Frequently Asked Questions
What is Compost?
Compost is decayed organic material (like food or lawn scraps) used as plant fertilizer. Think of compost as the most nutritious, delicious, plant food ever. It's also called "black gold," because of how rich it is for anything you grow in it. "Compost" is also a verb: when we put something in our food scrap bucket, we're composting it! Learn more about the in's & out's of composting here.
How do you make compost?
Compost is made by mixing brown organic matter (like dead leaves, twigs, bark, paper bags, etc) with green organic matter (like watermelon rinds, moldy tomatoes, or grass clippings).
Think of compost like a formula:
Organic matter + moisture + oxygen + bacteria + time = COMPOST!
Once all of these factors are mixed, little critters like bacteria, worms, and fungi break down all of the organic matter particles. Over time, this creates compost, a substance that can be used as a source a nourishment for plants. Check out more about compost here.
How long does it take for organic materials to become compost?
It depends! A home composting system can take up to a year for a pile to go from food scraps & organic matter to usable compost for plants. Our compost typically takes about one or two months from scraps to finished product. That means that the banana peel you threw in your compost bucket three months ago could be used to help grow carrots in your garden tomorrow- talk about full-circle!
There are lots of factors that go into how much time it takes to produce compost. Learn more about compost & how it's processed here.
What's "organic matter"?
Simply put: Organic Matter, or Organic Material, are materials that are capable of decay. Food scraps, animal/insect remains, fungus, & yard waste (like grass clippings or dead leaves) are all examples of Organic Matter.
The term Organic Matter or Organic Material doesn't mean that the material, whatever it may be, is "certified organic." Certified organic is a term used by the USDA to indicate how farmer's grow their products, and that's different than Organic Matter.
We care about Organic Matter because it's what we use to make our high-quality compost! Learn more about compost here.
What's the difference between food scraps, compost, soil, and dirt?
Here's the skinny on all this confusing vocab:
- Food scraps are items that come directly from your kitchen. It's moldy leftovers, coffee grounds, banana peels, and many other items (we have a full list here). You couldn't grow anything in these scraps! Compost, however, is made especially to grow plants in!
- Compost is recycled organic matter (like food scraps, yard waste, plant matter, decaying animals/insects, etc.) that are then broken down over several months by bacteria, worms, and fungus. Compost is special, because it returns organic matter to plants in a usable form; it's what we make here at Innovative Organics Recycling!
- Soil is simply the top layer of the earth- it's not compost. Soil is made up of sand, silt, clay, and some organic matter and, while you can usually grow plants in it, compost has more nutrients available for plants.
- Dirt is mostly rock & pebble- it'll look and smell like dust and has little to no nutrient value for plants.
What's the difference between "Food Waste" and "Wasted Food"?
Food waste are food scraps of food that you wouldn't consume: banana peels, orange peels, watermelon rinds, apple/mango cores, and more. Wasted food are items that you could have at some point eaten, but eventually go bad or rot: moldy hot dog buns, rotten apples, overly ripe tomatoes, and others. Food waste isn't preventable, but wasted food definitely is! And, both are compostable! Check out more about how to prevent wasted food here.
What should/shouldn't I put in my compost?
Our Rule: If it Grows, it Goes! All of our curbside compost buckets have a list on the side of the bucket that explains what you can/can't compost, and we also have a full list available here. Generally: all paper/cardboard products (without wax) & organic materials like bones, leftover animal meat, veggie/fruit scraps, or coffee grounds/tea bags can go in the compost. Anything that doesn't come from something that "grows," such as metal products, plastics, chemicals, aluminum foil, etc, shouldn't go in your compost bucket.
What is curbside composting?
Curbside Composting is a service we offer to certain neighborhoods in the Central-Ohio area. It's an easy an economical way for Columbus residents to recycle their food scraps at their homes (in a 5-gallon bucket) and then leave it on their curb once a week for us to pick up, just like a local recycling or trash service would. There are huge benefits: Curbside Composters don't have to deal with icky smells of food scraps in their trash can, they don't have to bother with processing the material, and they're still doing their part in diverting waste from our landfills!
I do your curbside compost program. Where do I leave my bucket during the week?
We've found that leaving your 5-gallon bucket on a porch, deck, or some other convenient outside location works well. When you cook, feel free to use a large bowl or some kind of plastic container you can just keep on your counter while cooking and, when you're cleaning up, just dump the contents into your bucket.
I want to start to reducing my waste, where do I start?
We're excited you're beginning your zero-waste journey! We have tons of resources that cover how to easily reduce your food waste (and other types of waste) in order to save money, live healthier, and be a little kinder to the planet. Check them out here.