Composting: Not Just for Farmers

Start a compost heap/pile/bin/area in a hurry, folks. Like your life depends on it — because, in fact, it just might! Okay, okay, but why should you?

Well, the answer is in the details. The dirty details. The details about landfills and piles. Heaps and steeps, peeps.

The primary difference between landfill and composting decomposition processes is attributed to the presence of oxygen. Landfills effectively seal out oxygen, resulting in a “mummification” of bio-waste that can persist for years — even when it otherwise would have biodegraded in less than a few months. In fact, landfill excavations have recovered decades-old newspaper, corn kernels, and other food products (even stadium hot dogs!).

When food waste decomposes aerobically – or in the presence of oxygen – it does not produce methane gas or CH4. Decomposing in the absence of oxygen, however, results in the off-gassing of methane. This is particularly relevant to global warming and climate change, because, as a greenhouse gas, methane is approximately 21 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide. Therefore, whether food waste decomposes aerobically or anaerobically is an important consideration in waste disposal — and environmental stewardship. (In other words, your life depends on it.)

Why, then, would one dispose of food waste in their landfill-bound curbside bins? No one knows.

Photo taken from: http://www.naturalandsustainable.com
This is what doing the right thing looks like.

I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but this isn’t so much a how-to on home composting; it’s just a get-your-ass-in-gear shout out.  A call to action. Just check out home composting dos and don’ts with the Cornell Waste Management Institute’s guide [PDF], and post your questions in the comments section.

And one more thing…

I know what you’re gearing up to throw at me: excuses. But I’ve got answers, since I’m a lippy kid.

Excuse #1: But… I live in an urban area with a small backyard!

A good compost pile or bin does not need to be larger than 3 square feet. Maybe move that jumbo GrillMaster 5000 into the house when not in use, and then maybe you’d have space. Just kidding.

Other options include adopting curbside composting service from your local waste management company. Find one today.

Excuse #2: Compost piles stuh-ink.

I don’t think so, bub. Compost piles that maintain the right carbon and  nitrogen ratio — in simpler terms, the mix of green waste and brown waste — are actively being degraded by microorganisms. You’re looking to have about 30 times more carbon than nitrogen in your pile. Check out the above guide for examples of brown and green food waste.

Also, simply paying attention to compost pile inputs, and avoiding no-nos like raw meat or animal feces, go a long way in preventing stinky piles of backyard mess. You also want to insure that you are turning the pile And that, my friends, smells earthly, not gross.

Excuse #3: Too many flies in my backyard… And [INSERT NAME HERE] told me it attracts rodents! Eek!

Again, if you’re paying attention to what you’re throwing away — and avoid meat, dairy, and animal waste — and proper aeration, flies and rodents won’t be attracted to the pile. And you’ll be good to keep on keepin’ on.

Excuse #4: What would I even do with one? Be realistic.

Spreading a thin layer of nutrient-rich compost on your garden or grass will make your greens greener and your neighbors green with envy. It’s great for the health AND appearance of your yard and helps to deter soil erosion.

Excuse #5: I don’t have the time for starting a compost pile.

Okay, really? Really now? You don’t have time? Let’s review the time requirements:

5 mins. – Learning which materials and packaging are compostable and which aren’t

2 mins. every week – Dumping your kitchen food waste into your backyard compost pile

5 < mins every month – Turning your compost pile to insure proper aeration.

1 minute every week – Check your pile every week to insure that it isn’t too dry; if it is, moisten with a minimal amount of water

I hope you’re embarrassed now.

That’s all I’ve got. Collin ooout.

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