Compost vs. Landfill – What Happens to Compostable Items in a Landfill?

compost vs. landfill

How does composting help landfills? It’s true that organics break down regardless of where they are. The process and time required for decomposition in both compost systems and landfills are not the same. The next time you’re tempted to think organic waste will effortlessly “compost” in a landfill, think again.

Heat Holding Capacity of Carbon Dioxide vs. Methane 

You likely have heard that methane (CH4) in the atmosphere is an issue. You might even recognize that methane is produced whether you compost or send your waste to the landfill. So, you shrug, feel powerless, and nothing changes in our routines and the way we treat waste.

Methane makes up a larger percentage of the by-product gas from landfills. 

So, it’s time for mindsets to shift. Because choosing between compost vs. landfill is a matter of CO2 vs. CH4. And the numbers are staggering.

If you’re thinking that everything breaks down in the end, then you’re correct. But the devil is in the details. Methane (CH4), when compared to carbon dioxide (CO2), is 28-36 times more negatively impactful to our environment.

CH4 produced lasts about a decade, while CO2 can last for thousands of years. Ironic that we’re not raging against CO2 emissions instead, right? But CH4 absorbs and holds so much more energy (namely, heat). It has a shorter lifespan, but the damage it does is exponential compared to carbon dioxide. Methane’s harmful effects far outweigh those of carbon dioxide. 

Methane’s GWP (Global Warming Potential) is a serious problem. So, all this anaerobic composting (A.K.A. landfills) works without oxygen. It’s a slow breakdown, and we literally aren’t going to be able to handle the heat.

Compost vs. Landfill

Let’s look at each type of “composting” individually. We’ll look at what happens to food in landfills.

Will compostable items break down in landfills? The nice, simple answer is yes. The ugly, complicated truth is – at a great cost.


When you compost, you participate in what we call aerobic composting. This means you involve oxygen in the process. As airflow works its magic, you achieve higher CO2 levels instead of these staggering amounts of CH4. 

How Does Composting Help Landfills?

When you compost, you’re not sending your organics to the landfill. You’re instead employing a composting system, whether you’ve opted for commercial composting vs. home composting. You’re one of the “good guys,” fighting against an overabundance of methane.

In the landfills, the problems literally pile up. Pits are dug and filled with waste. Then they’re covered. More waste is added. Heaps of issues. And with the lack of air comes methane levels that are causing our planet to dangerously heat up.

Composting keeps organic material out of landfills so that they can break down quickly and feed the earth. Oxygen is a friend to us in many ways. And this is one of those ways. If we starve the landfill, we’re helping the landfill. We’re helping nature and humankind, too.

If you’re looking to compost in Houston, see how Moonshot can help!


We’ve already said it. Landfills are breeding grounds for CH4. But what actually happens to these compostable items in landfill? It’s probably true that you toss your organics into the waste bin every day, never realizing the disastrous effects.

Will Compostable Items Break Down in Landfills?

So, what happens to compostable items in a landfill? Once again, they will “compost.” But the costs are high. The organic food waste you’re tossing out will end up in an anaerobic composting pile. It won’t be able to breathe.

The landfill “system” suffocates organic waste. It’s all buried and forgotten by people. But nature can’t forget it. It feels the effects daily. Those effects are adding up over time, and they will have a say in how we live in the future. 

As all the compostable items break down in our landfills, methane is produced. Earth warms. As you might guess, this kind of footprint doesn’t simply wash away. It remains. It outlives us. What we do or don’t do now will determine much about the future and its generations who will wonder why we didn’t act.

Moonshot Can Help You Starve Landfills and Feed the Earth Today!

We’re working to deprive the landfills. We know what’s happening, and we know we can effect positive change. We’re doing it effectively, and we’re making it convenient for you to join us. 

Easy and great for the planet? The most common feedback we receive is, “Sign me up!”

Because why not? At its core, Moonshot is a mindset that you can adopt and feel awesome about. You can instill a respect for science and environmental stewardship in your family. You can learn and teach the valuable lesson that seemingly small steps are giant ones in the grand scheme.

Above all, you can have a direct hand in making the world a better place.

Contact us today if you’re interested in a convenient residential or commercial composting.