Left-overs and Scraps: Don’t waste them.
If you are throwing away the food scraps and left-overs from your kitchen, you are missing a vital opportunity.
No matter where you live or how small or large your home is, you could and should be recycling as much of your food scraps as possible through composting.
There are a few different methods of composting, but once you’ve selected the one that best suits your life style and living circumstances, you will be able to make the perfect fertilizer for your flowers and vegetables.
Anyone can do it. Everyone should.
Composting – The World’s Oldest Form of Recycling
It was a natural part of life – what people didn’t eat was fed to the pigs and other farmyard animals. Garden refuse like plant trimmings, grass clippings and other biodegradable things which the animals wouldn’t or couldn’t eat went to the waste heap where it rotted and became part of the environment again.
But then urbanization came along. People living in cities had nowhere to dispose of food scraps and plant clippings, apart from in the garbage. So, along with all the other cast off things, biodegradable matter was branded as trash.
The idea that compostable material is somehow dirty, rotten and to be treated as garbage set in.
Treasure – Not Trash
Biodegradable matter is anything but trash – it is vital, life-giving material which urgently needs to be returned to the earth.
All plant matter and almost every form of plant-based food contains minerals and elements drawn from the earth during cultivation. They are precious and can only be returned to the earth through the composting process.
So, whether you have a full-on vegetable garden or only grow flowers in pots on your balcony or windowsills, you might be interested in the power of recycling kitchen scraps and leftover food.
How to Have Your Very Own Compost Heap
Starting your own composting program is fairly simple, even if you live in a small apartment.
First base is knowing there are 3 main types of composting and that you need to select the most effective method for your situation and compost requirements.
Here are the basics of the different methods:
The word “anaerobic” literally means “without air”. It relates to processes which don’t rely on air or the presence of oxygen to function.
Anaerobic composting is carried out by microbes which break down the scraps in your compost heap or bin. The process is often referred to as anaerobic digestion because the microbes break the compostable material down into its elements the same way we digest food.
Other similarities are that the process does create a little heat, some smell and quite a bit of acidity.
Harmful pathogens and most of the other material will break down and form nutrients.
This process creates more heat than anaerobic composting and if you structure your heap well, the heat can be sufficient to kill unwanted elements like pathogens and grass and tomato seeds.
Here’s some more information on the two methods.
A carefully controlled worm compost project will not create any smells and it can be run on a small scale or taken to a full-on worm farm. The option to drain off worm tea is also there, but this is not essential to the success of the project.
Vermicomposting is unlike aerobic and anaerobic composting because it doesn’t depend on the rotting process.
Worms do the work of microbes and the digestive process happens in the worms tummies once they have eaten your scraps. Because of this, you won’t be hoping that tomato and
To start, you need a place to devote to your compost heap or compost container. No matter how small that space is, you will be able to make compost on a regular basis which should be enough for your needs.
If you live in a flat, you will have limited space, but at the same time, you will have limited space to grow flowers or vegetables. In a large garden, you should have a larger area for compost and more space for plants.
What Not to Include
Everything except the most processed food will rot and breakdown, but not everything will add beneficial things to your compost. In fact, some things could harm your plants, so care is needed.
Some of the more obvious things to keep out of your compost are animal droppings from meat-eating animals, so dog, cat and human baby poo is definitely out.
It is also unwise to add bird droppings to compost as, like dog and cat feces, it may contain diseases that could contaminate your whole heap or bin.
Items like disposable diapers, tea bags or anything made with synthetic fiber up will never degrade. If you think something might be compostable, like a tea bag or coffee filter, check the packaging. Most responsible companies will have the information you are looking for. If you don’t find it, better play safe and leave it out of your compost.
Plastic, glass, foil and metal items will never degrade, so always leave them out.
If you are tempted to put the so called eco-friendly plastic bags in your compost, don’t. They, like their not so eco-friendly brethren, are going nowhere; you’ll be picking the bits out of your otherwise pristine compost.
For the most part, it’s easy to see if something will be okay to include in your bin or heap, but sometimes it’s not obvious, so here’s a list.
