The Many Benefits of Composting

In this day and age, most products can have a second life if recycled properly. Old tires can become mulch or playground turf and glass bottles can be turned into patio stone. But did you know that organic waste—such as food scraps and lawn clippings—can become a super-food for your garden, reduce water and air pollution, help respond to municipal waste issues, and can save you money? That is, if it's turned into compost.

What is Compost?

Composting is the process by which organic material is discarded into a composting bin where it gets broken down by micro-organisms until it forms a humus-like product called compost. Composting generally requires 2 basic ingredients: nitrogen-rich material (such as grass clippings and food waste) and carbon-based materials (such as leaves and branches).

The idea of composting has been around for centuries however it wasn't always as easy as it is now. The products available on the market today make backyard and kitchen composting a convenient and simple task.

The Home Depot carries a wide variety of compost bins and other composting accessories. Search online or speak to a store associate to find one that suits your space and needs. To learn how to compost, visit The Home Depot's guide to easy composting. This step-by-step guide will make you a composting expert in no time.

Composting and the Environment

When organic material is discarded in the trash, it ends up in the landfill. In Canada, approximately 40% of the waste stream is made up of organic material. Besides taking up limited available landfill space, throwing organic waste into the garbage can have other negative consequences. The decomposition of organic waste in landfills produces leachate, which can contaminate nearby groundwater, as well as methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. According to Environment Canada, landfill sites currently account for 20% of Canada's total methane emissions. By simply diverting organic materials from entering landfills, we can reduce the amount of methane gas produced and make a positive impact on the environment.

Some municipalities in Canada offer a green bin service, i.e. a pick up of organic waste. This is an excellent service because organic waste is diverted from landfills. While this is an environmentally preferred alternative to throwing organic waste in the garbage, it's not always a perfect solution. The green bin service requires additional transportation for waste collection (which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions) and by using this method, you miss out on the benefits of the compost itself.

Compost and your Garden

The composition of compost is a rich nutrient-filled material which has proven to be a vital ingredient for healthy and productive soil. By adding compost to your garden, it can increase the nutrient content in soil, decrease soil erosion, suppress plant diseases, and ward off pests. Not only will using compost save you money by reducing the need for chemical-based garden fertilizers and other products, it also reduces the amount of water needed since it helps soil retain moisture. Aside from the initial purchase of the composting bin, compost is a free and valuable resource for your garden.

Compost and our Health

Not only is compost great for the health of plants but it's beneficial for human health too. Compost can capture and destroy over 99% of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in the air and it can remove heavy metals, solids, oil, and grease from stormwater runoff. In doing so, compost can reduce both air and water pollution, thereby keeping you and your family healthy.

Getting Started

Here are 5 tips to successful composting:

1. Location. Choose a location with a flat surface that's in direct sunlight. Although not essential, it's most convenient if your bin is close to an available water source. Also, try to place your compost bin as close as possible to your house. Come winter, you'll be more inclined to continue using it, the closer it is to the indoors.

2. What can be composted? Nearly all food and yard waste can go into the compost bin, however to avoid foul odours, there are some foods that should be avoided. These include bones, dairy, fish, meat, sauces, pet waste, and fats and oils.

3. Water. The consistency of your compost will tell you if you have enough or require water. The mixture should feel like a damp sponge.

4. What about the winter? Composting can be done all year round. Even though the breakdown process slows or sometimes stops when it's frozen, it will start up again once the weather warms so there's no reason to refrain from adding materials to your compost bin during the winter months. Once the warm weather hits, turning the pile will reactivate it.

5. How do I know when it's ready? Different climates, accessories, and bins will yield different results but when your compost is dark and rich in colour, it's ready to use as a fertilizer in your garden. This usually takes between 1-4 months.

If you have any questions about composting or if you need assistance getting started, the Home Depot experts are here to help.


Resources:
Compost Council of Canada
U.S Environmental Protection Agency
Environment Canada
Statistics Canada