Composting. A term you hear getting thrown around by eco-experts on a regular basis…but do you actually know what it means? By definition of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, compost is organic material that can be used as soil amendment or as a medium to grow plants. Mature compost looks like soil and smells like soil, but it’s created by combining organic wastes, our wastes. This includes all your yard trimmings and food wastes. Combine these with a bulking agent, the USEPA suggests wood chips, and then let it be. The materials will breakdown over time and will stabilize into something nice and earthy, a type of soil that can be used for your garden and lawn.
Natural composting goes on every day, every month, and every year with the change of the seasons, a lot of it being nutrients that plants, animals, and microorganisms survive off. Mature compost is slightly different, the pathogens in our waste require high heat temperatures to be destroyed, something natural decomposition wouldn’t be able to do.
So, what can be composted?
- Apple cores, banana peels, watermelon rinds, and any other fruit or vegetable peelings
- Eggshells, (rinse and crush them first)
- Cardboard, (including toilet paper and paper towel rolls)
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Dryer and vacuum lint
- Cotton rags
- Shredded leaves
- Tea bags
- Shredded newspaper
- Hair and fur
- Nut shells
- Sawdust and wood chips
- Wool rags
- Yard trimmings
- Houseplants (non-diseased)
Impressive right? To think that all of these wastes can be turned into a type of soil that can keep your flowers blooming and lawn green is something amazing. So now you know how to make a compost pile, but where do you store something like that? Some people are making small composts in plastic bins that you could pick up from Target, but the most eco-friendly way to go about it would probably be to build or your own. It will require a couple of 2×8 wood panels, a hammer and nails.
Now that you know what you can compost, here’s a list of what you can’t:
- Pet wastes or cat litter
- Chicken or fish bones
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt)
- Meat or fish (this includes scraps)
- Diseased plants
- Coal, charcoal ash
- Fats, grease, lard, or oils
- Yard wastes with pesticides or chemicals
It’s easy to get grossed out at the thought of having a pile of rotting waste near your home, but if you’re putting in the right things and keeping out the wrong, the pile shouldn’t be too bad, you can also cover it with a burlap cloth to partially hide it. When you add new wastes to the pile, mix it up a little (while wearing gloves of course). You’ll then be managing your compost, helping to speed up the decomposing process a bit. This isn’t necessary of course, and the pile can remain untouched and left to decompose on its own.
Composting is quite practical for those who have the space and for those who will actually make use of the finished product. It is ideal for yards, gardening and that sort of thing so if you’re living in a three-story walk up in a concrete jungle, it may not suit your needs.