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Recycling and composting organic materials such as food scraps and food soiled paper, wood and yard waste reduces greenhouse gases emissions, providing climate and other environmental benefits.

In landfills, organic materials decompose without oxygen and create methane, a major contributor to climate change. King County’s Cedar Hills Regional Landfill uses a state-of-the-art methane capture system to convert methane into pipeline quality natural gas that can be used for energy. However, by preventing organic materials from reaching the landfill and recycling them instead, methane generation is avoided all together. Additionally, by composting materials, there are significant reductions in energy and greenhouse gas emissions associated with making fertilizers and pesticides, as well as soil carbon sequestration (storage) benefits that are described below.

Climate change impacts of landfilling organic materials

Composting organic materials like food scraps, yard waste, soiled paper and manure releases some carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but has a less adverse impact on the environment compared to methane, which has 23 times more the global warming potential than carbon dioxide.  Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced when organic materials are recycled into compost or other soil amendments and applied to the soil in our gardens, landscapes or farms. The biological carbon from the organic materials that are used to make compost or other soil amendments can remain sequestered, or stored, in soils for long periods of time, effectively storing carbon that could otherwise be released into the atmosphere as CO2.   Compost or other soil amendments can also enhance plant and tree growth – and when plants grow they take more CO2 out of the atmosphere – effectively counteracting some of the human releases of CO2 from activities like burning gasoline to drive cars.

In addition, using compost in our yards and gardens can reduce use of petroleum based fertilizers or pesticides. Producing these products is energy intensive and can create significant greenhouse gas emissions, which can be avoided with compost use.

Backyard composting

Composting yard waste and food scraps in your backyard is the best organics management method for the climate. No collection trucks are needed to transport organics to a compost facility, reducing transportation related emissions. Backyard composting also minimizes the generation of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, which can occur if organic material decomposes in the absence of oxygen. Finally, composting is a great way to learn about how much waste you create, so you can take steps to reduce it in the future.

Composting organic materials in your backyard avoids the need for collection trucks to transport them to a compost facility. Transportation is a large source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Whether it's homemade or purchased, applying compost to yards and gardens yields environmental benefits, including lessening the impacts of climate change. Applying compost to soil in our yards and gardens can reduce the use of petroleum based fertilizers or pesticides and their impact on the climate. The production of these products is energy intensive and creates greenhouse gas emissions.

Organics collection

Organic materials collected at the curb, transfer station or collection events and transported to a composting facility. Composting organic materials such as food scraps, soiled paper, wood and yard waste reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Whether it's homemade or purchased, applying compost to yards and gardens yields environmental benefits, including lessening the impacts of climate change.

When carbon is added to soil in the form of compost, it is sequestered, or stored, until it can be taken up by trees and plants. It also helps to improve the quality of the soil that promotes healthy tree and plant growth. This enhances the ability of trees and plants to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon storage in soils and vegetation is one of the most effective ways of reducing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide.

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Related Information

  • Climate change science – greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, trap outgoing radiation from the Earth’ss surface and effectively warm our atmosphere.
  • Reduce food waste at home – food waste accounts for 23 percent of all methane emissions in the U.S. – a potent climate change contributor.
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 Call: 206-477-4466

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Fax: 206-296-0197

King County Solid Waste Division mission: Waste Prevention, Resource Recovery, Waste Disposal