Interacting with customers at the markets, I often get a lot of questions about Eco Food Wraps; one being “How long will it last?"
When I respond that they last about 1 year depending on use and care, after which they can be placed on your compost pile as they are 100% biodegradable, I then get an “Awww” or silence with perhaps a side glance. I can almost hear the “Hmmm... compost pile... What’s the point of having a compost bin, when your trash decomposes in landfill anyway?”.
I remember my great-grandmother instilling this practice with such high value that she would even pick up road kill to place on her compost pile as it was ‘blood and bone’ for the garden and insisted that despite our childhood grimaces, it was full of rich nutrients giving life back to her garden. My great-grandmothers garden was a fairy tale of every type of vegetable and fruit tree and she was a true champion of reusing:- glistening and clanging in the fruit-tree branches would be lids from tin cans tied with old stocking to deter birds from the eating the fruit. It was with her in mind that I was inspired to help spread the word on why worms eating your bits and pieces is such a valuable tool when you’re making a commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle.
So for this week’s Eco Blog I thought we would take a look at the importance of composting!
Reason 1- It’s great for your garden
Whether your soil is clay or sandy, adding composting organic matter increases soil’s ability to retain moisture and nutrients, and improve the structure of the soil.
Composting matter acts like sponge, soaking up excess water and nutrients, and then making them available when needed. This matter is also about 58% carbon. By adding it to your soil you’re helping to eliminate carbon in your greater environment. A leading scientist specialising in soil, Dr. Rattan Lal has estimated that increasing the planet’s soil carbons by 2% would offset 100% of our current greenhouse emissions!
Reason 2 - It’s even better for our planet
Waste is problem. A huge, stinking, land-consuming problem. In fact 60% of our landfills are full of organic matter. You think it would break down since it's dumped into a giant hole in the ground, but it doesn't. Landfills aren't aerated. And it’s in the aeration that the real breakdown lays.
Landfills use what is called anaerobic decomposition- meaning that microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. The process is used by landfills to manage waste, as it doesn’t require any work with the landfill material, beyond dumping it in the first place, and literally leaving it to rot.
As well as this, the anaerobic decomposition happening in landfill means that all that oxygen deprived organic matter you throw away in the trash releases methane into the atmosphere; a chemical gas 72% more powerful than CO2. The matter mixes with inorganic materials and instead of decomposing, it’s preserved along with the inorganic material…. NOT a good thing.
Managed, balanced compost bins utilize what’s called aerobic decomposition, and as you can guess is a much more efficient process.
Microorganisms (which require oxygen) also use the nitrogen, phosphorus, some of the carbon, and other required nutrients in the decaying matter. Much of the carbon serves as a source of energy for the organisms and is burned up.
The composting process requires organic waste, such as plant matter, fruit and vegetable scraps, soil (which contains microorganisms), water and oxygen. If you regularly water and turn the compost in your compost bin or pile, the compost can completely decompose in just a few weeks. (I’ve listed what you can compost, and what you should avoid below!)
Reason 3- You can reduce your personal waste by 40%
When I first started composting, I thought I just had to do the initial build, then feed it food scraps and that was it. It all started from the fact that half of every bin was food scraps, peelings, bits of food and paper products. On top of that, I was really into recycled clothing and materials, and wanted to explore ways to break down scraps I had (including of course, my older Eco Food Wraps, which were ready for the compost bin after about a year of solid use).
There is a world of things that could be composted! I’ve listed a few to help you out in your own compost-journey!
So, what goes in the old worm-bin?
cereal boxes and egg cartons coffee grounds
egg shells flowers
fruit and vegetable peelings grass clippings
hay/straw herbivore manure
kitchen scraps leaves
nuts/nut shells organic matter
paper bags/newspapers/paper towels plant matter sawdust stalks and cobs (corn etc)
tea and teabags (non plastic) toilet paper cores
wood ash .
(wood ash is said to be naturally high in lime and is good to add if compost is starting to smell.)
Also don’t discount the following!
vacuum dust and lint from your dryer
natural fibres in small pieces (cotton, linen, hemp, silk & wool)
unbleached paper products
Hair from your hair brush
The following should be avoided in your home compost bin:
‘compostable’ plastics (these should be recycled)
bleached paper products cat litter trays
coal by products/ash coffee cups
gloss or coated papers grease & oil (see council)
laminated paper products
materials sprayed with any pesticide
*meat, fish, bones, and dairy food products - I either give these items to the dogs, chickens or compost and only add a little to the worm farm.
*omnivore (meat and plant eating) manure this is great for the compost e.g. chicken poo. They even have dog poo composters now!
(list source: www.goingzerowaste.com/)
Just remember that while some composts can have worms in them, compost bins are actually different from worm farms in that compost bins need a certain carbon to nitrogen ratio, whereas worm farms are mostly kitchen scraps and then some carbon.
Lastly, to help out those new to the world of worm-food; this great WikiHow article has a clear and concise process for building your own compost bin, including what and how to properly prepare your compost mix (this is really important as you can turn your compost Anaerobic, it smells more- like vinegar or a sour strong smell- and actually composts much slower).
I hope you’ve found this informative and helpful- let me know about your own compost journey in the comments below!
Maybe, you too, can pass it on to those in your life who give those side-long glances when composting is mentioned!