Leave it Out of the Landfill- Composting for Your Home or Small BusinessBy Center for Environmental Health
This post was written by Guest Blogger Tim Eyre.
More and more, municipalities across the United States are looking for ways to avoid filling their areas’ landfills. The reason is usually economics: cities and towns can’t afford to purchase more space and are running out of the room they have, so they are looking to divert incoming refuse. And the solutions are coming in the forms of recycling, composting, and public awareness campaigns for reusable goods.While recycling is growing by leaps and bounds, with recycling increasing by 100% in the United States in the past decade, composting is still a fairly new concept for many communities.
Before taking the bull by the horns – or the compostable materials by their roots – and starting your own home or small business composting program, check with your local municipality to see if they offer a composting program. Oftentimes these programs are available, but the funding isn’t in place to make the service as widely known as it should be. Information should be listed with your city or town’s solid waste services department.
Should you find that composting isn’t an option via public services then it’s time to start digging in to your composting options. And the first thing to note is that composting is a lot easier than you may think.
Prepare to Compost
First, choose an area in your backyard or behind your small business that is shady and somewhat shielded from view, but that is also fairly close to a water source. Composting can begin as a pile, especially if you’re working with yard waste such as grass clippings and dead leaves, but if you’re going to be including food products, consider purchasing an enclosable composting bin to keep out wildlife. Ideally, a bin or pile should be about one cubic yard, or 3′ x 3′ x 3′. This allows your compost to build up enough to start generating internal heat, which helps break everything down. Compost bins can be made for free or cheap from old shipping pallets, or purchased at a nearby home improvement store. Depending on how much you want to spend, you can even get bins that rotate or ones with sliding doors to remove fresh compost from the bottom of the pile.
The best composition of compost is one part “green” materials to three parts “brown” materials. Green materials are ones that emit nitrogen while composting and include food scraps, fresh grass clippings and garden cuttings, and recently used coffee grounds and tea bags.
Brown materials are carbon emitters, and it’s more than likely that you’ll naturally have a lot more of them around the house. Brown items include dry leaves, twigs, straw, old potting soil, cardboard such as paper towel rolls and cereal boxes, paper, wood chips, and peanut shells.
Items that should not be included in a compost bin include any fats, oils and dairy products, as they attract animals and give off a bad odor; bones of any type; diseased plants; yard waste treated with non-organic pesticides; charcoal and pet waste. Additionally, items labeled “compostable” such as compostable utensils tend not to break down in small composting piles. Because of their sturdy structure, it typically takes a commercial composting pile to reach the temperatures required to reduce these products back to soil.
To maintain your compost pile, be sure to dampen items as you add them and give the bin a good turn or two whenever you add a large amount of material, or once every week or so. The aeration allows the composting microbes to breathe and speeds up decomposition. Additionally, food products such as vegetables and fruits should be buried about 10 inches below the surface when added.
Ready to Use
You know your compost is ready when it appears dark and rich, contains no visible un-composted material and doesn’t give off an odor beside the smell of fresh earth. Compost is harvested from the bottom of your pile, so if you’re building your own bin, be sure to include a way to access the base and remove soil. Depending on the size of your bin, your consistency in aeration or turning the materials, and the items included, your first batch of compost pulled from the bottom of the bin should be ready in about two to four months.
Tim Eyre works with customers on behalf of www.extraspace.com, helping them with their self storage needs. Tim also writes on self storage, recycling, energy conservation and other topics at blog.extraspace.com.