Every year landfills continue to grow in size. While mostly filled with trash, there is quite a large amount of recyclable items and food waste that takes up additional space. One way we can reduce the impact of these landfills is to recycle, but we can also take part in composting. Keep reading to learn what composting is and how we can use it to positively impact our environment!

What is Compost?

Compost is a nutrient-rich soil conditioner. It is created through the process of composting, which takes various organic material and decomposes them into compost. This soil conditioner is used to:

  • Improve soil structure

  • Enable soil to better retain water, nutrients, and air

  • Helps maintain a neutral pH

  • Protects plants from various diseases

  • Protects against drought

Compost can help improve any type of soil! And since 28 percent of all our waste is yard debris and food waste, we can heavily decrease the amount of waste being brought to our landfills. This reduces the amount of methane released by our waste, protecting the environment.

What is the composting process?

The Composting Process

Now that you know how useful composting can be, you’re probably wondering how the whole compost process works. Composting needs for main components to work: organic matter, oxygen, moisture, and bacteria. Organic matter consists of both brown (dead leaves, manure, small twigs) and green (fruit rinds, lawn clippings, or kitchen scraps) organic material. The best ratio is 1:1 brown and green material. You can also speed up the composting process by ripping or shredding all your material to increase the surface area.

Once a pile of organic matter has been collected, Water needs to be added. Your compost pile should be comparable to the wetness of a damp rag. If the pile is too dry, the materials can take much longer to decompose. And if it’s too wet, you’ll want to mix the materials or add in additional dry, brown material.

Oxygen helps break down the plant material. However, the center of your pile will get limited oxygen, so it will need to be mixed, or turned, every couple of weeks.This will help the center to be pushed to the outside to receive oxygen needed.

The 3 items above are needed to set the perfect environment for the 4th to do it’s work: bacteria. Bacteria helps to break down and decompose the material into compost that can then be used in your garden!

Common compostable items.

Common Compostable Items

While a few examples were mentioned above, there are a ton of debris, food scraps, and more that work great as compostable items. Some very common compostable items are:

What are brown compostable items?

Brown Compostable Items

  • Pine needles

  • Dead leaves

  • Hay

  • Corn stalks

  • Sawdust

  • Twigs

  • Paper and paper material (plates, cups, newspapers, coffee filters, etc)

  • Dryer lint

  • Cotton fabric

What are green compostable items?

Green Compostable Items

  • Grass clippings

  • Fruit rinds

  • Vegetable scraps

  • Coffee grounds

  • Seaweed

  • Manure

  • Eggshells

  • Flowers or other plants (including weeds that haven’t seeded yet)

What are non compostable items?

Common Non-Compostable Items

The lists above are great for finding common items to add to your compost pile. However, there are some common items that you may think belong in the compost pile that simply don’t work well. Those items are:

  • Dog or cat manure – dog and cat poop often contains parasites that aren’t good for plants.

  • Tea or coffee bags – they contain a nylon material that doesn’t break down well.

  • Large branches – large sticks take a very long time to break down.

  • Sawdust from treated wood – while untreated sawdust works great, treated wood can introduce toxic compounds into the compost. This goes for painted and stained wood as well.

  • Citrus peels – while most other fruits work great, citrus peels contain enough acidity to kill any worms or microorganisms that are helping to break down your material.

  • Meat scraps – while meat is organic material that breaks down really well, it also stinks. The rotting meat will attract unwanted animals and your neighbors won’t like the smell very much!

What is compost?

Curbside Compost Programs

The great news about composting is you don’t have to go through the whole process to take part. Your local community may already have programs in place for you to participate simply by separating your food waste and setting it in the yard debris bin instead of the trash can. The waste removal company will then take that food waste and deliver it to a processing plant to make compost. This removes food waste from your trash (and your landfills!). For more information, check out this awesome article on how Eugene, OR has implemented a food waste program to reduce waste with their curbside compost program.

As you can see, composting can be done by saving your food scraps and yard debris and setting them aside. With a little extra work, you could have usable compost within three to twelve months. And if you don’t have a need for compost, participating in your local curbside compost program can be a great way to reduce your landfill waste and protect the environment!