Composting Pros And Cons: Important Things To Know

Composting is a natural process that has gained significant attention in recent years due to its environmental benefits. It involves the decomposition of organic matter into nutrient-rich soil, which can be used to improve soil quality and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. However, like any other practice, composting has its share of pros and cons. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take a closer look at the pros and cons of composting, exploring its impact on the environment, soil fertility, and the challenges it poses.

Close up image of a compost bin which has a significant number of pros compared to cons.

The Pros of Composting

1. Environmental Benefits

Composting is an essential practice for reducing the environmental impact of waste disposal. Here are some key environmental advantages:

a. Reducing Methane Gas Emissions

One of the significant pros of composting is its role in reducing methane gas emissions. When organic waste ends up in landfills, it decomposes anaerobically, producing methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Composting, on the other hand, promotes aerobic decomposition, significantly reducing methane emissions.

In the United States alone, landfills are responsible for nearly 16% of all methane emissions. By diverting organic waste from landfills and into compost piles, we can make a substantial contribution to mitigating climate change.

b. Lowering Carbon Footprint

Composting also helps lower our carbon footprint. When organic materials decompose in landfills, they release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. By composting, we not only reduce methane emissions but also create valuable carbon-rich soil amendments that can help sequester carbon in the ground, mitigating climate change.

2. Soil Quality Improvement

Composting is a great way to improve soil quality, making it more fertile and productive. Here’s how it benefits soil:

a. Nutrient-Rich Compost

The end product of composting is nutrient-rich compost, often referred to as “black gold.” Compost contains essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, along with micronutrients. These nutrients are slowly released into the soil, providing a steady supply of food for plants.

b. Enhanced Soil Structure

Compost improves soil structure by increasing its water-holding capacity and aeration. It helps sandy soils retain moisture and prevents clay soils from becoming too compacted. This enhanced soil structure promotes healthy root growth and overall plant health.

c. Water Retention

Compost acts like a sponge, helping soil retain moisture. This is particularly valuable in regions prone to drought, as it reduces the need for frequent irrigation. By enhancing water retention, compost can help conserve water resources.

3. Waste Reduction

Composting reduces the amount of organic waste that ends up in landfills, which has several advantages:

a. Reducing Solid Waste

In the United States, food waste accounts for approximately 22% of the solid waste in landfills. Composting diverts this organic waste, reducing the burden on already overcrowded landfills.

b. Diverting Kitchen Scraps and Yard Waste

Composting allows you to divert kitchen scraps, such as vegetable scraps and coffee grounds, as well as yard waste like grass clippings and leaves, from the trash. This not only reduces the volume of waste in landfills but also prevents these valuable materials from contributing to greenhouse gas emissions when they decompose anaerobically.

4. Natural Fertilizer

Compost is an excellent source of natural fertilizer for gardens and farms:

a. Organic Fertilizer

Unlike chemical fertilizers, compost is organic and free from synthetic chemicals. This makes it a safer option for enriching your soil without the risk of contaminating it with harmful substances.

b. Slow Release of Nutrients

Compost releases nutrients slowly over time, providing a steady supply to plants. This contrasts with chemical fertilizers, which can lead to nutrient imbalances and runoff issues.

5. Versatility

Compost can be used in various applications:

a. Garden Soil Enhancement

Adding compost to garden beds enriches the soil, resulting in healthier plants and better yields. It’s an important part of maintaining a thriving vegetable garden or flower beds.

b. Lawn Care

Topdressing lawns with compost can improve grass health and vitality. Compost enhances soil structure and provides essential nutrients for lush, green lawns.

c. Soil Amendment

Compost can be mixed into planting holes for trees, shrubs, and other plants, improving their chances of establishing strong roots.

6. Reduced Need for Chemical Fertilizers

One of the long-term benefits of composting is the reduced reliance on chemical fertilizers. As your soil becomes richer in organic matter and nutrients, it will require fewer synthetic fertilizers to support plant growth. This not only saves you money but also contributes to a healthier ecosystem with fewer chemicals in the environment.

