Did you know, composting at home for 1 year can save the earth from global warming gases equivalent to CO2 gas produced annually by your gas stove?
In a perfect world, every material should be composted rather than sent to landfills. In an even more perfect world, there would be no such thing as waste. But we don’t live in a perfect world. What we can strive for is removing throwaway plastic from our daily lives.
What is Compost?
Compost is decomposed organic material that enriches the soil and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. Usually, it is used by farmers and gardeners to improve the quality of the soil.
The main component of mature compost is Humus (pronounced (h)yo͞oməs/) which contains useful nutrients for healthy soil.
Why Is Compost Important?
Compost is important because it turns your kitchen and garden waste into valuable, healthy, and nutrient-rich soil for your garden. Other than that, there are many significant reasons which show the importance of compost.
- Reduces methane gas and makes us less dependent on landfills.
- Replaces chemical fertilizers with compost turned to soil.
- Improves compacted and contaminated soil. Thus, your farm or garden will be nourished with cost-effective compost
How Does Composting Work?
The process of compost works in 3 major stages
- The first process is the action of mesophilic microorganisms which takes place over a few days. The byproduct of this stage is heat which evolves by breaking down the biodegradable compounds.
- The second stage involves thermophilic microorganisms that are replaced by mesophilic microorganisms. They break down the organic compound into finer products. The more the compost decomposes, the higher the temperature continues to rise.
- The third stage is the longest in which thermophilic microorganisms keep on their work for several months. The temperature begins to decrease gradually and the final product is compost after this stage.
What are the Types of Composting?
Depending on the quality and quantity of waste products, there are 5 types of composting.
The type of decomposition that uses red worms is known as Vermicomposting. The red worms can eat yard trimmings, food scarp, and other organic compounds equal to half of their weight in just one day.
Specific types of bins are easily found online. The red worms break down the material into compost called castings which can be used as potting soil.
2. Aerobic Composting
This process of composting has an excess amount of air present. Air is introduced through a “tumble” style composter for Aerobic composting. If you are doing this process in a simple composting bin, the waste organic material should be turned maybe twice a week.
3. Anaerobic Composting
The process of composting without air is known as anaerobic composting. You don’t have to put any effort but time. The process is comparatively slow and due to the lack of oxygen, the compost material is very stinky.
4. Windrow Composting
Windrow or Aerated composting works for a large volume of waste organic materials. These composting sites are managed by food supplying businesses or local governments.
The organic matter is piled into long rows (windrows) and thus aerated properly. The height and weight of the pile should be between 4-8 feet and 14-16 feet.
5. Drop Off At Your Local Compost-Site
Composting is easy now because state regulations have allowed small composting sites at many community places such as Gardens, Churches, Universities, commercial properties...etc.
Small composting sites fill the gap between a larger commercial compost and smaller backyard compost.
You can even start a community compost site that can be accessed by 5-10 neighborhood residents.
In case, if you are unable to find compost sites near you, there are likely compost pickup services. Numerous organizations are working to gather waste material for compost. Simply google if there are compost pickup services in your area.
How To Make A Compost
Some parameters must be controlled before putting your waste into a pile to compost. First let's learn about the ratios needed.
The Browns and Greens
When composting, you should be aware of the Browns and Greens. Browns are carbohydrate-rich materials which provide food to all the soil-dwelling organisms. While Greens are rich in protein or nitrogen. The composition of greens tends to produce heat and microorganisms as well.
The ratio of these constituents should be 2:1 (brown to green).
Browns contain Twigs, Leaves, Paper, Corn Stalks, Straws, Cotton Fabric...etc
Greens contain Vegetable and Fruit Scarps, Yard Trimmings, Grass Clippings, Eggshells, Animal Manure..etc.
