Compost Against Climate Change

Compost Against Climate Change

Compost Against Climate Change

May 2024, by Catherine Gordon

Did you know that composting has an important role to play in the fight against climate change?  This week is International Compost Awareness Week, an education initiative run by the compost industry worldwide and this year’s theme this year is to highlight the contribution of composting to combatting climate change.  While the green-fingered amongst us kick off the growing season up to our elbows in fresh compost, we reflect on the role market research can play in boosting composting rates and help to fight climate change.

Our recent Say-Do Sustainability Study highlighted shifting consumer attitudes to sustainability and how everyday decisions are being increasingly influenced by a desire to live a more sustainable life, which includes what we do with our kitchen and garden waste.

Composting is the natural process of turning organic waste into a usable planting medium.  In whatever way it happens – a compost bin in your garden or your local council’s industrial-sized composting plant – composting organic waste helps to fight climate change in multiple ways.

Decomposing organics give off significantly less methane when they are exposed to oxygen in a composting process instead of decomposing buried in a landfill site.  Methane is a greenhouse gas which is twenty-five times more powerful than carbon dioxide.  Diverting organic waste into a composting process not only reduces methane but also reduces landfill usage.

Returning organic matter to the soil in the form of compost serves as a “carbon bank” helping to store carbon by removing it from the atmosphere. Compost also helps to improve soil structure and water retention, so creating resilience to the effects of climate change such as drought and extreme weather, by reducing soil erosion.

For domestic and commercial growers, using composted organic material as a soil improver reduces the need for artificial fertilisers as the compost brings natural biodiversity and enhanced productivity to soil.  Reducing the demand for artificial fertilisers reduces the energy used in their manufacture.

Recent campaigns have led to the introduction of peat free compost, preserving rare peatlands which are vital for the unique biodiversity they support as well as the carbon they store.

So there are multiple reasons why composting can contribute to our flight against climate change.  So why aren’t we doing more of it?

Large-scale composting, diverting organic matter from the waste stream, and switching to peat-free alternatives all require growers, gardeners and households to change their behaviour.  This is where market research tools can help to identify barriers to take up, highlight practical considerations and identify areas of misunderstanding, which, when addressed, could lead to more of us changing our behaviour and boosting composting rates.

Better understanding of attitudes to the barriers to home composting – a lack of space, practicalities for multi-occupancy housing, concerns about pests, understanding what can and can’t be composted, how long it takes, how to eventually use the compost made – could improve how much domestic organic waste could be diverted to composting.

A better understanding of the many different peat-free composts available – such as composted bark, coir and wood fibre, sometimes mixed with inorganic materials such as grit, sharp sand, rock wool and perlite – could improve the take-up of these alternative products.  There are lots of peat free alternatives for the gardener to choose and consumers are finding their way, but market research could give a deeper understanding of how gardeners are adapting to these different products and feedback into their future development.

It is commonplace to see single-use plastic packaging, utensils, cups, and plates labelled as ‘compostable’, but they are not always suitable for a domestic compost bin as the polymer material needs much higher temperatures to break down, only achievable in industrial-sized composting facilities. Technology in this area is improving all the time, and market research can support the development and labelling of these new materials to increase the volume disposed of in a more environmentally friendly way.

Market research tools and techniques can help to gauge consumer opinion, barriers to take up and levels of understanding in a multitude of areas, particularly where changing regulations and attitudes are driving product developments and service enhancements, like diverting organic waste away from landfills to be composted.  Get in touch with us here at MM-Eye if you think market research has the potential to support your business by giving you a deeper understanding of your customers and their changing attitudes.  To arrange a time for a chat with us, please complete the form below.