Composting is an efficient and resourceful closed-loop solution for most of our organic waste.

The role of organic materials and organics recycling

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

The products made from organics are necessities: soil products for the production of healthy food, fiber, and landscapes, as well as fuel and energy products for transportation, heat, food preparation, and electricity.

Composting is a necessary component to our planet’s closed-loop zero waste systems, and the more waste we compost instead of throw out in a landfill, the better our impact on the planet.

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 carbon, nitrogen, and water to break down the matter.

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 healthy 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 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.

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.

United States Composting Council
The USCC website lists its members who produce compost or mulch as sources for homeowners or others seeking supplies for purchase.

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