Food is a central focus of all of our lives. What we are going to eat, who we are going to eat with, it dictates the schedule of a lot of our days. It also makes up a large portion of what we throw away. Approximately 14.5% of the trash we throw away each day is food waste. This material is taken to a landfill where it is packed into the ground with no air and few other organic materials making it difficult for the material to decompose. Food waste is a material that can be easily diverted and transformed to compost that can be utilized in gardening and landscaping.
In recent years home composting has become trendy. It is something that comes up at dinner parties and something people navigate through even if they don’t have any chemistry background or agricultural experience.
There are multiple ways to go about composting depending on how much space you have. If you have a back-yard or patio with green space, you can use an open air compost bin, if you live in an apartment you can store your food scraps under you sink and invest in some worms. There are different ways to go about composting based on your environment.
Compost is a mix of carbon and nitrogen material, with the optimal material mix being a 25 or 30 to 1 carbon to nitrogen ratio. If the material doesn’t break down into planting material there is too much carbon on the compost mix, if there is too much nitrogen in the mix the material starts to smell. It is a challenging balance to manage the compost composition. Some materials are richer in carbon, such as straw, dried grass, leaves and paper. Materials that are rich in nitrogen include material such as coffee grounds, fruit, vegetables and wet grass.
To create a healthy compost one must manage the material you put into each batch, ensure there material gets air and is turned or stirred. The end product will give you free, home-made planting material for your flower box, vegetable garden or crazy mother in-law who loves her rose garden.
Large scale composting uses open-air composting rows called windrows. The material can reach up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and some of these operations will accept meat, cheese, bones and sludge (which is the by-product of wastewater). These compost piles can and do at times catch on fire, as the high heat is needed to break down materials such as bones and meat. These food waste products should likely be avoided in your home compost unless you have a large area and want to invest in some chemistry classes, large equipment and start taking your neighbor’s food waste as well.
Luckily there are some good resources out there to build your compost knowledge, and even steer you towards some aesthetically pleasing compost bins. There are plenty of examples of back-yard compost bins as well, and if you are a do-it-yourself enthusiast, there are a bunch of bins you can try out, like this one from another WordPress blogger.
Home compost is a great way to minimize you effect on the environment and generate a useful by-product. It is an in-home chemistry project that you start to master overtime with some trial and error.