Composting is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants and crops grow. A lot of the waste that we throw away consists of food waste and garden waste. What many people don’t realize is that these types of waste can actually be composted instead. Composting these materials helps to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.
There are many benefits to composting including enriching soil, helping plants grow, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers, encouraging the production of beneficial bacteria, and reducing methane emissions from landfills.
In this article, we will take a look at the main benefits of compositing as well as why composting is good for the environment, how you can compost at home and the best items for composting. We will also take a look at which items can’t be composted and why.
Why is Composting Beneficial for the Environment?
There are many benefits to composting. Below is a list of the main advantages of composting:
- Great for soil
- Helps to revitalize and filter water sources
- Leads to cleaner oceans
- Controls erosion
- Reduces greenhouse gases
- Transfers carbon to the ground
Great For Soil
Compost is very popular with gardeners as they know just how great it is for the soil. Compost can help to protect against diseases and treat nutrient deficiencies. It is one of the most used soil amendments used by gardeners and farmers alike. It helps to improve the structure of soil by balancing the PH levels, adding important nutrients, and allowing for better moisture retention and infiltration.
There are many beneficial microbes in compost that help to fertilize and aerate the soil. Most plants can’t access these nutrients without the help of compost. Compost helps to break down the nutrients and increases the surface area of plant roofs.
Helps To Revitalize And Filter Water Sources
Compost can hold a lot of water, so when you add compost to the soil, it increases the amount of water that can penetrate the soil. This is great for plants and it also allows the water to seep all the way down to the rock layer which allows it to replenish local springs, lakes, and ponds.
As the water moves through the compost, soil and rock layers, it is filtered by the time it reaches the local water sources. Around 40% of rainfall comes from local water sources. This means that composting can play a large role in rainfall usage in your local area.
Leads To Cleaner Oceans
All water eventually ends up in the oceans. With composts ability to filter water, this means that the water that ultimately ends up in our oceans is much cleaner. Fertilizers and harsh chemicals that are used in gardening and farming are one of the biggest pollutants that enter the oceans.
Not only does compost make the water that flows into oceans cleaner, but it also prevents the need for these harsh chemicals in the first place.
Around one-third of the world’s farmable land has been lost within the last forty years. This is due to erosion and pollution. Most of the erosion is due to excess water. When water is unable to penetrate the ground, it swells up on the surface and heads down to lower elevations, taking the topsoil along with it. This depletes the land in the process.
Compost can act as a sort of sponge and helps to allow more water to penetrate through the ground. This keeps the topsoil in place and leads to less of a loss of vital farmland.
Reduces Greenhouse Gases
At the moment, a lot of our food and garden waste is sent to landfills. In a landfill, these items don’t have the ability to compost and so they start to rot instead. This process releases methane and carbon dioxide. If you choose to compost these wastes instead, you can actually reduce the amount of methane and carbon that is put out into your local environment.
Transfers Carbon To The Ground
Not only does composting decrease the amount of greenhouse gases that are released into the air, but compost also takes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. There are many friendly bacteria microbes in compost that plants need to absorb nutrients.
To keep these nutrients around, plant roots release carbs from their roots to help feed the microbes underneath the soil. Plants create this by removing carbon dioxide from the air and taking water from their roots.
When mixed together, they can create carbohydrates or sugars to feed the microbes in the compost. When fed, these microbes retain the soil structure, nutrients and moisture, and they are also responsible for keeping the recently-stored carbon underneath the soil.
Why Is Composting Good for the Economy?
There are many ways that composting is good for the economy as you can see from the list below:
- Reduces disposal costs
- A valuable resource
- Lower farmer production costs
- Saves on home food costs
Reduces Disposal Costs
Throwing away waste is actually very expensive. The transportation costs of trash are constantly increasing all over the world. Composting has been proven to decrease landfill costs. If we all play our part in composting rather than throwing away our compostable trash, just think about how much money we could save together.
A Valuable Resource
In the U.S, we produce a very large amount of food waste. Billions of pounds worth of food are wasted every single year. Composting turns this trash into a very valuable resource. A resource that will produce more food and revenue. The cycle of composting is an extremely valuable resource when it comes to saving our environment.
Lower Farmer Production Costs
When composting, farmers and gardeners end up spending less money on expensive pesticides, fertilizers, irrigation, and water. This means that they can use that cash for expanding their business instead. Composting can also help crops thrive and can improve the number of crops that make it to the end of production. This means that farmers can make more money with fewer resources.