The Cons of Composting

While composting offers numerous pros, it also comes with its share of challenges and cons. Here are some of the cons of composting:

1. Time-Consuming

Composting is a natural process, and it takes time to produce finished compost. Depending on the composting method used and the materials involved, it can take several months to a year or more for compost to be ready for use. This can be a drawback for those looking for immediate results in their garden.

2. Space Requirements

Composting requires space, which can be a limiting factor for some individuals. Not everyone has a backyard or garden where they can set up a compost pile or bin. Apartment dwellers or those with limited yard space may find it challenging to engage in composting.

3. Effort and Maintenance

Composting is not entirely hands-off. It requires regular maintenance, including turning the compost pile or bin, monitoring moisture levels, and ensuring a proper balance of green materials (nitrogen-rich) and brown materials (carbon-rich). Neglecting these tasks can lead to issues such as unpleasant odors or slow decomposition.

4. Attracting Pests

Composting can attract pests like flies, rodents, and raccoons, especially if food scraps are not properly covered or if the compost pile contains animal waste. This can be a nuisance and a potential health concern.

5. Weed Seeds and Disease

Compost may contain weed seeds and pathogens from diseased plants if not heated to a sufficiently high temperature during the composting process. When using compost in your garden, these seeds and pathogens can potentially lead to weed growth and plant diseases.

6. Unwanted Materials

Not all materials are suitable for composting. Certain items like dairy products, meat, and bones should be avoided in home composting piles due to the risk of attracting pests and producing unpleasant odors. While commercial composting facilities can handle a wider range of materials, home composters must be selective about what they include.

7. Initial Setup Costs

Setting up a composting system, whether it’s a bin, tumbler, or heap, can require an initial investment. While this cost is usually reasonable, it can still deter some individuals from starting the composting process.

8. Inconsistent Results

Composting outcomes can be inconsistent, especially for beginners. Factors like the composition of your compost materials, environmental conditions, and the composting method used can all affect the quality and timing of your finished compost. This may not be suitable for those seeking a precise and predictable solution for soil improvement.

9. Large Amounts of Materials

Composting on a larger scale, such as for a community or farm, can require significant amounts of materials and space. Managing large compost piles can be a lot of work and may not be feasible for everyone.

Different Composting Methods

To address some of the cons of composting and make it more accessible, various composting methods have been developed. Here are a few different composting methods you can consider:

1. Hot Composting

Hot composting involves maintaining high temperatures in the compost pile, which accelerates decomposition and kills weed seeds and pathogens. This method requires more effort and attention but produces compost more quickly.

2. Cold Composting

Cold composting is a more passive approach. It doesn’t require as much effort or maintenance but takes longer to produce finished compost. Cold composting is well-suited for those who prefer a hands-off approach.

3. Vermicomposting (Worm Composting)

Worm composting involves using worms to break down organic materials. It’s an excellent choice for those with limited space, such as apartment dwellers. Worm bins can be kept indoors or on a small balcony.

4. Bokashi Composting

Bokashi composting relies on the fermentation of organic waste using specialized microbial cultures. It’s a fast method that can handle a wider range of materials, including meat and dairy products. Bokashi bins are compact and can be used in small spaces.

5. Trench Composting

Trench composting involves burying organic waste directly in the garden bed or vegetable patch. This method enriches the soil where it’s needed most and can be particularly useful for home gardeners.

6. Commercial Composting

For those who don’t have the time or space for home composting, commercial composting services are available in many areas. They collect organic waste and process it on a larger scale, turning it into high-quality compost.


Composting is undeniably a valuable practice with numerous environmental and agricultural benefits. It reduces methane emissions, enriches soil, and conserves resources. However, it’s essential to be aware of not just the pros of composting, but also the cons, such as time and effort requirements, space limitations, and the need for maintenance.

To make composting work for you, consider your individual circumstances and needs. There are various composting methods to choose from, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Whether you’re a home gardener looking to enrich your soil or a community interested in sustainable waste management, composting offers a range of solutions to fit your goals.

In the grand scheme of things, the pros of composting, including its positive impact on the environment and soil fertility, far outweigh the cons. By embracing composting as a natural process that contributes to an ecological balance, we can take a significant step toward reducing our carbon footprint and building a more sustainable future. So, get started with composting today, and watch your garden flourish while helping the planet thrive.

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