Top 5 Things to Know When Composting At Home!
Planning to make composting at home part of your routine? You're on the right track. Anyone who spends time cooking at home knows that you can't go one hundred percent zero waste. There will always be food scraps to be thrown away, however simple a meal is. And composting is a great way to make waste beneficial.
Composting involves taking organic matter and speeding up the decay process to put it back into the earth. Agriculturists use compost to enhance plant growth and keep the land primed for farming.
There are different types of compost, but the primary process has these steps:
- combining organic waste (with certain ratios) into piles, rows, or vessels
- adding bulking agents (e.g., sawdust or wood chips) to speed up the decomposition
- permitting time for the compost pile to fully mature and be enriched
With more sophisticated compost systems, high temperatures are used to kill other bacteria and weed seeds that may not be destroyed via the natural decaying process.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), composting is the fifth tier of EPA's Food Recovery Hierarchy - the last step before throwing food scraps into landfills.
It may sound like a small thing, but the composting process can make up a large percentage of food waste scraps utilized through composting. Over 2 million tons of food waste - equal to 4.1% of food waste - was composted in 2018. Something that was supposed to be dumped was used meaningfully in the end!
Aside from contributing to lower waste dumped in landfills, composting brings many benefits to our earth. For instance, compost can be used to rehabilitate contaminated soils exposed to hazardous waste. It's not too costly to do as well. Compost also sequesters carbon - another great perk to help our sustainability goals.
Top 5 Things to Know When Composting At Home!
Food waste lends itself nicely to composting, as it is usually moist and is mostly made up of biodegradable materials. The trick is knowing how to organize the compost bin or open pile. Now that we've learned how instrumental composting is to lessening landfill waste, here are a few composting basics if you want to be successful at your first rotten project:
1. Know what you can vs. cannot put in compost bin
Before you chuck everything into your compost bin, make sure to master the rules about which materials you can compost. You can use fruit and vegetable peelings, bread, unbleached paper napkins, coffee filters, eggshells, newspaper, yard trimmings, plants, hair, straw, ashes, and such. And if you have some compostable products, check out our guide here to see if you can include them in your compost.
What you DON'T want to include in your compost are: meat and dairy products (as they will invite pests and create odor problems), disease-ridden plants, human and pet waste (have toxic substances), fats and grease (pest and odor problems as well), coal (might have toxic substances), and black walnut leaves (can be toxic). Of course, it goes without saying that any non-biodegradable material (e.g. plastic, glass, metal) have no place in your rot pile!
2. Follow a ratio when composting
While composting is just mixing organic materials merrily, there's also an ideal ratio for each type.
You'd want an equal amount of brown materials, like paper and wood chips, to the green materials, like the peelings. Why? Because each type brings different chemicals to the mix. Brown materials provide carbon, while green materials provide nitrogen. And the water brings the moisture that speeds up the decaying process.
A balance of all these elements can ensure that your compost will be ready faster and that the compost itself is full-bodied and rich in components that will be good for the soil.
3. Decide on the best home compost location
Composting involves speeding up the biodegradation process of materials - and that means you need a place where you have an open, dry area that is accessible, but also won't be a bother odor-wise. You wouldn't want any stagnant water on your compost, or somewhere dark and gloomy! That could bring a nightmarish sight for your family.
For your home compost, choose an area that has good drainage, has sunlight coming in, but will also have a bit of shade. If the sunlight is too harsh, it could dry out the compost. And if there's no sun, it could make the pile overly damp. Also, pick a location that your pets won't access easily. You want somewhere you can balance all these considerations.
4. Composting requires maintaining
While your home compost can generally be left to rot for months or years at a time, you still need to work on the pile to support the biodegradation process.
Especially if you have an indoor compost pile, you have to keep track of what you throw in your special type of bin and tend it regularly. Being on top of things can help you manage the odor, aerate the mixture and speed up decay, and keep pests away. An indoor compost usually takes about five weeks to be ready.
Whether you have indoor or an open compost, there's no rushing it - if it looks dark and rich, that means it's ready to be added to your garden soil. And reaching this point takes a bit of handiwork.
You have to mix and turn the compost regularly using a shovel or pitchfork, and you need to add water if the pile seems too dry. You can also cover the compost with a tarp to keep it moist.
5. Know when best to start composting
When it comes to composting at home, you can start an indoor or an open pile any time of the year. But, there's always an advantage to starting during the warmer months.
Spring is a great time to start because of the warmer weather - you're guaranteed a more robust activity from microorganisms, and you can aerate the compost more conveniently if you have an open pile in your backyard.
Ready to Start Your Home Compost?
Composting is one of the five tenets of zero waste lifestyle: refuse, reduce, reuse, rot, and recycle. It's a great way to give back to our land instead of adding pollution to our landfills.
There are few preparations required with home composting, and as long as you have the open pile or your indoor bin ready, you can keep the compost manageable with our tips above.
What do you think about home compost? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!