Why Every Household Should Have A Compost System

If you’re reading this and feel unsure as to why this is relevant to you, you need to try an experiment for just one normal day – one that will get you in a compost mindset. All you need to do is keep a container with a lid with you during your day and collect all the organic waste you would have thrown away. This includes:

  • all waste from fruits and vegetables (including peels, rinds and cores, as well as pulp from juicing)
  • corn cobs and husks
  • egg shells
  • tea bags and coffee grounds
  • old, mouldy or dry bread and other baked goods
  • any leftover or waste grains
  • outdated spices
  • outdated boxed goods such as cous-cous, pasta, rice, etc.
  • nut shells
  • hair and fur
  • fireplace ashes
  • shredded newspaper, cardboard or regular paper
  • cotton and wool waste

What happened when I did it

When I tried this experiment myself, I filled an old ice cream container by dinnertime – and it wasn’t big enough to hold it all. According to statistics published by the University of Indiana, the average American throws away 1,200 pounds of organic waste a year. All of this can be composted, and even if you live in the city, it is a very easy and affordable process.

What are the benefits of composting?

Besides that you are more mindful of your own carbon footprint and greatly reduce the amount of waste you generate, your kitchen will smell better, as there will be nothing rotten in your dustbin. Moreover, you will increase the biodiversity of your garden and immediate environment – and even if you don’t use the compost yourself, the benefits will stretch to those who will use it. Composting also reduces erosion, as it improves the soil’s ability to hold water. By reducing the amount of waste you throw away, you could actually also save money. In many cities and suburbs, homes are charged waste removal rates based on how much needs to be removed, so, by reducing this amount, you can reduce the money you need to spend on this. Finally, composting can also help to make soil either more acidic or alkaline, based on the needs of the plants in question.

What should you not compost?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the following ingredients should not be included into your compost heap, as they usually contain substances that can be harmful to plants, can create odour problems and attract unwanted pests, or they may contain parasites or viruses that could be harmful to either plants or humans:

  • Dairy products
  • Coal or charcoal ash
  • Black walnut trees or twigs
  • Plants that are sick or insect-ridden
  • Dead plants or trimmings that have been treated with chemical pesticides
  • Pet waste (faeces or soiled litter)

How can you get started?

For those who live in areas where space is restricted and you don’t have access to an area where you can set up a compost heap, simply collect your organic waste in a large container and speak to your local garden or organic produce shop to find out where it can be dropped on a weekly basis. Many communities or homes with larger gardens make use of their own compost heaps, where everything from garden trimmings, old leaves and household waste gradually becomes garden fertiliser. I personally collect all my organic waste in the same ice cream container in which I started, and pretty much every day ends with me adding it to the compost heap on our property.

If you do have enough space to build one, you can either dig a hole in the ground with which to fill it, or build a standing heap out of branches or logs, stacked into a square or rectangle and structured with nails. In this heap, you can both your brown (carbon-rich) and green (nitrogen-rich) ingredients. Brown ingredients includes the drier add-ins such as dried leaves, wood, wool etc, while green are those that generally contain moisture, such as fruit and veg peels and rinds, tea bags and coffee grounds.

From here, you need to mix the two together in a volume ratio that delivers the right balance of carbon and nitrogen. In order to do this, work with the ratio of one part green to two parts brown.

Click here to find out more about composting at home and how to get started.

Want to find out more?

Click here to find out how to grow vertical gardens – perfect for smaller, urban spaces.

Photo by Akil Mazumder