is creating a system that reduces the scale of these landfills by removing the organic matter and empowering the community to create an alternative solution. 

Landfills are not only a pest to our senses, this waste system is a heavy emitter. Composting reduces emission because it is a best practice for organic matter treatment, it substitutes synthetic fertilizers, and increases potential soil carbon sequestration. The organic matter in landfills emits highs level of methane as it decomposes unmanaged. Composting, however, reduces both the odor and the methane. This compost has been broken down from nutritious food scraps and can then pass along these nutrients to the applied areas. The nutrients in compost are readily available for the plants, and the overall structure of the compost and soil together retains those nutrients better. In contrast, fossil fuel intensive fertilizers have given rise to a host of problems including environmentally degrading sourcing, and irresponsible usage which can lead to Nitrogen run-off. This run-off creates devastating algae blooms in our waterways and nitrogen deposition across our lands, leading to oversaturated soils and a plants inability to thrive. Even once the compost has been applied it continues to reduce emissions. Studies also show that one application of compost over agricultural lands increases carbon sequestration potential by ­­­25-70%. Compost changes our waste systems so that we reduce methane, we avoid the use of fossil fuels and we sequester additional carbon. 

LA Compost’s capacity of food scrap diversion by the end of 2019 will be 630 tons. Total GHG reduction also includes the emission reduction from the avoided trucking, diversion from landfill methane emissions, as well as the expected replacement of synthetic fertilizer. Soil carbon sequestration includes many variables, and therefore has not been determined for the projects. All of this converted to carbon equivalent emissions, means that LA Compost is reducing 381 metric tons per year.

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