10 Borderline Compostibles
Here’s a list of 10 borderline items you need to treat with caution. If, in the end, you still cannot decide, rather leave the item out and send it to recycling or landfill. Better safe than sorry!
Don’t take paper and cardboard items for granted. They are not all equal and some of them are totally unsuitable for composting.
Soft and fibrous cardboard is suitable. Items like egg boxes and the inners from paper towel and toilet rolls are fine. They’re not made for printing on or to look good, so they don’t have varnish, ink or flame retardant chemicals on them.
Standard daily newspapers are also usually fine. If you are in doubt, play it safe and leave it out.
Watch out for glossy paper, promotional flyers and any printed material that is not your daily newspaper. These types of paper are likely coated with all sorts of inks and chemicals that will do your compost harm – especially if you are composting indoors with the help of worms or have an outdoor worm farm.
If you are composting indoors with worms or rely on worms in your heap outside, then dairy products are definitely out.
Excluding them is optional if worms aren’t a factor.
Milk, cheese and butter will break down and add nutrients, but we all know how bad these things smell when they go off. This will attract animals who will make a mess of your compost heap, unless it’s well protected. It might also attract the attention of your neighbors and the local authorities if you are in a built-up area.
The same rules apply with meat products as dairy, unless the meat is processed, in which case it is definitely out.
If you do add meat to your compost, it doesn’t matter if it’s cooked or raw. Either way, make sure it’s buried deep in your heap to try and evade the attention of animals and insects, especially flies.
But there is a real danger to pets and animals if moldy bread and other moldy food like pasta and pizza left-overs are accessible to them.
Mold contains Mycotoxins which can induce Toxic Shock Syndrome in animals. This in turn can result in a prolonged and painful death.
So, if there’s no chance of pets getting hold of moldy bread or pasta, then it’s okay to compost it.
Sawdust and Fire Ash are good for compost, but there is a caution for each.
Sawdust from untreated wood is a great addition to any composting project, it absorbs and retains moisture which is great for your compost.
Creosoted, stained, painted or pressure treated timber is definitely to be avoided. It will add chemicals and poisons to your compost which will hinder or stop the composting process.
Ash from wood fires is great in limited amounts. It contains lime and potassium and will help neutralize acidic soil. It will also deter insect activity in the compost heap and in your garden.
However, ash from coal fires or briquette barbecue fires must never be added to compost.
The flesh of tomatoes is great for composting; but the seeds, not so much. They’ll survive the anaerobic composting process and sow themselves with gay abandon everywhere you apply your precious compost.
If you go for the aerobic composting method, tomato and grass seeds won’t be a problem. A properly managed aerobic compost heap will reach temperatures of around 160° F. This heat will kill any seeds in your heap.
Vermicomposting also eliminates the seed problem because the worms will eat the seeds.
Be careful of adding weeds to your compost. If you uproot them or mow them before they flower and seed, that’s fine, they are just more plant matter.
If they have seeded, however, you will be in trouble. The seeds stand a good chance of surviving the cold or anaerobic composting process and, like their tomato seed friends, they’ll be back to haunt you where ever you use your compost.
The onion family has an odor problem. They’re fine to add, in small amounts, if you are not reliant on worms and if you don’t mind the smell of rotting onion and garlic.
Chop them up as finely as you can to make sure they compost quickly.
Definitely no oil of any sort. It coats the vegetable and other material you have in your compost and puts an end to the process. It will go rancid, but it will not decompose.
Adding sick plants to your compost is looking for trouble in the spring when you use your compost. Chances are very high that the ailment will survive the composting process and infect your new, vulnerable seedlings.
If you aren’t sure that some kitchen scraps or household waste belongs in your compost, check it out on line. If it’s a split decision, go with your gut feeling. Some composters are purist, others are more generalist so in the end, it’s up to you.
All Round Satisfaction
Having a viable composting project is a wonderful thing. It’s easier than it may seem at first and the benefits are huge.
Your plants will be healthier, flowers will be bigger and brighter and home-grown vegetables taste way better.
But best of all is the satisfaction of being involved in the never ending cycle of life.