Composting is an efficient and resourceful closed-loop solution for most of our organic waste. Compost at home or find a local solution.

The role of organic materials and organics recycling

Of all waste, organic wastes can present the most energy and resource efficient opportunities for Zero Waste—partly because can be easily absorbed back into nature. Digestion by various organisms is the most common means of reprocessing organic wastes, whether aerobic digestion (such as composting) or anaerobic digestion (such as fermentation).

Three ingredients for composting:

  • Browns - dead leaves, branches, and twigs
  • Greens - grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds
  • Water

It’s important to have the right amount of browns, greens, and water in your compost pile in order to have the ideal composting system

Do not include:

  • Bread, rice, meat, and milk products - Although potentially compostable, these are particularly tempting for unwanted pests and may encourage harmful bacteria growth
  • Cooking oil - Like the above products, this may attract pests. It may also upset the moisture balance in your compost
  • Diseased or stubborn plants - Diseases may end up growing in your compost pile and stubborn plants will use the compost pile as an ideal location to propagate
  • Feces and used personal products - These items present too much of a health risk
  • Sawdust - Unless you know the wood was untreated, this could contain harmful chemicals
  • Walnuts - Contain juglone, a compound toxic to some plants
  • Inorganics

Backyard composting:

If you’d like to try your own composting at home, follow the simple steps below:

  1. Select a dry, shady spot near a water source for your compost pile or bin.
  2. Add brown and green materials as they are collected, making sure larger pieces are chopped or shredded.
  3. Moisten dry materials as they are added.
  4. Once your compost pile is established, mix grass clippings and green waste into the pile and bury fruit and vegetable waste under 10 inches of compost material. Optional: Cover top of compost with a tarp to keep it moist. When the material at the bottom is dark and rich in color, your compost is ready to use. This usually takes anywhere between two months to two years.

Apartment composting:
If you live in a space with a small or limited outdoor area, you can still start a small-scale composting system indoors.
1. Get a small bin with a lid or cover (like a 10-15 gallon steel garbage can).
2. Drill a few dozen small, spaced a few inches apart, along the bottom and sides to help with drainage and aeration.
3. Place the bin on a tray to limit spills and messes.
4. Fill the bottom of the bin with several inches of drainage material, like potting mix.
5. Place a layer of shredded paper on top of that layer.
6. Start adding your greens and browns, being sure to turn the pile once a week with a small garden spade or shovel.
7. Keep the lid on your bin and cover your greens with a layer of shredded newspaper or other browns to prevent odors.

Useful links and options for off-site composting:

If you cannot compost your food waste at home, there are options for homeowners who wish to drop off organics or have them hauled away:

Local Recycling/Public Works Organizations,
It’s always a good idea to first start with local recycling coordinators or organizations. A quick Google search should reveal local composters.

BioCycle’s Find a Composter
BioCycle’s Find a Composter database is the most comprehensive and searchable listing of composting facilities, with more than 600 total listings for the United States and Canada.

Mother Nature Network
This article offers a nice and straightforward guide to composting and recycling.