A great Zero Waste effort is composting because it takes organic waste and gives it new life! Composting may not be fun for everyone, but it is certainly worth a try! Composting cuts down on the dependence for landfills. I currently do not compost, but I will get there! For now I am learning more about it, so I want to share with you the information a local farmer provided my family.
What Is Compost?
Compost is nutrient rich soil formed from decomposing organic matter. It is a great additive to gardens and enriches pre-existing soil. The act of composting is a form of recycling; you are taking waste, aiding it through the decomposition process (composting), and then reusing the compost to grow new life for new plants or crops!
When you compost, you are essentially speeding up the decomposition process by adding water, soil, worms, and you also mix up the matter to allow more air flow which expedites the process. Otherwise, decomposition would take a little bit longer of time. Decomposition is a process when bacteria or fungus break down organic matter (rot or decay).
What Are the Benefits?
Composting is beneficial to individuals and the environment because it reduces the amount of waste we individually generate. It can be at your convenience, fun, and can cut costs on garbage bags and trash pickup! Composting is recycling. It is a Zero Waste technique which allows us to reduce the amount of waste we would otherwise send to landfills.
Instead of sending food and paper waste to landfills where it cannot break down properly, composting allows us to take our waste and make it useful again for purposes such as gardening.
Compost improves plant growth because it is soil that is rich in nutrients. Rich soil promotes healthy plant growth which helps clean the air and conserve soil. It reduces the needs for chemical fertilizer. If you are not into planting and do not find a need for compost, you can always donate it to a friend, neighbor, or local farmer!
Food Waste In Landfills
Around half of all waste in landfills is food which could be recycled via composting instead of taking up space in a landfill. When food resides in a landfill, it becomes toxic.
In order for organic waste to decompose properly it needs both anaerobic and aerobic bacteria. The kind that makes up most of the decomposition process is aerobic bacteria which are micro-organisms that require oxygen. These micro-organisms allow decomposing matter to turn into carbon dioxide which we need to breathe.
When food sits in a landfill it is tightly compacted which means little to no airflow. Moreover, the aerobic bacteria necessary for decomposing matter to turn into CO2 is not available in a dark, tightly packed landfill that has no airflow.
While food can still slowly decompose in a landfill, it does not happen in the proper, natural way. The reason food can still decompose in a landfill is because anaerobic bacteria can grow in compact, dark places with no airflow. Anaerobic bacteria are micro-organisms that do not require oxygen, unlike aerobic. Without the majority of the decomposing work being done by aerobic bacteria, food waste becomes toxic from anaerobic bacteria. Instead of turning into CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) it become Methane which is a toxic greenhouse gas which pollutes the environment.
I found a source that explains all of the various composting methods and bins to use for each method. Click here to see a detailed list!
What You Can and Cannot Compost
Generally, anything that was once alive can be composted with a few exceptions
The following list is what you CAN compost:
- Fruits and Veggies
- Animal Manure
- Grass clippings and yard trimming
- Hay and straw
- Plants and Leaves
- Nut shells
- Tea bags
- Wood chips
- Shredded newspaper and clean paper
- Coffee Grounds
- Organic Material
The following list is what CANNOT be composted:
- Fats, grease, oils
- Cheese/Dairy Products
- Pet wastes
- Soiled cat litter
- Diseased plants
- Chemical pesticides
- Coal/Charcoal Ash
- Plastics and styrofoam
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