Recycling and Beyond – Composting

With the worlds population nearing 7.5 billion, our needs to feed, and nourish this many people are of great concern. Voracious demands for quick high-yielding crop varieties of the Green Revolution are necessary and required, but they come with a high environmental cost.

Water born algal blooms are a natural occurrence, mostly harmless and are an important part of the food web. Blooms of algae species that produce - or have the potential to produce - toxins are referred to as harmful algal blooms (HABs). HABs blooms most often occur in nutrient-rich waters, high in nitrogen and phosphorus, particularly during hot, calm weather. Creating harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds. The human illnesses caused by HABs, though rare, can be debilitating or even fatal. HABs have been reported in every U.S. coastal state, and their occurrence may be on the rise. HABs are a national concern because they affect not only the health of people and marine ecosystems, but also the 'health' of local and regional economies.


What can we do about it...


In the United States, 40% of Food goes to Waste

America’s trash stream is stuffed with squandered food – 36m tons of it. According to the federal government, tossed food reaches more landfills and incinerators in America than any other municipal solid waste - The Guardian US

Recycling food waste has enormous potential, diverting still usable food to insecure neighborhoods, livestock farms....etc.

Here we will discuss the need to enrich the soil without the need for fertilizer, or pesticides.

Composting is often an overlooked solution to our growing need to feed the world. It is far easier to produce fertilizer, in order to meet the high demand for accelerated growth rates of crops. With fertilizer it takes one ton of phosphate to produce every 130 tons of grain, 65 billion tons of the world’s known phosphate rock reserves — and the estimated 16 billion tons that might be economic to mine — almost 80 percent is in Western Sahara and Morocco. Add in China’s reserves, and the figure rises to almost 90 percent. The U.S., with 1.4 billion tons, is close to running out. You can see why agronomists are starting to get worried.

Composting is one possible solution and is beneficial for the land in many ways, including as a soil conditioner, a fertilizer, addition of vital humus or humic acids, and as a natural pesticide for soil. In ecosystems, compost is useful for erosion control, land and stream reclamation, wetland construction, and as landfill cover. Organic ingredients intended for composting can alternatively be used to generate bio gas through anaerobic digestion. One of the most important things that composting does is it reduces or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers.

Addition Benefits

  • Suppress plant diseases and pests.
  • Promote higher yields of agricultural
  • Facilitate reforestation, wetlands
    restoration, and habitat revitalization
    efforts by amending contaminated,
    compacted, and marginal soils.
  • Improved crop nutritional value (micronutrients)
  • Slow release of nutrients = less nutrient pollution of
    ground & surface waters.
  • Reduced use of pesticides / fungicides (due to
    improved biological richness in soil)
  • Improved water holding capacity of soil, reducing
    irrigation needs (30% compost in soil = an additional
    1.9 gallons/cubic foot)


Composting Basics


All composting requires three basic ingredients:

  • Browns - This includes materials such as dead leaves, branches, and twigs.
  • Greens - This includes materials such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds.
  • Water - Having the right amount of water, greens, and browns is important for compost development.

Your compost pile should have an equal amount of browns to greens. You should also alternate layers of organic materials of different-sized particles. The brown materials provide carbon for your compost, the green materials provide nitrogen, and the water provides moisture to help break down the organic matter.

What to Compost

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Nut shells
  • Shredded newspaper, Cardboard, Paper
  • Yard trimmings
  • Grass clippings
  • Houseplants
  • Hay and straw
  • Leaves
  • Sawdust
  • Wood chips
  • Cotton and Wool Rags
  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
  • Hair and fur
  • Fireplace ashes

What not to Compost

  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs - Releases substances that might be harmful to plants
  • Coal or charcoal ash - Might contain substances harmful to plants
  • Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs* - Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants - Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils* - Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Meat or fish bones and scraps* - Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)* - Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
  • Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides - Might kill beneficial composting organisms.


Choose a good location. Create your compost pile or bin in a dry, shady spot with a convenient water source nearby (make sure the hose will stretch that far). The ideal spot is safely away from your house but not so far that it’s inconvenient to carry scraps to it. You may want it close to your garden.

Bury your compost pile... To keep skunks and other creatures away, experts suggest burying it at least 8 inches under the ground and covering it with a wire mesh and putting several heavy objects on top. As the pile heats up and starts breaking down the materials over the next few months, it will produce a dark, crumbly soil full of good bacteria, fungi, earthworms and plant nutrients to nourish your vegetable garden or flowers.


* Check with your local composting or recycling coordinator to see if these organics are accepted by your community curbside or drop-off composting program.


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