Home Composting!

Sep 27 2011

Composting is nature’s own way of recycling, and increasing composting at home or in waste management facilities is a great way to divert tons of organic material from landfill disposal.  It is estimated that 35 million tons of waste are dumped into California’s landfills annually, 32% of which is compostable organic materials.

Luckily, disposing of tons of organic waste into over crowding landfills is not ineviteble and there is a way for individuals to help by recycling.  But this time we aren’t just recycling plastics, turns out we can recycle organic matter too by a process known as composting.  Composting is the decomposition of organic materials and it can be done in your back yard!

Steps to home composting:

1. Get a hold of a compost bin

You can make your own bin out of scrap wood, chicken wire, snow fencing or even old garbage cans (with holes punched in the sides and bottom).

 You can get a manufactured bin from the store or see if you can get a free bin from your local government. 

Or you can simply have an open pile, but make sure it’s okay with your local government first (some cities require an enclosed bin). 

2. Mix the right ingredients

You will be alternating layers of nitrogen (green, wet materials), and carbon (brown, dry materials).  Water and air will provide moisture and oxygen.  

Nitrogen

Nitrogen can be provided by green materials such as grass clippings and landscape trimmings, and by fruit and vegetable scraps. 

Carbon

For a Carbon balance, add brown, dry materials such as dry leaves, twigs, hay, and woody branches.  Untreated wood chips and saw dust are perfect for soaking up excess moisture (caused by excess nitrogen).  

Water

Your pile should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge.  You can test the moisture of your pile by squeezing a handful.  If a few droplets come out, it has enough moisture. But if not, your pile may be too dry and you may need to add water.  The best way to water your pile is to stick a hose into it, as to make sure that not just the top is receiving moisture. 

Air

The fungus and bacteria in the pile need air in order to survive and decompose the organic materials.  The air supply to these organisms can get cut off if the pile is too dense or too wet.  In order to avoid this, you must turn and fluff your pile weekly with a pitch fork or by re-piling it into a new pile. 

Size

For size, 3 is the magic number.  Your pile should be 3 feet wide, 3 feet tall, and 3 feet deep.  This will leave enough room for the organisms to survive, thrive and decompose the materials!

4. Tips

Bury food scraps such as meat and dairy scraps deep in the pile to avoid bad odors and pests. 

Remeber to cut long pieces (materials such as branches should be no longer than 12”).

Water, turn, and fluff your pile!

Finally, happy organisms are happy workers.  If you follow all these steps, the organisms in your pile should have the right conditions to work hard and decompose the organic materials.                                       

5. Completion 

When the materials in your pile have transformed into a dark brown, crumbly product with an earthy smell, your pile is finished and you have successfully composted at home! 

For more helpful composting tips and info, check out CalRecycle

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