Methane: A Potent Greenhouse Gas from Food Waste

Methane (CH4) is a potent greenhouse gas that plays a significant role in global warming. It is the second most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide (CO2) in terms of its impact on climate change. Methane is produced through various natural and anthropogenic processes, including the anaerobic digestion of organic matter, such as food waste in landfills. In this article, we will explore the science of methane, its effects on the environment, and the role that food waste plays in its production.

Methane - a dangers gas

What is Methane?

Methane is a colorless, odorless, and flammable gas that is the main component of natural gas. It is a naturally occurring gas that is produced through the breakdown of organic matter by anaerobic microorganisms. Methane is also produced through human activities such as livestock farming, rice cultivation, and the extraction and use of fossil fuels.

Methane is produced through both natural and human activities. Natural sources of methane include wetlands, termites, and wild ruminants such as cows and sheep. Human activities that contribute to methane emissions include livestock farming, rice cultivation, and the extraction and use of fossil fuels. Landfills are also a significant source of methane emissions, as the anaerobic breakdown of organic matter in landfills produces methane.

Food waste is a significant contributor to methane emissions. When food waste is sent to a landfill, it decomposes anaerobically, producing methane as a byproduct. The amount of methane produced from food waste depends on several factors, including the type and amount of food waste, the conditions in the landfill, and the presence of methane-producing microorganisms. On average, it is estimated that 1 kilogram of food waste produces approximately 0.5 kilograms of methane.

How Bad is Methane?

Methane is considered a potent greenhouse gas because of its ability to trap heat in the atmosphere. It has a global warming potential that is 28 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year time frame. This means that a single molecule of methane has the potential to trap 28 times more heat than a single molecule of carbon dioxide. The continued production of methane is a major contributor to climate change, leading to increased global temperatures and rising sea levels.

Global Warming Potential

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential that is 28 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year time frame. This means that the release of 1 ton of methane into the atmosphere is equivalent to the release of 28 tons of carbon dioxide in terms of its warming effect. When methane is released into the atmosphere, it traps heat and contributes to the warming of the planet, leading to the melting of polar ice caps, rising sea levels, and more frequent extreme weather events.

Atmospheric Chemistry Changes

The release of methane into the atmosphere can also alter atmospheric chemistry. Methane is an important precursor to the formation of ground-level ozone, a harmful air pollutant that can have negative impacts on human health. Ground-level ozone is formed when methane and other pollutants are exposed to sunlight and react with other chemicals in the atmosphere. High concentrations of ground-level ozone can cause respiratory problems, such as coughing, wheezing, and chest pain, as well as reduced lung function and increased risk of heart disease.

Methane is also a significant contributor to the formation of tropospheric ozone, a greenhouse gas that has a direct warming effect on the planet. Tropospheric ozone is formed through the reaction of methane with other pollutants in the lower atmosphere, leading to increased concentrations of the gas and the warming of the planet.

Impact on Ozone Layer Depletion

The release of methane into the atmosphere can also contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer. The ozone layer is a protective layer of ozone in the upper atmosphere that absorbs harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Methane breaks down in the upper atmosphere, releasing hydroxyl radicals that can react with ozone and reduce its concentration. This reduction in ozone concentration can lead to increased levels of UV radiation reaching the surface of the planet, resulting in increased skin cancer rates and damage to crops and other plant life.

Methane testing
BMD composting machine - liquid composting machine - digester - food waste digester -

Small size

Dutch product coming soon

These machines have a food waste processing capacity of 80 to 400 liters. 

BMD composting machine - liquid composting machine - digester - food waste digester -

Medium size

Dutch product coming soon

These machines have a food waste processing capacity of 800 to 1600 liters. 

BMD composting machine - liquid composting machine - digester - food waste digester -

Large size

Dutch product coming soon

These machines have a food waste processing capacity of 4000 to 16000 liters. 

The environmental impact of 1 ton of methane

The environmental impact of 1 ton of methane can be compared to several other sources of emissions, including the use of personal vehicles, trucks, airplanes, and other transportation methods.

Driving a car: On average, a car releases about 0.41 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. This means that the release of 1 ton of methane is equivalent to the emissions from 2.4 cars for one year.

Driving a truck: A heavy-duty truck can release up to 10 times more emissions than a car, or about 4.1 tons of CO2 per year. The release of 1 ton of methane is equivalent to the emissions from 0.9 trucks for one year.

Flying on an airplane: Air travel is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. A single round-trip flight from New York to London, for example, can release 1.6 tons of CO2 per person. The release of 1 ton of methane is equivalent to the emissions from 0.6 round-trip flights from New York to London for one person.

Trees: Planting trees can help offset emissions by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. On average, a mature tree can absorb approximately 48 pounds of CO2 per year. To offset the impact of 1 ton of methane, approximately 20,833 mature trees would need to be planted and allowed to grow for one year.

It is important to note that while these comparisons can help provide a sense of the impact of 1 ton of methane, they do not take into account the full range of impacts associated with each source of emissions. For example, the emissions from an airplane have a higher global warming potential due to their release at high altitudes, and the emissions from a truck can have local air quality impacts that are not reflected in the comparison to 1 ton of methane.

Our Food Composter Partners

Single Use Solutions

A USA based manufacturer of 100% plant-based bottles and caps. The only USDA Bio Preferred approved water bottle in the world.

GS-Green Packaging

A Dutch company specializing in support and consultancy for companies that want to step away from fossil plastic to plant-based packaging.

Custom Enzymes Australia

Custom Enzymes is our reseller for the country of Australia. They are an industry-leading supplier of custom  enzymatic formulations. 

Oakland Lease UK

Oakland lease UK is our partner for own to lease in Europe. They can provide service in 28 different European countries and the USA.

Dimension Funding

Dimension Funding has partnered with BMD to make it more affordable to purchase Bio Materials Digesters in the USA.