It's finally summertime! There's no better time to begin composting than RIGHT NOW! Whether you want to reduce you household waste, lower your carbon footprint, or grow a bountiful garden, composting is the answer. This guide will outline what compost is, what can be composted, and how you can start a compost pile of your very own.
From the beginning, we has been committed to creating simple, high quality compostable products to stand up against the global challenges of plastic pollution, climate change, and unnecessary waste. No matter what your reason for composting, this post will give you all the knowledge you need to create your own composting operation with only minimal effort. After all, we believe that composting is for everyone!
They might look like paper, but our bagasse products are actually made of rapidly renewable sugarcane fiber. They are both tree free and completely compostable!
WHAT IS COMPOSTING?
Composting is a method for turning organic materials into fertile soil that has been around since the dawn of agriculture. For millennia, home gardeners and farmers alike have relied on their ability to convert waste products like food scraps, manure, leaves, grass, and straw into a cheap, nutrient rich food for their crops.
Composting at its core is a way of harnessing the natural power of decomposition in a controlled way. Decomposer microbes, fungi, and animals use our would-be trash as a food source and break it down into the fundamental building blocks of life. For composting to occur, you need just 4 ingredients:
Carbon and nitrogen both provide fuel for microorganisms and can be found in varying amounts in all kinds of compostable materials (more on this later). Oxygen and water are necessary for the microorganisms to survive and multiply to break down waste material into compost efficiently.
TYPES OF COMPOSTING
Home composting is relatively straightforward and is the main focus of this article. A home compost pile tends to have less microbial action and thus generates less heat when compared to commercial composting. This means that certain materials (like PLA bioplastic) can't break down easily.
Luckily, there is an easy way to tell if the compostable products you buy can be composted in your own backyard. TUV Austria is a certification agency which rigorously tests products to verify that they break down completely into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass in typical home composting conditions without releasing any toxins into the soil. Click here if you want to learn more about their certification process.
Look for the OK Compost HOME Certification to ensure the products you buy are suitable for your backyard compost pile
All of our bagasse (sugarcane fiber) products, including our bowls, and plates bear this certification, meaning that they can be easily mixed into your new compost pile at home!
Commercial composting is a much larger scale operation than typical home composting. It uses machines to grind, aerate, and screen compost to achieve a higher degree of speed and consistency than home composting. Due to the ideal composting environments in commercial facilities, they are capable of breaking down items which would not break down easily in a home compost environment.
The Biodegradable Products Institute is the leading compostability certification agency in North America and partners with a network of labs to run vigorous tests which ensure the compostability of products in a commercial environment. You can learn more about their testing process here.
Our PLA cutlery and cups have been certified by BPI for commercial compostability. This means that they can break down in 12 weeks, and show at least 90% absolute biodegradation within 6 months--far better than other plastics which can take more than 1000 years.
Commercial composting environments use heavy machinery to process large quantities of compost at a time.
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle have become the cornerstones of environmental progress and composting incorporates all three. First, composting reducesthe amount of waste sent to landfills, organic matter is instead reused as it is repurposed into food for your compost, and finally it is recycled into a useful soil amendment.
The usefulness of compost doesn’t stop as a soil amendment, it has many other uses including natural pesticide, erosion control, land and stream reclamation, wetland construction, and landfill covering.
By composting at home you are helping to eliminate waste which would otherwise fill up landfills, while also providing rich food and nutrients for new life in your garden. Wasting less leads to a lower carbon footprint, a more sustainable lifestyle, and a greener world.
WHAT CAN I COMPOST?
All organic matter can be composted, but that doesn’t mean that all of it should be composted. You’ll want to avoid adding animal bones or meat which can rot and attract wild animals. Also avoid excessively greasy foods as oil can go rancid and doesn’t break down easily. Nearly everything you can put in your compost can be broken up into two categories, “browns” and “greens”. Brown materials are higher in carbon and are typically (but not always) brown in color, hence the name. Green materials are rich in nitrogen and often green.
The goal of composting is to create a hospitable environment for microorganisms to multiply and work their decomposition magic. This requires a mix of both brown and green substances. An even mix of brown and green substances is a good place to start, but don’t worry if your ratio varies, everything will decompose given time.
By mixing fallen leaves (a brown material rich in carbon) and grass clippings (a green material rich in nitrogen) in equal parts, you can easily achieve a well balanced carbon to nitrogen ratio in your compost pile. For many, this will make up the bulk of your compost as these items are readily available. If you don’t have access to one or both of these materials, don’t fear! There are many other compostable materials.