Growing up, we were introduced at an early age to the wonderful world of composting – trekking through the backyard to our large vegetable garden, where our big, black, smelly composter waited anxiously for its feed.
It was a chore in our house – one rewarded with that end-of-the-week allowance.
We’d shake our heads furiously, denying it was “our turn” to bring out the compost, a small kitchen bin filled with cracked egg shells, banana peels, and tea bags.
Regardless, multiple times in the week we would trail to towards the stinky sludge, waste bucket in hand, pinching our nose as we pried off the lid, and immediately recoil as the fiesta of fruit flies flew towards us in a frenzy.
Little did we know the valuable lesson we were learning. My dad, having grown up on a farm, knew all the tricks of the trade to having the healthiest garden and yard. And thus, composting became the norm. Whoever didn’t compost just, simply, weren’t doing it right.
Years later, our region introduced the Green Bin, for any sort of organics collection. The Green Bin became a staple in most homes, sitting alongside the blue recycling bins, yard waste, and trash bins on garbage day. Although it is mandatory by law, not all homes seem to be savvy, but will get fined if organics or recyclables are among the garbage – a step in the right direction.
Since approximately one-third to one-half of household is organic material, by using an organics bin like this one, keeps the items out of the landfill. Waste turns into a resource. For those who don’t compost themselves, this is a great alternative, and often, more convenient.
Having adopted this myself, I found this a step up from garden composting. Items such as meat, fish, bones, dairy products, used tissues, pet waste and kitty litter cannot be safely composted in your backyard composter but can be in the Green Bin.
Upon the adoption of Green Bins, I was soon using less than one bag of just garbage a week. The Bin can include nearly everything that the recycling can’t:
- kitchen items, from food scraps to paper towels and napkins to tea bags to cooking oil. This includes coffee grounds, bones from meat, filters, and nut shells, too.
- yard scraps, such as grass clippings, plants, and small twig
- paper items, from brown paper bags to egg cartons and coffee cups to soiled newspaper and cardboard
- pet stuffs, such as kitty litter and waste wrapped in compostable bags, and pet fur
- cooled fireplace ashes, sawdust, and wood shavings
So what can’t go in the bin? Not much: plastic wrap, waxed paper, sod, soil and treated wood products, cigarette butts, dead animals, diapers, plastic bags, and rubber products.
If you don’t have an organics program where you live, no problem. Regardless, composting is a great way to get started – regardless of the time of year.
By composting, you’ll improve your soil structure, growth, and reduce the amount of waste in the trash. You’re creating a fertilizer for your lawn and garden, while saving energy and costs by reducing collection amounts, landfill operations, and eventually, landfill replacement.
Composing requires little knowledge and little investment. All you need is your organic materials, moisture, air and soil organisms.
How does it work?
Organic material, such as fruit and vegetable scraps are high in nitrogen. Brown wastes, such as yard waste, like twigs and sawdust, are high in carbon. Nitrogen and carbon are the fuel that help the tiny organisms break down the organic material into usable compost.
How do I do it?
Alternate layers of green and brown waste in your bin with layers of soil. Turn the pile occasionally to add air. Keep the pile a little moist – but this is probably done from the weather changes. But really, you can just throw it all in – it just isn’t as effective.
What count as green wastes?
Nitrogen materials are green, such as fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, grass clippings, plants and flowers, tea bags, and egg shells.
And what about brown wastes?
Carbon rich materials such as dead leaves, wood chips and sawdust, straw and twigs.
And what doesn’t count at all?
Unlike the organics bin you cannot include: meat and bones, pet waste, butters, oils and dressings, and stubborn weeds.
How can I use it?
Try adding it to your gardens, mixing it with soil and sand in houseplants, and spreading a layer around the base of trees and shrubs. Alternatively, try making a liquid fertilizer by filling a watering can with half compost half water for use on indoor plants.
In the summer I still feed my backyard composter and, despite having aged about 20 years since my first taste of it, I still hold my breath opening the lid. But now, I know that I am delivering nutrients that is hungrily appreciates – and when I see my lawn and taste my garden bounty, I appreciate it, too.