Different ways to compost

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Not sure how to compost? In this blog, I’m breaking down the most common ways to turn your food scraps into fertilizer!

In the United States, we are known as a “throw-away society.”  To us, that just sounds like a terrible reputation.  In simple terms, it means we just throw things away we’re done using whether or not they are at the end of functional use. Or we purchase products intending to only use them once because that’s more convenient than taking care of reusable options.

Two of the things we toss are our household food and yard waste, which is usually placed in black bins or laid out in piles. It is then collected once a week and tossed into a landfill where it will sit until… who knows how long.  And it’s not just sitting there, it is actually contributing to harmful methane entering our atmosphere.  It’s the sad truth. Over 24% of the material in our landfills is our household compostable waste.  That’s just crazy, right?

Let’s look into methods of composting to try and shrink that statistic, shall we?

food scraps for composting

Is there a best composting method?

Nope! I say no because all composting methods have their pros and cons, but the reality is that the style of composting you choose has to fit your lifestyle.  And that’s the beauty of it!  You can customize your composting system to fit your goals, how much space you have, and your current living conditions. While composting, you are actively slashing your carbon footprint.  That’s something to pat yourself on the back for. Let’s get into it!

Worm composting

worm composting, vermicomposting

Worm composting or vermicompost is simply just putting a bunch of worms into your food waste. From there the worms will do what worms do best: recycle organic materials and turn them into an amazing soil amendment.

Worms love to munch on foods that are high in nutrients, which means their castings or “poop” is very nutrient as well.  In order to speed up the process, it’s important that the food you put in a worm composter is very finely chopped up or even thrown in a blender.  Need to keep the little ones happy!

Backyard composting

backyard composting

Backyard composting is a very common way to compost, but can also be the most creative.  You just throw your food scraps and carbon additive of choice into a pile outside and it will do the work.  If you would like to have some sort of structure around your compost you can do that by going to a home improvement store and making your own (hence the creativity part)! You can also buy a pre-made one or even find one on Craigslist.

Although this method is relatively straightforward, it does come with a slight drawback.  The backyard pile won’t kill weed seeds or pathogens because it’s difficult to get your pile hot enough.  Fortunately, there are people that have composted for long enough to develop their own methods.  The City of Berkeley has developed its Berkeley method to solve these problems.

Tumbler composting

tumbler composting

Composting in a tumbler is a great alternative to the backyard pile.  The tumbler allows you to spin the contents to aerate and mix the compost.  You really only need to turn your tumbler every couple of days, but turn it as often or as little as you want.  

A lot of the companies that make tumblers advertise that their product will produce useable fertilizer every two weeks! That may sound too good to be true.  That’s because it is.  However, if you rotate your tumbler consistently it will most likely take less time than the piled compost.

Drop-off and pick-up services

Marina filling her drop-off compost bucket

What if I don’t want to put in the work for a compost system?  Have no fear, composting services are here!  A lot of communities are starting to have some sort of composting pick-up or drop-off service and maybe both!  Usually, all you have to do is fill the bin by following their guidelines on what can be put in the compost bins. Then you just drop off the bin at a designated location or the compost service will pick it up. Easy!

There are so many ways to start your composting adventure and it doesn’t just stop at these five methods. These are general descriptions to help spark an interest in composting. Stay tuned as I take a deeper dive on all of these throughout the month of June!

Want to know more about the composting process overall? What’s the difference between anaerobic and aerobic systems? Check out my earlier posts!

By Luke Moran-Pedersen

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