Savor, Scrap, Soil: From Food Waste to Compost

Food waste is a global issue, with approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption being lost or wasted yearly. It’s increasingly evident that reducing food waste is essential for fostering eco-friendliness, sustainability, food security, and a more equitable food system.

This article will explore practical steps you can take to combat food waste right at home. Composting is an excellent method for reducing garbage while producing nutrient-rich soil for your plants. Embark on a journey towards a greener lifestyle as you delve into the world of sustainable food practices.

Benefits of food waste composting

Composting food waste benefits both the ecosystem and your garden. It provides natural fertilizer for your garden while contributing positively to the environment.

Reduces landfill waste

The World Bank has estimated that roughly 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste are generated worldwide yearly, much of which is in landfills. This vast amount of waste harms the environment and poses significant threats to public health and safety.

One effective way to substantially reduce landfill waste is by composting organic waste instead of discarding it. Composting provides a sustainable solution for minimizing landfill waste and fostering a healthier environment.

Mitigates greenhouse gas emissions

According to the UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2021, up to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are linked to food not consumed. Additionally, the usage of land and water resources also hampers biodiversity. 

Composting and reducing food waste contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mitigating their role in climate change.

Enriches soil health and structure

One of the key findings is that compost can have a profound impact on the quality of soil by increasing soil organic matter. It’s been shown to improve soil structure and make it more resistant to erosion and flow, ultimately leading to a healthier and more productive growing environment.

Furthermore, compost retains moisture, preventing soil from drying out and becoming susceptible to erosion. It also helps balance soil pH, creating a more favorable environment for plant growth. 

Getting started with food waste composting

Composting is a fun and easy pastime, and you may transform your food waste into beneficial compost that will nourish and stimulate the development of your plants. By following the steps in this guide, you’ll soon discover the numerous advantages of composting, from healthier plants to a greater sense of sustainability in your daily life.

Read more: How to Save the Earth (And Your Money), Starting From Your Kitchen 

Choosing the right method

Selecting the appropriate method for home composting is crucial. The two popular options are outdoor composting and indoor vermicomposting. It’s important to remember that every method has its advantages and disadvantages. 

Hence, it’s important to consider your lifestyle and living conditions before deciding which is most suitable.

Backyard composting

If you have a backyard, traditional composting might be the right method for you. This involves layering browns and greens in a pile or bin and allowing them to decompose over time. 

Some of the steps for backyard composting are:

  1. Plan your collection and storage: First, decide how you will collect and store your brown and green composting materials efficiently.
  2. Allocate space and construct a bin: Designate a suitable area in your backyard for your compost pile and, if necessary, construct or acquire a compost bin to contain the materials.
  3. Prepare composting ingredients: Gather your composting ingredients, including brown and green materials, to ensure a balanced mix.
  4. Maintain your compost pile: Regularly tend to your compost pile by turning or mixing the materials to promote decomposition. Monitor moisture levels and adjust as needed to create an optimal environment for composting.
  5. Harvest finished compost: Once your compost has fully matured into rich, dark soil, harvest it and use it to nourish your garden or landscaping. This valuable compost will enhance soil fertility and promote healthy plant growth.

Indoor composting (vermicomposting)

Indoor composting transforms food scraps and other organic waste into nutrient-rich soil, ideal for nurturing indoor plants or supporting outdoor gardens. 

Vermicomposting, a type of indoor composting that employs worms, offers an excellent solution for individuals living in apartments or those with limited outdoor space.

Here are the key steps for successful vermicomposting:

  1. Create or purchase a worm bin: Start by either crafting your own worm bin or acquiring one suitable for your needs.
  2. Select an appropriate location: Choose a convenient and well-ventilated location where your worm bin can thrive.
  3. Choose the right materials: Carefully select the bedding materials and containers for your worm bin to create a comfortable environment for your composting allies.
  4. Fill the worm bin: Begin by adding a mixture of food scraps and bedding materials to your worm bin to kickstart the composting process.
  5. Monitor for odors or issues: Regularly check your worm bin for any unusual odors or signs of problems, ensuring a healthy composting environment.
  6. Aerate the materials: Periodically, gently mix, or aerate the contents of your worm bin to promote decomposition and enhance compost quality.
  7. Harvest and utilize your vermicompost: When your worm bin is brimming with nutrient-rich vermicompost, it’s time to harvest and use this valuable resource to enhance your plants’ growth and overall gardening success.

