The art of composting has
been part of our global culture since ancient times.
The basic principles are quite simple, and adhering
to them will result in an efficient and successful
outcome. Studies have shown that home composting can
divert an average of 700 lbs. of material per household
per year from the waste stream. Municipal composting
carries a greater environmental cost, but not nearly
as high as if leaf and yard waste are disposed of
by conventional means.
Today there are several different reasons why composting
remains an invaluable practice. Yard and food
wastes make up approximately 30% of the waste stream
in the United States. Composting most of these waste
streams would reduce the amount of Municipal Solid
Waste (MSW) requiring disposal by almost one fourth,
while at the same time provide a nutrient-rich soil
amendment. Compost added to gardens improves soil
structure, texture, aeration, and water retention.
When mixed with compost, clay soils are lightened,
and sandy soils retain water better. Mixing compost
with soil also contributes to erosion control, soil
fertility, proper pH balance, and healthy root development
The standard means of disposal for most yard
and food waste include landfilling and incineration.
These practices are not as environmentally or economically
sound as composting.
Yard waste which is
landfilled breaks down very slowly due to the lack
of oxygen. As it decomposes, it produces methane gas
and acidic leachate, which are both environmental
Vermicomposting is the easiest way to recycle food
wastes and is ideal for people who do not have an
outdoor compost pile. Composting with worms avoids
the needless disposal of vegetative food wastes and
enjoy the benefits of a high quality compost. It is
done with "redworms" (Eisenia fetida) who are happiest
at temperatures between 50o
F and can
be kept indoors at home, school, or the office. Worms
process food quickly and transform food wastes into
The worms will gradually reproduce or die according
to the amount of food they receive. A sudden addition
of a large amount of food waste may attract fruit
flies, so increases should be made gradually.
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