Environmental impact of composting


There is a lot to speak about composting and its impacts on the environment. Some people say that composting is bad for the environment, others say that is good, so today I’m sharing some deep research I’ve made about this topic. For those without time to read:

Composting is important to the environment because it is a natural way to disposing of biodegradable waste like food scraps, paper, human waste. Composting keeps all this waste from landfills and reduces drastically the need for fertilizers and also reduces the gasses released into the atmosphere.

How does composting affects the environment?

Composting happens in nature without doing anything, it is natural. Some plants die, and nature will take care of these plants and give them back to the soil as they can contribute with nutrients. Basically, it is the cycle of life. Composting is a way of completing the cycle in a natural way that is environmentally friendly. We as humans are only giving a hand and accelerate this process.

Composting is nature’s way of recycling organic waste. Worms, bacteria and other organisms are involved in the decomposition of food waste. The result is a product that is rich in plant nutrients. When done correctly, composting eliminates the generation of greenhouse gasses.

Why is composting good for the environment?

  • Composting reduces our landfill waste by a third as on average one-third of household waste is organic.
  • Reduces or even eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers on crops. By using natural fertilizers is fewer chemicals that can contaminate the water we drink.
  • Improves soil quality because the product resultant from composting is rich in nutrients. It also helps the soil retaining water as it acts like a sponge hence minimizing the water used in irrigation.
  • Recycles organic resources in a natural way
  • Increases soil organic matter, more nutrients for plants and crops
  • Helps balance pH of the soil, creates better conditions for plants roots
  • Protects plants from drought and freezes by creating a natural protective layer

What are the negatives of composting?

It requires some work and space from your side. It is way easier to dispose of the waste and never deal with it again, but we are starting to pay this bill with the climate changes that are we are starting to feel. 

It’s a question of getting the habit of separating our organic waste, put it on a pile and mix its contents from time to time.

It also requires space to have a composting pile in your backyard and I know it isn’t always possible as many people live in apartments like myself. I’m lucky of having family with terrain and they also do composting, so once or twice a month I go to their house to dispose of my compost. It is a great excuse to visit my grandparents! They use the compost in their garden and it’s beautiful!

Can you compost biodegradable products?

Not all products labeled as biodegradable can be composted! The term biodegradable means that it will break down into smaller parts after disposal. Those smaller parts may not provide nutrients when used as compost.

It is important to note that there’s a kind of plastic that can be composted! Yes, plastic! When buying something look for this symbol:

It is called the “Chasing Arrows” and each number represents the kind of plastic that was used. The number 7 means “Other” and if it says PLA bellows it means that the plastic is made with plant-based materials such as corn or sugar cane.

What can you compost?

  • Leaves
  • Grass and bush trimmings
  • Manure (organic)
  • Non-animal food scraps
  • Old wine
  • Dry pet food
  • Dust from vacuuming, sweeping and dryer lint
  • Old herbs and spices

Those items require some preparation, rip or cut them apart into small pieces and moisture them before adding to the composting pile

  • Newspaper, paper bags and any non-glossy kind of paper (shred it first)
  • Tissues,  paper towels and cotton balls that weren’t in contact with animal fats, oil and other things that shouldn’t be in the pile
  • Cardboard, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls
  • Pine needles
  • Sawdust
  • Nutshells
  • Hair (human and pets)
  • Corn cobs

Avoid:

  • Raspberry and blackberry brambles
  • Big tree branches

Don’t compost:

  • Pet droppings from dogs and cats: may contain diseases and make compost toxic
  • Animal products like meat, bones, milk, butter, fish skin: these products may attract animals and can smell
  • Colored paper: some ink contain heavy metals
  • Coal ash: although other ashes are safe to use, coal ash is rich in sulfur and iron and it can damage plants
  • Synthetic chemicals

OnePlanetSaver

Hi, I'm Sérgio and I'm passionate about saving the environment reducing my carbon footprint and making better choices. Here I will share some tips that I'm learning on my journey of having a way of live that is more sustainable.

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