Saves On Home Food Costs
When you start to compost at home, you begin to become more aware of how much food waste you are producing. This can allow you to alter your grocery list according to the trends in your food waste. By starting to compost, you can end up saving money on your groceries and your garbage service bills.
What Are The Social Benefits of Composting?
Below is a list of the social benefits of composting:
- Reduces landfills
- Creates healthier food
Our landfills are filling up fast. In the U.S. we are facing a shortage of landfill capacity and the crazy thing is that we can actually reduce a huge amount of our landfill waste by composting. If you choose to compost instead, it could save a huge amount of landfill space and a large number of costs.
Creates Healthier Food
Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are widely used and this can result in poor soil and, therefore, reduced nutrients in our foods. When the soil lacks the nutrients it needs, so does the food that grows out of it. Compost can help to make the soil nutrient-rich and the food that comes from this soil tends to have more nutrients and is much healthier.
How Do You Compost at Home?
There are several ways that you can make a composting pile at home. Below is one of the most common methods of composting at home:
- Start by selecting a dry, shaded area near a source of water for your compost bin or pile
- Add your brown and green materials as you collect them from your garden, ensuring that all larger pieces are chopped or shredded
- Moisten any dry materials as you add them to the bin or pile
- Once you have a good pile going, mix together green waste and grass clippings into the pile and bury your fruit and vegetable waste underneath 10 inches of the compost material
- You can then cover your compost pile with a tarp to keep it moist if you wish, however, this is optional
- When the compost material at the bottom of the pile is dark and rich in color, the compost is then ready to use
What Items Can You Compost?
There are many items that you can compost at home. Below is a list of the most commonly composted items in a domestic environment:
- Fruit and vegetables
- Coffee grounds
- Cardboard and paper
- Grass clippings
- Hay and straw
- Dried leaves
- Wood chippings
What Items Can’t Be Composted and Why?
There are some things that you should really avoid composting and the reasons can vary. Below is a list of the items that you should not compost and the reasons why you should avoid them:
- Coal or charcoal ash – These materials can contain some substances that are harmful to plants
- Black walnut tree leaves or twigs – These materials release substances that could be harmful to plants
- Yard trimmings that have been treated with chemical pesticides – These materials can kill the beneficial composting organisms within the compost
- Pet wastes – These types of waste can contain bacteria, germs, parasites, pathogens, and viruses that may be harmful to humans
- Dairy products such as milk, butter, yogurt, sour cream, and eggs – These products can create some foul odors and can also attract a range of pests such as flies and rodents
- Meat or fish (including bones) – These can also create problems with odors and can attract pests such as flies and rodents
- Plants that are diseased or insect-ridden – The insects or diseases in these plants may survive and could be transferred to the new plants
- Fats, lard, oils, or grease – These materials can cause problems with odors and can also attract pests such as flies and rodents
How Do You Use Your Compost?
If you want to use your compost, you will need to wait until it is fully matured and stabilized. If you use immature compost on your plants, it could damage your plants. Using your compost too soon can also attract rodents and a range of other pests to your garden.
You will need to stop adding materials to allow it to mature. However, if you don’t turn the pile, then you may find that the bottom of the pile is ready even if the top of the pile is still active.
You can identify finished compost quite easily. You will have to look out for the following characteristics:
- Smell – You can identify a finished compost pile by the scent. Finished compost should smell rich and earthy – similar to a forest on a rainy day. If you can smell any sour odors or traces of ammonia, then your compost needs more time to mature.
- Color – The color of finished compost is dark and rich.
- Texture – You can identify matured compost as it is crumbly and smooth and you won’t be able to recognize any of the scraps.
- Size – When your compost pile is ready, it should be around one-third of the size of the original size of the pile.
- Temperature – The temperature of the pile should be within 10 degrees Fahrenheit of the air outside, particularly in the center of the pile.
Once you are sure that your compost is matured, there are several ways that you can use it. Below are some ideas of what you can do with your matured compost:
- Add it to the soil around your fruit trees
- Distribute it across your lawns
- Use it as mulch
- Add some of it to potting soil
- Feed to compost to potted plants
- Work it into crop beds
- Mix it into your garden beds
As you can see, there are many benefits to composting and it’s actually much easier than you may have thought to create a compost pile at home. With this in mind, it’s very easy for you to have a positive impact on the environment by making conscious decisions and choosing to compost more of your waste rather than throwing it away.