Water should be present in the pile because it makes the nutrients acceptable for microbes (remember the organic chemistry from earlier?). Furthermore, microorganisms need enough water to survive during the process of compost. Thus, the high moisture content is necessary when dealing with compost
Shredding, cutting, and breaking increase the surface area of the compost pile. Therefore, the pile would feed more microorganisms and the compost that is produced as a result would be a homogenous mixture.
High temperature is good to decompose undesirable weed seeds and pathogenic organisms. Also, microorganisms produce their action at required temperatures which are 135° -160° Fahrenheit.
This temperature can be reached by the action of microbial activity, if the temperature is not maintaining at least 135° Fahrenheit. Then, the compost would go towards the anaerobic condition.
Hence, to get sufficient with microbial activity, you have to control the Browns and Green Ratio, moisture content, airflow, and Surface area. And thus, the temperature will automatically be reached at optimum conditions.
Ready To Start A Backyard Compost?
Having said that Food Scraps and Yard Trimmings are responsible for 16% to 30% of the total waste ever produced by a house. Therefore, it is essential to use this amount of waste in enhancing the quality of nature.
Although compost is a natural phenomenon, we can accelerate the process by following these 4 steps.
- Find a proper area in your yard that is approximately 1 cu yd (3'x3'x3'). This size is crucial for effective microbial activity because it allows us to reach enough air and produce more heat as well.
- The pile should contain a suitable ratio of Browns and Greens. The purpose is to provide a reasonable amount of carbon and nitrogen. Thus, whenever you are planning for composting, don’t forget to check 2:1 of brown to green ratio.
- Try to increase the surface area of waste products by breaking them into small parts or pieces. This way, it will react thoroughly with microorganisms and the results will be super-fast.
- After getting done with these steps, you have to keep the material moist by adding water when necessary. Also, try to make an even substance by mixing the waste products with a pitchfork or shovel once in a while.
If Everyone Composted, How Much Waste Could be Diverted from the Landfill in the United States?
Also, the biggest landfill consists in Las Vegas at the Apex Regional Landfill. It is constructed over 2,200 acres and the projective life is 250 years with a capacity of 50 million tons of waste.
But the real winner goes to a favorite West Coast sustainably progressive city. San Francisco planned a 16 years goal to stop sending any trash to landfills. The goal should be fulfilled in 2020 but it might be an impossible dream to produce “Zero Waste”. San Francisco produces less trash than any major city in the United States.
Seattle, Los Angeles, Oakland, New York City, and many other cities are also working on the same goal, following in San Francisco's footsteps.
Landfills are a source of great pollution. When the organic materials are compacted to the ground, the supply of oxygen is disturbed and an anaerobic process occurs. Eventually, the product is methane, a greenhouse gas that has the potency of 25 times more than CO2.
How Not To Compost?
If your composting process doesn't go smoothly, then there must be something that needs adjustment. Here are a few tips to help:
- The compost pile size is very important. It should not exceed 5’×5’×5’ or smaller than 3'x3'x3'.
- Don’t add grease, meat scraps, bones, or any dairy products that take more time in decomposition. They also cause odor around the composting pile and attract rodents.
- Dead plants and weed seeds are not decomposable until the temperature of your pile reaches up to 160 Fahrenheit. Hence, don’t add them to the composting material because they tend to mess up the compost ratio.
- Furthermore, let the water dry by putting the pile in the direct sunlight. Eventually, the water consumption will be high, and more will be the reaction of microorganisms.
How Long Will It Take a Bamboo Toothbrush Handle to Decompose?
The decomposition of bamboo toothbrush depends on several conditions such as the quality of soil, temperature, atmosphere, etc. Specifically, if we talk about a period, it may take from a few weeks to 10 years.
- If you just throw your bamboo toothbrush handle in the garden, it will decompose in 5-10 years.
- Those who bury their toothbrushes can expect decomposition around 3 years
- A Home composter can take 4-6 months depending on the physical conditions.
- While an industrial composter can decompose the handle of your bamboo toothbrush in a few weeks.