When you realize the massive volume of waste that we generate every year, and continually have to find places to bury that waste in the ground, you realize that composting is a simple solution to that problem. So, what is composting and what can I do locally to make it happen? Whether we do it on a large national scale, state by state, or city by city, America needs to start composting.
I am not an expert in this area, and some of my statistics may be out of date, but I can share with you some basic info about our trash generating habits in this country. About 27% of the entire municipal solid waste stream in this country is made up of yard trimmings and food waste, in 2010 250 million tons of municipal solid waste (trash/garbage) was generated in the U.S., and paper makes up 29% of our waste, more than any other material Americans throw away.
Many people have heard of the term composting, but don't really understand what it is. When all the leaves, pine needles and twigs fall from trees in the forest, they land on the ground, get rained on and slowly break down over time to become part of the soil. That organic matter is compost, essentially broken down organic matter that can now be used as a very nutritious product to feed plants and flowers in your garden.
There are many things that each of us can do to control the amount of waste that we throw away every week in our garbage cans. We can recycle bottles, cans and newspapers which we have all been doing for many years, and eliminate a great deal of waste being sent to landfills. The next big step is to purchase consumer items that are compostable, so that we can add them to our compost piles, or deliver to a local compost facility.
There are many compostable products on the market now that can replace so many of the items that we simply use once and toss in the trash. You can buy compostable tableware, compostable plates, compostable lunch trays for school cafeterias and even a new compostable coffee cup lid, and all of these items can be placed in your own compost pile, or one in your community, and none of that trash will enter the waste stream and be dumped into a land fill.
Creating a compost pile is relatively simple and only requires 3 basic elements. Green material high in nitrogen like vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells (no grease or meat), Brown material with a high carbon content like paper, sawdust, twigs and straw and Moisture, enough water to keep the pile damp, but not soupy. The pile is rotated or turned periodically and beneficial bacteria thrive, assisting in the breakdown of the material.
You can create a compost pile in an open place in your yard, or in a purchased receptacle sold at hardware stores and nurseries all over the country. You can create something basic, or purchase a fancy contraption with a hand crank to turn the material with little or no effort. But the same basic process will take place: the bacteria thrive, create heat and breakdown the material naturally and you'll know if it's working because you can feel the heat coming off the pile, there are no discernible pieces of the original material and the compost will have a fresh earthy odor.