The Art of Compost
The Who, What, When, Where, and Why's of Compost:
All Your Composting Questions Answered
What is Compost?
Compost is the product resulting from the controlled, biological decomposition of organic material. Compost is important for two reasons:
1. By composting our organic material scraps (like food scraps), we're reducing toxic landfill waste & making our communities safer, cleaner places to live.
2. Compost, the product that is created through composting, is a perfect, nutritionally-superior medium for plants and the ecosystem.
What does organic material mean?
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 Material.
Compost is just that stable, humus-like product that comes our of processing, or methodically decomposing, organic materials.
Compost is different than soil:
- 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.
Compost is sometime called Black Gold because of how beneficial it is for the earth and for plants: Compost can improve soil structure, aid in necessary microbial activity in the soil, attracts beneficial insects like earthworms, and allows for nutrient availability throughout the growing season. Wow!
What Can I Put in my Compost Bin?
If you're a resident looking to compost with us, the side of you compost bucket has a full list of what you can & can't put in your compost. If you're a commercial facility, we provide posters (in English & Spanish) that explain what can & can't go in the compost.
Our Rule? If it Grows, It Goes! Anything that grows, and that is capable of decay, can go in the compost. Paper produces, food scraps, even bones can all be composted with Innovative Organics Recycling.
Why is Composting Important?
Compost is important because it helps reduce landfill waste which, in turn, reduces the amount of toxic greenhouse gases in our environment and atmosphere. Additionally, by collecting food scraps & other organic material, we're turning a local, natural resource (food scraps) into a nutritious medium for plants (Compost)!
Check out this video from YouTube about how compost helps our environment, and about the Calgary green bin pilot that helped reduce waste in landfills:
How Does Compost Work?
Composting is actually an ancient technology:
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 this paper from the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems with the University of Wisconsin-Madison for more nitty-gritty details of the scientific process of compost.
Here are some other videos, articles, and resources that explore Composting & Food Waste:
- A Full List of What is & Isn't Compostable with Innovative Organics Recycling
- How & Why Food in the Landfill is Toxic to the Environment
- A 360 New York Times Video on how New York is turning scraps into "black gold," or compost
- A NRDC paper on how America is losing up to 40% of it's Food in the production & transportation of food products
- A Video about how to compost in apartments