Have you ever looked at the trash that is produced at your home , business, or work environment and wondered if there was a better way to deal with some of it?
Perhaps your annual tax notice got your attention when you realized that the cost of dealing with your garbage is going up every year?
Or maybe you looked around the yard this spring and would have liked to touch up the lawn or flower beds with a bit of fertilizer without the trouble and expense of a trip to the local garden centre to purchase it?
It could also be that like so many people today, you have come to recognise that we are not treating this planet with the respect it deserves when it comes to our consumptive and wasteful ways.
Truck load after truck load of municipal solid waste (MSW) heading out to the land fill to be sorted, buried, burned, and increasingly, composted.
The carbon footprint required just to handle this material is massive.
What if we could remove even a portion of that material from the waste we generate and turn it into something useful?
It is estimated that between 25%-50% of this MSW could be redirected and removed at the source.
There has never been a better time to give some serious thought to how we can improve the way we do things on this planet than right now.
Composting offers us all the opportunity to reduce this waste and in turn create something that can be used everywhere to improve and enhance our environment.
In our own yards, businesses, parks, and community gardens, there is always a place that could use some rich dark humus that can be used to build up the soil.
With just the smallest amount of effort, we can create a mindset that turns thoughtless waste into a source of growth, education, and even profit!
The amount of space and work required to compost is very small, and the return on this investment in our environment can be deeply satisfying on many levels.
You can build a compost with a back yard composter made from a simple single bin compost pile, or a much more elaborate multi bins compost system, and be rewarded for your efforts with a dark rich soil amendment that can be used to grow just about anything you desire!
Composting has been a part of the natural life cycle of living matter since the beginning of time.
It has been referred to in writings that date back to the early Roman era.
There have been improvements to the process in terms of mechanization to address throughput rates, but the basics remain virtually unchanged.
How To Build A Compost?
To build a compost in the traditional manner, you simply piled up the material and let it cook away until it was reduced down to a usable product.
This single bin compost method is still used extensively today, but it does come with with a few issues.
The pile requires turning from time to time to keep oxygen and moisture levels at their optimum, and while the internal temperature of a well tended back yard composter will kill most all weed seeds, the outside of the pile does not.
There can also be an issue with leaching out of nutrients due to rainfall on an uncovered pile.
Covering these piles with plastic can control leaching, and solarization tends to keep the weeds in check, but this tends to be less aesthetically pleasing than some other methods available.
In terms of what goes into the compost pile, most all of the fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee and tea grounds, grass clippings, and green leaves can be used and are high in nitrogen.
This represents the “greens” portion of the mix, while newspapers, paper bags, straw, twigs, bark, dry leaves etc, are high in carbon and are the “brown” portion.
The ideal mix of these is about 30 parts brown (carbon) or less, to 1 part green (nitrogen).
This is only a rule of thumb and even anything close will work just fine.
The important thing to keep in mind is that composting is the natural process of all organic matter….don’t over think it.
READ : How to Compost Food Fcraps?
For the small scale backyard composter, the process will be more efficient if you start by breaking down the browns into one or two inch pieces.
Tearing your newspaper and brown paper bags into strips works well.
Layer in the mix, starting with the browns and then alternating between the two.
Sprinkle the mix with a bit of water to help get things going, and then stir it once a week or so to keep it working.
You can tell this is happening when the mixture starts to produce heat.
Keep an eye on things whenever you add more material to it. If it is not decomposing, add more greens.
If it is too wet or slimy, add some more browns in the form of torn or cut up paper.
The process will require moisture, so if the pile is too dry be sure to spray a little water on it and remember to stir it up a bit.
It won’t take long at all before you get a feel for what the mix needs more of to keep the process chugging along.
Different Ways To Build A Compost
There are a few different ways to build a compost, and the best type is usually determined by considering the size and type of dwelling it is meant to serve.
A small apartment with one or two occupants might use a small indoor container, or one that can be left out on the balcony.
A home with a family will often produce enough green material to require that you build a compost outside.
The backyard composter can be a simple single bin compost that you pile everything into and tend along until it is done.
You would then remove the material to be used and start again. This type is very common and should suffice for most who are just getting started at composting.
If you have been at it a while or perhaps just want to have a compost that can continually turn out some finished product, then a multiple bins compost system might work the best for you.
These compost systems work by having two or more compartments so that starter material is fed into the first compartment, and as it is broken down it is transferred to the next compartment to be finished.
This process separates the fresh product from the finished, and makes using the ever present final product much more pleasant.
This is certainly an improvement over the single bin compost, but it also requires a bit more work to transfer the material from bin to bin.
Another option that is gaining in popularity is the compost tumbler.
These devices take much of the labor out of the process due to their ability to be easily rotated to mix the materials contained inside.
READ : How To Make Good Compost?
There are many different manufacturers and models to choose from.
They range from the small and simple ones, which are easy to use, tidy in appearance, and relatively inexpensive, to fully mechanized units that can handle large amounts of material with very little physical labor required.
These types units are well suited to “green” organics, and adding unshredded woody material can slow down the process.
While an automatic composter may not be for everyone, they certainly can fill a need for those who require a unit with such attributes.
For those who might like to experience the convenience of these units prior to purchasing a manufactured modal, there is the option of building a drum style backyard composter of their own.
There are many resources available online to help simplify the process and avoid some of the more common issues that can arise when tackling a project like this.
On Site Composting
Many small groups of people are beginning to ingage in community composting.
This is the on site management of the organic waste that is generated by a group of people, such as in apartment buildings, office complexes, etc.
This type of on site composting helps reduce the carbon footprint normally associated with handling this portion of the MSW stream.
These programs also help reduce the costs associated with the transportation of these organic and carbon based materials, while giving the participants an opportunity to become actively engaged in a process to improve their environment.
As with any of these types of systems, there needs to be a means of ensuring the efficient and effective collection of the materials.
The maintenance of the composter(s) are equally important to ensure that the process runs smoothly.
Centralized composting, as mentioned earlier, involves the collection and transportation of large amounts of municipal solid waste to a designated facility, where it can be prepared and processed into compost.
These facilities have the ability to compost most of the organic waste stream generated by a community.
They are designed to manage large volumes, and a wide range of organic materials. Many are designed for co-composting, which is a technique that combines solid waste with de-watered bio-solids.
The world’s largest MSW co-composter is the Edmonton Composting Facility, which is located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
This world class facility turns 220,000 tonnes of residential solid waste, and 22,500 dry tonnes of bio-solids per year, into 80,000 tonnes of compost.
The facility is 38,690 sq.m (416,500 sq.ft.), equivalent to 4½ Canadian football fields.
This operating structure is home to the largest stainless steel building in North America, and is the size of 14 NHL sized hockey rinks!
We can all play a part in reducing the carbon footprint we are responsable for creating, and it only takes a little collective effort to get the ball rolling.
If you have ever raked up a pile of leaves and left them in a corner of the yard or garden while they decomposed, then you have created a backyard composter!
Making the leap to build a compost really requires little more than the willingness to do something small that can make a differance in your world.
Try it, and then take the time to show it to a child.
Watch their reaction as they begin to understand the process and how it helps enrich so many things in their world. It is well worth the effort!