Collecting suitable kitchen scraps

Composting kitchen waste reduces food waste and provides nutrient-rich soil for gardening. It is vital to gather the appropriate components to ensure the health and nutrient content of your compost pile.

List of compostable materials

You’ll be surprised that composting can transform everyday items into nutrient-rich soil. Here’s a list of compostable materials:

  • Carbon-rich materials, often called ‘browns,’ include dry leaves, plant stalks, and twigs. These materials serve as a food source for microorganisms, enabling them to consume and digest them.
  • Nitrogen-rich materials, or the ‘greens,’ include grass clippings and food scraps. These nitrogen-rich materials raise the temperature of the pile, creating optimal conditions for the decomposition process. 
  • Water is an essential component to activate the composting process and help break down the organic materials.
  • Air helps the microorganisms responsible for decomposing organic matter thrive and quickly break down the materials. Without enough oxygen, the compost pile can become anaerobic, leading to a slow, smelly, and inefficient decomposition process. 

Avoiding non-compostable items

Being aware of the things that shouldn’t go in your compost pile is crucial, as these items can significantly impact their quality and utility. To ensure healthy composting, only use organic matter and avoid unsuitable materials.

Here’s a list of materials to avoid:

  • Plastics,
  • Glass,
  • Metals, 
  • Coal or charcoal ash,
  • Dairy products,
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils, 
  • Meat or fish bones,
  • Feces, and 
  • Yard trimmings that have been treated with chemical pesticides.

Setting up the composting area

The composting process can indeed be expedited by selecting the appropriate compost receptacle and location.

Container options

When it comes to composting, the choice of container can significantly affect the efficiency and ease of the process. Here are some popular container options:

  • Bokashi containers: are tightly sealed buckets with a spigot at the bottom that allows you to release excess liquid. These containers rely on fermentation to break down food waste with the help of particular microorganisms you add to your scraps. 
  • Stationary containers: can be bought premade, or you can create a DIY using a plastic tote or garbage can. 
  • Open-air compost pen: offers easy access for adding fresh material, turning the heap, and eventually removing finished compost. It also ensures that the composting material receives plenty of aeration. 
  • Composting tumblers: are designed to spin either manually via a hand crank or automatically with a powered motor. This ensures that the compost is constantly exposed to oxygen, which maintains a consistent temperature throughout the process.

Location considerations

Choosing the right location for your composting setup is also crucial for its success. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Accessibility. Look for a spot that’s convenient for you to access regularly. This could be near your kitchen or back door.
  • Drainage. A location with good drainage can help prevent the compost from becoming waterlogged, slowing down the decomposition process and leading to unpleasant odors. 
  • Area. A shaded area can be ideal, especially in hotter climates where the compost can dry out quickly.
  • Municipal/neighborhood considerations. Be mindful of your neighbors and local regulations. Complying with municipal rules and considering the proximity to neighbors ensures a harmonious composting process within your community.

In conclusion 

Reducing food waste is crucial for ensuring the long-term sustainability of our planet. Composting food waste is a highly effective method to achieve this goal as it reduces the amount of waste destined for landfills and yields nutrient-rich soil that can enrich your gardening endeavors.

By taking the simple steps, anyone can positively impact the environment while enjoying the benefits of locally sourced, nutrient-rich produce. Embarking on a composting journey with food waste is both environmentally friendly and fulfilling. 

So, start composting your food waste today and contribute to a greener, more sustainable future.

If you would like to see more resources on composting, check out the Household Management Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Visit the Household Management Science Labs today.

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