Learn About Composting


CompostAccording to Carl Hursh of the Department of Environmental Protection, yard trimmings, food scraps, and other organics make up 34 percent of municipal waste? That's quite a staggering statistic. So, how can we reduce that number and make the Town of McCandless a leading sustainable community? Composting is the answer!

The term compost simply means organic material that can be used as a soil amendment or medium to grow plants. Composting produces valuable organic matter that can positively impact the environment.

Plants grow by absorbing the sun’s energy, using the carbon dioxide in the air, and water from the soil. When these plants die, they become raw materials for the composting process. Things like insects, worms, and other creatures break down the carbon from dead plants into energy for their own survival. These things release carbon dioxide into the air, and the process comes full circle. The composting process allows carbon dioxide to be produced, which, in turn, begins the process.

Composting reaps many benefits:

  • Reduces or eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers, 
  • Promotes a higher yield of agricultural crops, and 
  • Removes solids, oil, grease, and heavy metals from stormwater runoff

Although not all foods can be composted, many can. While some foods can be donated to centers for the needy, inedible food can be composted as an environmental alternative. Homeowners can use composted items to enrich their garden or use it as a soil additive for planter boxes.

Home Composting

Home composting is easier than you think. All you need is yard space or a composting bin, water, and, of course, organic material. It costs next to nothing, and we can't stress its value enough, especially for you gardeners out there.

According to LeanPath, anywhere between 4 to 10 percent of your purchases will become consumer waste, but there are three easy steps to help you avoid this:

  1. Rethink your purchase practices. While there are times when disposable products are ideal, such as birthday and graduation parties, use regular plates and flatware when at home instead of disposable plates or utensils.
  2. Reduce pre-consumer food waste—don't overbuy! Usually, when a grocery store has a 3 for $5 sale, it's probably because those products are close to expiration or else the store has overstock. Don't buy on impulse; you probably don't need it anyway.
  3. To avoid post-consumer waste, compost! It's simple and easy. In addition to composting, consider secondary uses for leftover food: make croutons out of bread, for example. Food donation is another option.

Compost Recipe

  • 3 parts browns (carbon: leaves, branches, twigs)
  • 1 part green (nitrogen: grass, veggie waste, fruit, coffee grounds)
  • Add water as you build

What to Compost:

  • Animal manure
  • Cardboard rolls; clean paper
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Cotton rags
  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
  • Eggshells
  • Fireplace ashes
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Grass clippings
  • Hair and fur
  • Hay and straw
  • Houseplants
  • Leaves
  • Nut shells
  • Sawdust
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Tea bags
  • Wood chips
  • Wool rags
  • Yard trimmings

What Not to Compost:

  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs
  • Coal or charcoal ash
  • Dairy products (buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt, and eggs)
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants
  • Fats, grease, lard, oils
  • Meat or fish bones and scraps
  • Pet wastes (dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)
  • Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides

Location: Avoid full sun and cut up materials to increase exposed surface area. Add water as you build your pile. Bins are available at local home improvement stores, or just build a pile in your backyard; just be sure to place a fence or border around the pile to keep the critters out!

Composting: by Brendan Gard

Watch Brendan Gard's video, Composting, narrated by Oliver Gard, who explains the aspects of home composting and its important role in waste diversion and improving soil: "Although we have made great strides in proper recycling and filling up our yard waste carts, there is always room for improvement. Remember, we have to take care of the world in which we live. Today is a great day to start!" 

The video won Second Place at the 5th Annual PROP Recycling Film Festival in 2012.