Composting is one of the best ways to reduce the amount of waste you contribute to landfills. It is also a great way to create nutrient rich fertilizer for your house plants. Depending on where you live, there are many different ways to compost. Even if you are not able to compost at home, there still may be ways for you to keep your food waste out of landfills.
How does composting work?
Composting is the process by which organic materials like food scraps are broken down by bacteria and other living organisms into a nutrient rich soil that is great for gardening. Composting can be done both at the industrial scale and in the home. Industrial composting typically takes scraps from landscaping, food scraps from homes, and other organic materials. There are three methods of industrial composting: windrow, in-vessel, and aerated static pile. These industrial composting methods are typically much faster than home composting techniques because they allow for greater heat generation and aeration which speeds up the breakdown of organic matter. The nutrient rich soil leftover from these industrial composting methods is usually sold to farmers or to customers for use in their own backyard.
While both home and industrial composting accomplish the same goal, each comes with its own challenges. Home composting works best for people with access to outdoor space. Industrial composting is great for people who live in apartments or otherwise lack access to a yard of their own, however it is still not available everywhere. Home composting is great because you benefit directly from your contributions to it. With industrial composting, you may not have access to the nutrient rich soil created from your compost. When it comes to what can be composted, industrial composting facilities are usually able to compost things like compostable packaging which won’t break down in home compost conditions. At 12 Tides our packaging is made out of bio based ASTM D6400 materials which are compostable at industrial composting facilities.
Composting at Home
If there isn’t an industrial composting facility near you, try home composting. There are tons of different methods to compost at home. Your home compost will require three categories of ingredients: greens, browns, and water. Greens add nitrogen to the compost and include things like vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and coffee grounds. Browns add carbon to the compost and include things like paper, branches, and dead leaves. You should try to keep a balance between greens and browns in your compost. Water is the third ingredient in compost. A moist compost will further encourage the breakdown of organic material, but if you are using food scraps your compost may be moist enough. You are looking for your compost to be about as wet as a wrung out sponge when you squeeze it.
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If you have access to a backyard you have tons of options when it comes to composting. One option is to build your own open or closed compost bin. Both of these options typically do not require much maintenance and can be built with materials you might already have on hand. Check out this tutorial about how to build a compost bin from pallets.
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If you are willing to do a little more maintenance for a faster turn around on your compost, you might want to look into a tumbler bin. A tumbler bin is usually a rounded container that is mounted on an axle so that you can turn the compost to aerate it. The sealed container holds in heat and moisture while the turning process aerates the compost . Together, these factors greatly speed up the composting process. These come in many different sizes, so if you have a smaller yard this might be a great option for you.
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If you don’t have a backyard there are still ways to compost at home. If you don’t mind worms, worm composting or vermicomposting is a great option for outdoor or indoor composting. You can purchase a worm composter or make one yourself. Worm composters are odorless and small ones can be placed under your sink in your kitchen which is very convenient for placing your food scraps.
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If you can’t compost at home, there are many industrial composting options for you. Some cities have city wide compost programs where you can drop off your food scraps and other compostable items or even have them picked up. If this is not available in your area, you could also look into a private company to come pick up your compostable material. If there is a community garden in your area, they probably have a compost pile. Reach out to the organizers of the community garden and see if they accept compost drop offs.
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If it works for your lifestyle, composting is a great way to reduce waste and make nutrient dense soil for your plants. Though the process may seem daunting at first, it’s important to remember that organic matter eventually naturally breaks down. Be patient and it will yield great results!
About the Author: Emma Gamble is a junior at the George Washington University majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in public policy. Emma is passionate about incorporating greater sustainability into our food systems in order to create a greener future for people and the planet. Emma enjoys sailing, kayaking, and paddle boarding.