July 28th, 2023
Composting, the art of transforming kitchen scraps and yard waste into nutrient-rich soil, has gained popularity in reccent years as an eco-friendly waste management practice. However, to ensure a successful composting journey, it's essential to compost safely and properly. In this blog post, we'll guide you through the steps of home composting, provide tips for maintaining a healthy compost pile, and highlight safety measures to create a thriving composting experience. but beware... While the idea of composting at home sounds appealing to many who want to get involved and take a stand in the fight against climate change, many individuals face difficulties and challenges once they start composting that can deter them from maintaining this new green endeavor in the long-run. We will explore some of the common obstacles people encounter when composting at home and shed light on the potential risks of improper compost management, and present some sustainable solutions to encourage everyone to partake in composting with ease.
The Challenges of Composting at Home
Home composting, though rewarding, comes with its share of requirements. The need for ample outdoor space, proper equipment, and the ever-present concerns about pests and odor can discourage even the most eco-conscious individuals. Additionally, finding the right balance of nitrogen and carbon ("green" and "brown") materials to maintain a healthy compost pile can be a daunting task for beginners.
Time constraints are another hurdle we hear from new composters. Some worry about the frequent time required for turning and maintianing a compost system, fearing that it may become an added chore in their already busy schedules. As a result of these challenges, some abandon composting altogether, contributing to the landfilling of valuable organic waste.
How to Compost Safely and Properly at Home
Before diving into composting, consider the available space, your lifestyle, and your composting goals. There are various composting methods to choose from, including:
a) Traditional Composting: This method involves creating a compost pile directly on the ground, using a mix of green and brown materials.
b) Compost Bins: Compost bins are enclosed containers that help regulate temperature and moisture, making them suitable for smaller spaces and tidier composting.
c) Vermicomposting: Worms are the stars of this composting technique, breaking down organic waste in a controlled environment.
Building a Compost Pile
To create a thriving compost pile, gather your materials and follow these steps:
a) Layering: Begin by layering brown materials (e.g., leaves, straw, shredded paper) with green materials (e.g., fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds). This balance ensures the right carbon-to-nitrogen ratio for efficient decomposition. Aim for the top layer and sides to always end in "browns" so pests are not attracted to the pile.
b) Size Matters: Aim for a compost pile that's at least three feet wide and three feet high. This size encourages proper heating and decomposition.
c) Aeration: Regularly turn or mix the compost pile to introduce oxygen, which facilitates aerobic decomposition and minimizes foul odors.
d) Monitor: Regularly check on moisture content and the center of the pile's temperature with a compost thermometer, ensuring that the Process for Further Reduction of Pathogens (PFRP) is met, and the compost will be safe for use.
What to Compost, and What to Avoid (AT HOME)
Fruit and vegetable scraps Coffee grounds and filters Eggshells Yard trimmings Leaves Shredded paper and cardboard Plant-based kitchen waste (no dairy, meat, or oil)
Materials to Avoid:
Dairy products and meat Oily or greasy food scraps Diseased plants or weeds with seeds Pet waste or litter Synthetic materials or non-biodegradable items
Proper Compost Maintenance Composting requires some care to ensure its success:
a) Moisture: Maintain the compost pile's moisture level, resembling a wrung-out sponge. Water the pile during dry spells, and cover it during heavy rain to prevent excessive moisture.
b) Temperature: For faster decomposition and pathogen destruction, monitor the compost pile's temperature. A well-managed pile should heat up to 130-160°F (54-71°C).
c) Balancing Green and Brown Materials: Maintain a balanced mix of green and brown materials to foster an optimal composting environment.
Safety Measures To compost safely:
a) Keep Animals Out: Keep food scraps covered with 6"+ of "browns" to prevent attracting unwanted critters and pests.
b) Properly Handle and Store Compost: Wear gloves when handling compost and wash hands afterward. Store finished compost separately from raw kitchen waste, and ensure there is not a cross-contamination from tools touching unprocessed material going into material that has successfully undergone PFRP monitoring.
c) Avoid Toxic Additives: Refrain from adding treated wood, charcoal ash, or chemical-laden materials to the compost pile.
The Risks of Improper Compost Management For those who do decide to compost at home, proper management can prevent potential risks. A poorly managed compost pile may attract unwanted pests, such as rodents and insects, causing nuisances in the vicinity. Foul odors can arise when the compost pile lacks sufficient aeration or contains inappropriate materials.
Moreover, when compost piles do not reach adequate temperatures for proper decomposition, pathogens may survive the process, potentially posing health risks if the compost is used on edible crops. Without proper knowledge and guidance, the enthusiasm for composting can quickly wane, and individuals may end up with composting mishaps that discourage further attempts.
Introducing... Community Composting
Amidst the challenges and potential risks, there's good news for aspiring composters. The Renuable Community Compost Program, along with other community composters, offer a sustainable solutions for those seeking an alternative to home composting.
By participating in a community compost program, individuals can conveniently divert their organic waste from landfills. These programs are outsourced composting, being managed by professionals who ensure proper composting techniques, reducing the risks associated with home composting. Community composters offer the benefits of a well-managed composting system without the burden of maintaining one at home.
We provide sealed, smell-proof containers for members to collect their compostable materials in. We then pick their full bucket up right from the door, and replace it with a clean, empty container to continue collecting more organics. twice a year, our members can receive a portion of the finished compost created from their waste to be used in their gardens and landscapes to close the loop on waste.
While composting at home may present challenges and risks, the journey towards sustainable waste management need not be a solo endeavor. Embracing the Renuable Community Compost Program or other community composters allows individuals to contribute to a greener future without the worries of home composting difficulties.
By diverting organic waste from landfills, we not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also create valuable compost that enriches soil health and fosters sustainable agriculture. Let's unite in this green movement, take action against the challenges of composting at home, and choose a sustainable solution that benefits both our communities and the environment.
So, if you're ready to embark on a composting journey without the hassle, sign up for the Renuable Community Compost Program for residential pick up or drop-off composting options in Florida (currently servicing Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, and Pinnelas counties) or explore community composters in your area. Together, we can compost responsibly, nurture the earth, and sow the seeds of positive change in waste management.