Composting is Recycling – Here’s What You Should Know
Too often we think of “recycling” as something we do with the plastic and glass bottles we don’t want to throw in the trash, but there’s more to recycling around your home than you might think. Composting is another form of recycling that’s growing in popularity, and for good reason. Composting allows you to recycle organic material you collect around your home – food scraps and lawn clippings for example -, which can then be added to soil to help your plants grow. Since food scraps and yard waste currently make up 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away, recycling your green waste by composting is a great way to help the environment – and there are a number of benefits for you as well. But before you get started, here’s what you should know about composting around your home.
The Benefits of Composting
Our increasing consumption of food products produces an equal growth in the volume of waste heading to landfills worldwide. There’s no simpler cure to this than to start composting your waste at home. Food scraps often hit the trashcan without a second thought, but consider how much you’re tossing away every day and then think how many of the six billion other people are doing the same! Fear not, there’s a role everybody can play to reduce this increasing burden on our landfills and benefit the health of your garden at the same time – composting.
Some benefits of recycling your food waste into compost at home include:
- Enriching the quality of your soil by adding minerals such as phosphates and nitrogen – essential fertilizer ingredients – reducing the need for chemical based fertilizers.
- Helping to naturally retain moisture content without additional mulches.
- Suppressing plant diseases and pests.
- Encouraging the production of beneficial bacteria that naturally break down organic matter and increase the biodiversity of your garden patch.
- Lowering your environmental footprint through reduced methane emissions and reduced volume of waste to landfills.
What Can You Compost?
Composting is widely known as the process of recycling your kitchen scraps and leftover food waste, but you’d be surprised to know that there are other green compost items that are considered recyclable. In general, composting around the home comes in the following forms.
Garden waste: Leaves, branches, grass clippings and any other plant-based waste you would normally throw away. Many city-operated refuse / landfill stations have a green recycling section you can drop your garden waste off to, but this normally means that you need a trailer or truck to transport it. Alternatively, many cities provide separate recycling bins for this type of waste – commonly referred to as “green-bins”. Check with your city office to see if a similar product is offered for you to use.
Kitchen scraps: Any food you don’t eat (apart from meat products) can be recycled as compost. Fruits, vegetables and even your expired flowers can all be given a second-life as food for your garden. Any hardware store will sell specialised compost bins for you to place in your garden at home. These bins are designed especially to increase ventilation and promote decomposition of organic material, so you get rich compost full of recycled material, which you can then use in your garden.
Paper: What you probably didn’t realise is that many types of paper can be recycled through composting too. Composting household paper products such as cardboard takeout containers, paper towels, napkins and even wax paper used for cooking – all these products are safe to add to your compost bin and, with the assistance of your kitchen scraps, will break down into compost you can reuse.
Composting at Home
Now you understand what to compost and why, it’s time to get dirty! Composting around the home requires a devoted space to allow material to break down into compost. The way you compost in this area can take a number of forms – a compost pile, or a specialized compost bin. No matter which option you choose, you’ll need some basic tools like a pitchfork, garden trowel, shovel and a good set of gardening gloves. In general, all composting requires three ingredients:
- Brown materials: Dead leaves, branches, twigs etc.http://www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-wasted-food-home
- Green materials: Grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds – anything that has moisture to assist with the biodegrading process.
- Additional moisture: Adding the right amount of water to your compost is important for good compost development.
The brown materials provide carbon, the green provide nitrogen and the water adds moisture to break down the compost material. If you’ve got these fundamentals covered, then you’re good to go.
How to Compost in Your Backyard
If you’ve got the yard space, then you’re likely to consider recycling your garden waste in your backyard. Here are some tips to follow:
- Select a shady spot near a water source for your compost pile or bin.
- Add any brown and green materials as you find them. Be sure to chop larger pieces into smaller sizes to speed up decomposition.
- Add moisture to dry materials that are added.
- Mix grass clippings and other green waste into the pile with a garden fork, and make sure you bury fruit and vegetable waste underneath existing compost material.
- When the material at the bottom of your pile or bin is dark and rich in color, your compost is ready to use. Depending on your location, this can take between two months and two years.
How to Compost Indoors
Not everyone has space for an outdoor compost pile, especially those in a condo or apartment complex. But this doesn’t mean you can’t compost. You can recycle your food scraps indoors using a special type of bin, available at many hardware stores; or a more efficient and popular means of composting indoors is to use the Bokashi Composting method. Bokashi uses a sealed compost bucket that allows the fermentation of organic matter. Since it’s sealed, it’s a great option if you’re concerned about smells and rodents indoors.
If you didn’t know it already, composting is a great form of recycling that allows you to benefit from your own waste. Reduce rubbish to landfill and help the environment by turning your kitchen scraps, garden waste and even paper products into recycled matter that you can re-use in your garden. Your prize-winning roses will thank you for your efforts.