Estimates suggest that 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food that is not consumed. With many people just beginning their journey to do their part for the planet, you may be wondering what ‘composting’ actually is, after hearing so much about it. But wait, did you know that making compost from kitchen waste is actually quite simple and doable?
This article gets into the basics of composting and how to make compost from kitchen waste. So first, let’s understand:
What is compost?
The term ‘compost’ refers to the process of recycling organic materials. It is typically created by decomposing plant or food waste, and recycling such materials. The resulting mixture is high in plant nutrients and beneficial organisms like worms and fungal mycelium. And these nutrient-rich, dirt-like substances are used to enrich the soil and nourish plant growth.
While this process takes time, we can help it move along quicker by creating an ideal environment. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make compost from kitchen waste and five different ways to compost at home.
What can you compost?
You can make compost from kitchen waste by using leftovers in refrigerators that are no longer consumable, to reduce your food waste. You can also compost at home with certain kinds of yard waste rather than dumping them. Pick up the following items to get your compost pile off to a good start:
- Fruit scraps
- Vegetable scraps
- Sawdust from untreated wood
- Grass clippings (without chemicals)
- Coffee grounds
- Dry leaves
- Finely-chopped wood and bark chips
- Shredded newspapers
How to make compost from kitchen waste?
Making compost from kitchen waste is a simple process that requires only a few simple steps. So let’s find out how.
1. Find a good location for composting
A dry and shady location is ideal for composting. If you don’t have a backyard but still want to compost, you can take your food scraps to a compost pile you share with neighbors or to a community garden. Of course, it’s perfectly alright to give your food scraps to someone else to compost. Even Municipal Solid Waste Management will help dispose of your waste. You can also inquire about food scrap programs at your local grocery stores, restaurants, or farmers’ markets.
2. Choose food scraps that have a good mix of ‘greens’ and ‘browns’
Separate your edible kitchen waste (vegetable peels, fruit peels, and small amounts of leftover cooked food) into a container. The ideal compost pile contains 30 ‘brown’ materials for every ‘green’ material. ‘Brown’ materials include dried leaves, newspaper, straw, and wood chips. ‘Green’ materials include grass clippings, and fruit or vegetable scraps.
Tip: The smaller the materials in your compost pile, the more quickly they will break down into compost. So, save your leaves in the fall or newspapers once done reading them, to add to your compost pile.
3. Add water to the compost mix
Do not water your compost pile often. Because too much water can cause your pile’s microorganisms to become waterlogged and drown. So, all you need is just enough water to keep the compost moist, like a wrung-out sponge, which will keep the decomposition process going. To ensure proper decomposition, use a compost thermometer to monitor the temperature of your pile.
4. Wait and aerate your compost pile
Turn the pile once a week with a garden fork to provide oxygen during the growing season. Then, turn or mix the pile to aerate it with a pitchfork, stick, or spade to keep things moving.
Remember: Ensure that the air flows through the pile and the water added keeps it wet enough but not soggy.
5. Feed your garden with the produced compost
Your produce is now almost ready! Compost can be achieved within a few months to a year, depending on how active your compost pile is, how often it is turned, and its moisture level. When the compost no longer emits heat and becomes dry, brown, and crumbly, it is ready to be fed to the garden. At the start of each planting season, add 4 to 6 inches of compost to your flower beds and pots. And voila, you’re done!
How to make compost at home?
Common misconceptions about home composting include it being too complicated, smelling terrible, and being messy. This may be true if you compost improperly; but composting right is actually quite simple. You need to layer organic materials, add a dash of soil and a splash of water, and wait for your mixture to transform into humus (the best soil booster ever!)
But, how to make compost at home? It also depends on the size of your apartment and whether it is urban or has an outdoor space.
- Indoor composting
According to Brenda Platt, the Composting for Community project director, vermicomposting basically requires you to bring a bucket of worms into your house, making it a great indoor composting option. Though it may sound unappealing, the type of worms used for this job do not move around and will not attempt to escape, since they are in the compost.
- Outdoor composting
If you have an outdoor space, you should probably invest in a worm bin or build a basic compost bin yourself. First, drill holes in the bottom of a large plastic bin, then stand it up straight and cover the bottom with a layer of dry, brown organic sources (dry leaves will work great.)
Good tools for composting
For those who prefer to compost at home in simpler ways, the tools listed below can be quite useful in producing high-quality compost from food and yard waste.
However, there are plenty of other tools for those who really want to up their compost game at home or outdoors. These tools will save you time and space while speeding up your compost pile’s rate. And, hey, they are a lot of fun to use, too; so win-win!
The worm composter, aka vermicomposter, is an essential tool for households that want to recycle food waste but do not need it for a large amount of compost.
Tumblers allow you to turn your compost without the use of shovels or compost forks. Instead, simply place your browns and greens in the round bin and turn the crank several times. And done!
Compost spreaders function similarly to lawnmowers. Simply fill the bin with clean, chunk-free compost, start the engine, and push it around your yard.
Compost grinders (or even electric leaf shredders and small wood chippers) quickly reduce the size of the material that goes into your compost pile.
Now, it is up to you to determine which composting method will work best for you. Fortunately, no matter which method you follow to make compost from kitchen waste, it is going to be quite simple and eco-friendly. You can also involve your kids to create the prettiest garden possible, with just a few kitchen scraps and some patience.
If you want to understand the difference between biodegradable and compostable, here’s a quick guide for you.