If you don’t live in a place that has a municipal compost pick-up system, it can be hard to figure out how to start composting on your own. One thing you can do is start a petition to have curbside compost pick-up started in your city. But until then, there are a number of different types of home composting systems you can install—even if you live in a small apartment.
The two types of composting: aerobic and anaerobic
Aerobic composting means that the organic matter decomposes by using microorganisms that require oxygen. The byproducts of aerobic composting are heat, water and CO2.
Anaerobic composting means that organic matter decomposes using microorganisms that do not require oxygen to live. In anaerobic composting systems, the byproduct is methane. While both CO2 and methane are harmful for the environment, methane is much more harmful than CO2 is.
Why should we compost?
If CO2 or methane are going to be released through decomoposition, why even compost? Isn’t that bad for the environment?
The truth is that the food waste that ends up in landfill produces methane and other harmful gases because it has been placed in an environment where it can not fully break down. When we compost, we are putting all the "good stuff"—like egg shells and vegetable scraps—back into the earth. This produces nutrient rich soil for our plants and gardens. So, even if a little CO2 is released in the process of composting, it’s still better than sending food waste to landfills.
Different Types of Home Composting Systems
The Bokashi composting system is anaerobic which would normally mean that methane (which is more harmful than CO2) gets released. However, with Bokashi, you are actually fermenting your organic waste at a low pH which dramatically reduces methane production. One of the benefits of using a Bokashi composting system is that you can compost leftovers like meat and dairy products, which are not typically compostable in other systems.
In order to compost using the Bokashi system, you must buy a Bokashi Composter Bucket with starter bacteria. When you’re ready, add your kitchen scraps to the Bokashi bucket and mix them with some bran. When the bucket fills, close it tight and wait for up to 12 days. Every other day you will have to draw off the "leachate" (a byproduct of Bokashi composting) by releasing the spigot. Once 12 days have passed, your compost will be fermented. You can then bury it in your garden, although be sure not to put it too close to other plants right away because it will still be very acidic for up to four more weeks.
Vermicomposting is a type of aerobic composting system which relies on worms to digest your compost. Many people assume that vermicomposting systems will start to smell because, ew worms! However, these little critters are good at what they do (eating and digesting) and you won’t notice an odor unless you don’t properly care for your worms.
If you decide to compost with worms, you will need to remember that you can not put meat or dairy products into your compost bin. You also won’t be able to compost certain kinds of fruit peels (mainly citrus) as they can not be well digested by worms.
In order to start vermicomposting, you need to either buy a vermicomposting bin, or you can make one yourself. The bin will consist of two layers: One will catch the liquid that leaches out of the compost (and can be used as a “compost tea” with which to water your plants) and the next layer will hold the compost and worms.
To create a favourable environment for worms, it’s a good idea to fill the second layer of your bin with shredded paper. Newspaper and brown paper bags work best. Add a little bit of dirt and water and then introduce the worms.
As you cook and eat, you can add your kitchen scraps (excluding dairy, milk and certain fruits) into your vermicomposter. Whenever you add food scraps to the composting system, add some more shredded paper, and the food on top of the paper. Make sure you cover all food scraps with dirt and slightly wet paper, as not to attract fruit flies. You will also need to use a small shovel to churn the compost from time to time, to ensure the worms are distributed throughout the system.
- Take note of what your worms are eating and what they aren’t. Sometimes, it’s best to cut your food scraps into smaller pieces if the worms aren’t consuming larger pieces.
- You can use the compost tea in the bottom layer to water your plants.
- Harvesting the soil: When you want to add your new fertile soil to your garden, move all the veggie scraps to one side of the bin. Within a few days the worms will have migrated to that side of the bin and you can harvest the fertile soil from the other side.
Pet waste composting with EnsoPet
*This type of composting is only available to people who have an outdoor garden or enough space to dig a large hole.
EnsoPet is an amazing composting system that can break down dog, cat and even rabbit waste. The EnsoPet system is made of recycled plastic pieces which clip together to form a cylinder without a bottom. It also comes with a screw-on lid and a one-kilogram bag of “starter,” meaning that it uses a bacteria blend to help break down the waste. The system also features holes which allow and moisture to enter. This system was also created by Bokashi.
To use EnsoPet, you need to dig a large hole in your yard, install the cylinder, screw on the lid, and you’re ready to go! Once it’s in the ground, you can place pet waste into the cylinder, add some starter bacteria, close the lid and the soil in your yard will thank you.
While you won't want to fertilize your garden directly, your family's waste could help grow your grass or even fruit trees (where the part you eat is high above the soil). How? Composting toilets.
Composting toilets naturally decompose human waste. Since human waste is mostly water, that water is evaporated and the solid material is converted into fertile soil. This method uses an anerobic system, which means that naturally occurring bacteria and oxygen help to break down the waste. They do require some effort and maintenance—you definitely can’t just install one in your apartment; you need to have your own home if you’re going to use one. There are many different kinds of commercial composting toilets for sale but most lead to a composting chamber which gets installed outside of your home. As gross as it may seem, a well-functioning composting toilet will get rid of any viruses and bad bacteria in the human waste and convert it into nutrient rich-soil. What’s more, they have little or no odor. Believe it or not, composting toilets are becoming more and more popular each day.
Want to make more sustainable choices in your home?
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