Compost is a remarkable substance that:
• Provides low, steady, balanced nutrition to plants. It holds nutrients in the root zone available for plants to use.
• Raises the pH of acid soils and lowers the pH of alkaline soils. It helps keep soil pH in an optimum range for plants to use the available nutrients.
• Enhances soil structure. Clay soils: improved drainage and aeration. Sandy soils: improved water & nutrient retention.
• Suppresses fungal and bacterial plant diseases.
• Compost in not a fertilizer, it is an ecosystem. It seeds the soil with billions of diverse life forms that work together to make soil function and help plant roots absorb nutrients.
What does compost do?
Here are the answers to many questions that municipalities and residents ask about composting and our program.
How much waste is composted?
Sadly, the EPA estimates of the amount of residential waste — food scraps and soiled paper — that are composted is only 3%. At 21% or more, these materials make up the largest volume of municipal waste going into most landfills.
While significant percentages of paper, aluminum, plastics and other materials are being recycled, we are barely making a dent in residential organics recycling (composting).
Yes, backyard composting extends landfill lifespans and reduces the release of the greenhouse gas methane. Methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide and accounts for 30% of the effects of manmade greenhouse gas emissions. (Source: EPA)
What are greens & browns?
GREENS ARE: vegetables, fruits, grains, coffee grounds with filter, tea bags, nut shells, green plant cuttings, annual weeds (no seeds), hedge trimmings, grass clippings (best to leave mowed grass in place to fertilize your lawn). Also natural fibers such as cotton pads/swabs, cat, dog & even human hair, worn natural cotton, wool, & leather cloths (cut into small pieces – no polyester).
BROWNS ARE: eggshells, wood chips, branches (modest size), leaves (small amount in bin - most mowed into lawn as detailed in Compost Guide), pine needles.
FOCUS ON COMPOSTNG THESE BROWNS: soiled paper products such as paper towels, napkins, tissue paper, compostable paper plates & cups (no coatings) and pizza or other soiled food boxes (tear into smaller pieces). Leaves can be added if you don't have much paper.
What to compost?
GREENS, materials with a low carbon to nitrogen ratio, & BROWNS with a higher ratio. Greens have carbon to nitrogen ratios around 15-25 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Browns are high with 50-300 parts carbon to nitrogen. The ideal composting mix is around 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Fortunately, by mixing food scraps with soiled paper products, your mix should be almost ideal.
As long as you are composting a variety of materials, don’t worry too much about the the exact ratio of the mix. EVERYTHING EVENTUALLY BREAKS DOWN INTO COMPOST.
Are vermin an issue?
We have not experienced any vermin other than a crafty raccoon that learned how to open the bin door. The simple solution was to turn the door toward a tree.
To be safe residents can dig down a few inches so the compost bin bottom edge is below ground level.
Does compost stink?
No! If you avoid composting meats, dairy & oil odor is unlikely. In fact compost should have a pleasant odor like humus dug up in the woods. Mild odor may occur if the compost pile is too wet causing anaerobic conditions. The simple solution is to aerate the pile with a fork or compost tool. For details access the Compost Guide.
What do you mean that the backyard composting program costs municipalities 70 cents per year & $2 per year for residents?
Here's how the program works: Backyard composting has negotiate with our compost bin vendor to provide bins to municipalities at a cost of only $31.00 plus shipping. Shipping costs around $3 per bin with the larger volume purchase we make with several municipalities each July (around 800 bins). Of the $34 cost per bin the municipality invests $7 per bin, Backyard Composting invests $7, and residents must purchase the bins for $20.
Using a conservative 10-year bin life the average cost per year is 70 cents for the municipality & $2 for the resident (although bins can last 15- to 20-years). Based on an average of 500 pounds of food scraps, soiled paper and other organics composted per bin and current tipping fees around $59 per ton (in our area), for the 70 cents invested the municipality will save $14.75 each year. Resident’s $2 investment will result in huge savings on food wasted as they modify their purchase habits plus up to $50 of high-quality compost each year compared with purchase at the local big box or garden store. Those are outstanding returns on investment.
Why did we create this model?
This model is based on the Cheverly (MD) Composting Project where we first implemented it. We learned that by partnering with the Town, multiple non- & for-profit organizations, and residents, we could leverage funding. This allowed us to purchase four times as many compost bins resulting in 100 tons of waste being diverted from our local landfill plus $5,900 saved in tipping fees each year. We also found residents willing to invest the $20 to purchase the bins (usual bin cost & shipping are $80 to $100) and making that investment provided incentive for them to take composting seriously and to continue their composting efforts over time. (FYI, we also support community composting. Contact us for details)
Waste isn't waste until you waste it!
What guarantee is offered?
We GUARANTEE municipalities that their investment in the compost bins from their tipping fee budget will be returned in reduced tipping fees in one-year or we'll refund the difference.
The expected savings for the $7 municipal investment per bin is $147.50 in tipping fees over ten years. (.25 ton x $59 x 10 years)
Why should residents compost?
For residents, the biggest benefit to composting is that it helps them monitor and then reduce their food waste estimated at between $1,350 & $2,275 per household each year.* For $20 and a modest effort households can save thousands of dollars by modifying their food purchases to reduce waste.
* Source: Bloom, American Wasteland, pages 24 & 187