Compost to Reduce Landfills
Composting food waste and organic yard debris reduce the serious landfill challenges facing the US today. Not only are landfills leading contributors to global warming (landfills emit large amounts of methane gas), they also pollute groundwater, waste precious resources, require a great deal of energy to manage, and discourage recycling, reuse, and composting.
In our society, we often make it easier to throw things away rather than reuse or recycle them. The average American tosses away 4.3 pounds of trash per day, adding to the grand total of about 243 million tons of refuse the US accumulates per year. Of that amount, approximately 28 percent is composed nearly equally of food scraps and yard debris, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. These are the very materials which, once in the landfills, produce ozone-damaging methane, a greenhouse gas that is twenty-one times more potent than carbon dioxide, another global-warming threat. But these organic materials can also be turned into rich, life-supporting compost. Whether you live in an apartment, in a home with a backyard, or on a farm, you can help reduce the emission of damaging greenhouse gases by composting.
Composting decomposes organic materials, such as food scraps and lawn and garden debris (e.g., Grass Cuttings, leaves, weeds, pine needles) with microorganisms (e.g., bacteria and fungi) and transforms into a dark, humus-like substance. The benefits of composting go far beyond keeping millions of tons of waste out of our landfills. Compost is an ideal medium for growing fruits and vegetables, flowers, shrubs, and trees. Because it is a rich source of nutrients, use of compost significantly reduces or eliminates the need for fertilizer. Compost improves soil texture and its ability to hold onto moisture, thus protecting against drought. Compost also helps control erosion and weed growth, and acts as a protective barrier against toxins in the soil.
I Did This!
Are you ready to turn your kitchen and yard waste away from the landfills and into compost? Once you have a compost site started, whether it's indoors or outdoors, it takes only minutes per week to maintain it. Let's consider the options:
Build an Outdoor Compost Pile
Choose a well-drained, shady area. It is easiest to maintain the pile if it is in an enclosed area, which you can build using chicken wire, cement blocks, railroad ties, bricks, or scrap lumber. (Instructions for different types of compost bins are available online.) You can also use old playpens or, in a pinch, build your pile on the ground. Whatever form you choose, divide the site into two parts: one side for the composting material and the other for the resulting compost. A typical compost site is about 2 to 5 feet wide, 5 to 10 feet long, and 2 to 4 feet high.
Build your pile in layers, starting with about 6 inches of lawn and garden debris. Moisten this layer lightly, then sprinkle with fertilizer or a few inches of farm manure, if available. Place one to two inches of soil on top of this layer, and then add kitchen scraps (fruit and vegetable waste, coffee grounds, crushed egg shells). Repeat this process as you collect composting material. Keep the pile slightly moist and turn it with a garden fork every seven to ten days to speed up the composting process. After about four to ten months, depending on the materials you use and the climate, your compost should be ready — crumbly and dark.
For further information, more details are available on:
When you compost, you divert ozone-damaging waste from our landfills and reap the benefits of natural, life-promoting soil in the process. It's a win-win situation!
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