What is composting, exactly?
More eco friendly waste management
Composting is essentially recycling nature as opposed to a man-made material. Meaning taking any organic matter such as food waste, flowers, wood, etc and turning it into organic fertilizer that provides the earth with nutrients once it has completely broken down and supports plant growth. Why is this good? Since approximately 45 – 55% of the human waste stream is organic matter, composting diverts waste from entering landfills thereby conserving landfill space and reducing the production of leachate and methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas and one of the biggest contributors to climate change.
Fight global warming
Composting has an amazing beneficial impact on global warming by ensuring that less biodegradable waste is sent to landfills. The sad fact is that even biodegradable waste which does get sent to landfills, cannot access the oxygen necessary for organic waste to break down. Even products claiming to be photodegradable such as recyclable plastic bags have zero chance of biodegrading in landfills, being so tightly packed that they have no exposure to sunlight. Studies have also shown that newspapers which make up 25% of landfill waste can last up to half a century without biodegrading, and that food scraps which take up 89 million tonnes of landfill space each year can still be recognisable after 25 years.
Reduce greenhouse gases
Landfill waste also contributes to the emission of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gases because it is transported in trucks for long distances before reaching its destination. When the waste does reach the landfill, it breaks down slowly and anaerobically in a concrete-sealed space to produce 50% methane and 50% CO2, a ratio which is much higher in methane than waste which is composted. Given that methane is 25 times more harmful in terms of global warming emissions than CO2, the problem is one that could be easily solved at home by recycling food and biodegradable waste in a compost heap or bin.
Cut down on harmful fertilisers and give back to nature
The manufacturing process for chemical fertilisers is extremely energy-intensive and the electrical input can often use up a huge amount of non-renewable resources. Once placed in the soil, fertilisers made from ammonium sulphate or ammonium phosphate typically contribute far higher amounts of nitrous oxide to the environment than organic ones. These emissions also release much quicker than natural products and run the risk of over-fertilising your plants, without the potential for toxic build-ups of arsenic, cadmium, and uranium that is associated with chemical fertilizers. By switching to green methods for fertilising your plants, you could be making a bigger beneficial impact on the environment than you realise.
How to compost
Composting is probably one of the easiest things you could do to become more eco friendly. It requires minimal effort, is a great way to get rid of scraps in a sustainable way, and best of all you are rewarded with a natural, rich and nutrient-filled fertiliser that helps fight pests and plant diseases! So right now you might be asking…how exactly do I start?
You’ve come to the right place. We’ve ‘broken it down’ on how to compost into 4 easy steps.
1. Pick the perfect spot for your green project
An ideal spot for your compost bin or heap is a level surface on soil or lawn, where earthworms, helpful microorganisms and creepy crawlies will have easy access to get the hard work done. Your compost will need to drain easily, so uncovered soil is best. While sunlight will speed up the bacteria and decomposers, do try to avoid direct solar exposure in hot temperatures, as this can cause your compost to dry out very fast.
Remember, the most convenient spot will probably be halfway between your house where the scraps and foods will come from, and the garden where you can compost discretely.
2. Choose your container
If a simple, easy to maintain compost heap at the bottom of the garden just isn’t your style, don’t worry- there are many options available for your waste recycling project. The home and DIY sections of most supermarkets are full of affordable, free-standing or supported bins that make excellent containers for your compost project. If you are lucky enough to have a large garden and some DIY skills, it’s also a great idea to consider crafting your own compost pen with some recycled wood and a few nails. Whatever you choose, make sure that your compost can drain naturally and allow air to flow freely, aerating the soil for the good bacteria working away inside.
3. Prepare your biodegradable ingredients
Your heap or bin will need a healthy balanced diet of ‘green’ and ‘brown’ ingredients for the best quality compost. Greens are nitrogen-rich wet organic ingredients such as vegetables, fruit scraps or cut grass, and Browns are carbon-rich dried ingredients such as wood chips, tea bags, egg shells or cardboard. Your compost heap is also the perfect place for recycling the paper straws, bamboo straws, bamboo spoons, toothbrushes handles, and other biodegradable products from our online Eco Shop to help reduce landfill space, greenhouse gases, and your carbon footprint. A compost pile or bin with about 60-80% of green ingredients should be the perfect ratio to avoid slimy output and keep your decomposers happy!
4. Looking after your compost
This is the simplest step. Once your pile is ready to go, it will only require simple turning once in a while to let air in. This can be done with a shovel, pitchfork, kitchen spoon or even a broom handle. When your compost looks like a dark brown soil, it is ready to mix with your normal soil and spread on your garden for beautiful, organic and naturally powerful fertiliser.
Helping the planet by composting today
Everyone can do their part to help reduce greenhouse gases and help fight global warming by composting and giving back to nature. This can be done by composting at home or even setting up a composting programme for your local community. We’ve shared how switching to a compost heap, bin or pen can be a simple and powerful way to reduce toxic leachates, minimise landfill waste and grow healthier, more beautiful plants. So why not make the change today, starting in your own garden?
What are some of your experiences with composting? Have you built your own composting pen or started a compost pile in your garden? Have your plants loved you for it? Why not share your tips or experiences with us by email or in the comments? We’d love to hear from you!