Save the planet by composting kitchen debris. Here’s how

The roar of social sites has been intense since the state required food waste not to end up in landfills. But here’s a testimony from an old composter: putting food waste in a separate kitchen container isn’t a problem. it actually feels good because it’s such an easy way to improve the world.

According to CalRecycle, our landfills are filling up and organic materials such as kitchen waste and yard waste make up about 50% of the state’s landfill “garbage,” which produces enough global warming methane to make landfills California’s third largest source of methane. become. .

In fact, they misunderstand all the organic matter that causes problems in landfills device to which it can be easily converted compost – the miracle of soil modification that rebuilds our depleted soils while feeding our plants. All we have to do is scrape our plates into a compost bucket instead of trash.

“Nearly 40-50% of the garbage collected along the sidewalk can be composted,” said Michael Martinez, founder of LA Compost. “We need to stop treating food waste as garbage and redefine our vocabulary to look at it as a resource, something that needs to be transformed and put back into the soil.”

This is the purpose behind the part of Senate Bill 1383, which came into force on 1 January, which requires local authorities to allow households to separate food and garden waste from landfills and use it instead to produce compost, mulch or biofuels. . The state has entrusted the implementation of the law to more than 400 municipalities in California, and each jurisdiction is developing its own rules for handling food waste (about a quarter of programs are already in place, according to Maria West, a spokeswoman for CalRecycle).

The goal is to remove 75% of organic waste from landfills by 2025 – an ambitious task given that some jurisdictions, such as Long Beach and the city of Los Angeles, are still trying to start their programs. (Heather Johnson spokeswoman LA Sanitation staff will present their implementation plan to the city council on Feb. 3.)

So here’s a suggestion: Separating food waste is good for everyone who likes to breathe and eat, so even if your jurisdiction is still in the making of a program, why not start exercising. Now by becoming a composter?

If you have a yard, you can easily start a compost pile. Send items you don’t want to put in, such as bones or moldy cheese, to professional waste handlers and use the rest of your household food waste to make an excellent and free soil changes in the garden. No yard? No problem! Consider space-saving options such as bokashi or worm composting (see sidebar), or join a cooperative that will do it for you.

Participate in composting

A guide to everything you need to know about removing desktop debris.

What you need

1. Lockable containers critical in the separation of food waste. Countless compost buckets are available for between $ 25 and $ 50 – many are so handsome that you can sit at the kitchen counter. It should have a tight-fitting lid to prevent odors and deter pests, and should be large enough to hold a few days of debris. (Most jurisdictions now offer free or low-cost trash.)

2. Garden forks they are essential for the rotation of compost piles, which is an essential step in aerating the ingredients and keeping pests away. (A shovel has proven its worth in a pinch.)

3. “Green” substances with a high nitrogen content helps to start the decomposition of the compost pile. Soil researcher Lynn Fang and a compost consultant in Los Angeles suggest having a proper supply of these materials on hand to help microbes break down the materials. Includes cut grass (mixed well with other substances to prevent compaction), coffee grounds, brewery waste (grains left over from brewing) and matured manure (left in the sun for at least three weeks) from cows, horses and steroids, without antibiotics or other chemicals treated chickens.

4. Wood shavings Untreated wood is a useful carbon or “brown” ingredient that is suitable for absorbing odors, aerating the pile, and covering newly added food waste, Fang said. You can request free wood chips from local lumberjacks or sign up for free shipping at (Note: A shipment can contain up to 20 yards of wood chips, this amount can easily cover a driveway, so talk to neighbors and friends about sharing. The site also has the option to connect with others who either want chips or Fang said that LA Sanitation or other cities have free landfill sites if you want a smaller amount of chips.Other “brown” options include shredded cardboard, dried leaves, straw or hay that need to be mixed well with other objects to prevent them from compacting and do not obstruct the air flow.

5. Square – preferably in a shady place – to set up a compost bin, glass or pile.

In the helper but not absolutely necessary category compost thermometer monitor the internal temperature of the compost (which is mandatory if you are trying hot composting).

Making compost piles

Compost requires four main ingredients: water, oxygen, nitrogen – from ‘green’ items such as fruit and vegetable pips, cut grass, tea leaves and eggshells – and coal – from ‘brown’ materials such as dead leaves, shredded newspapers and from sawdust. (of untreated wood). The pile of compost should be moist, like a squeezed sponge, but don’t drip it, and the more often you spin it and give it oxygen, the faster the microbes can break down the ingredients into an earthy-smelling, chocolate brown. your ground. You don’t have to rotate at all, but it takes much longer for all the material to go bad.

(Kelly Malka / For The Times)

The instructions here are for casual composters who do not use meat, dairy or cooked food. These items can be composted into hot heaps, Fang says, but they require more effort and diligence.

Guides abound on the Internet, such as LA Compost or the GardeninginLA website of gardener Yvonne Savio. Here are Fang’s recommendations for starting a basic compost pile by layering several ingredients:

1. Start with a 3-6 inch layer of untreated wood chips or small broken branches at the bottom of the trash or just on the ground. This helps absorb odors and ensures air circulation.

2. Add a 3-inch layer of green or nitrogen-containing items, such as pieces of vegetables and eggshells.

3. Add a 1-inch layer of high-nitrogen activator, such as manure, decoction, or coffee grounds. If you use cut grass, be sure to mix it with other objects to prevent them from clumping together.

4. Add a 3-inch layer of brown or carbonaceous ingredients, such as wood chips, shredded newspaper or cardboard, straw or hay, pine needles, or dry leaves (mix well with other ingredients to prevent them from sticking together).

5. Water these layers well so that the pile is thoroughly wet, and if there are enough ingredients, repeat the same layering process, re-watering so that all the ingredients are wet.

6. Turn the pile over each month by lifting the ingredients from the bottom to the top of the pile with a fork. When adding food scraps, cover with wood chips or other brown material to absorb odors and repel pests, but try to maintain an even balance of greens and browns and make sure the pile stays moist. If the pile dries out too much, decomposition slows down and is more likely to attract ants and other pests. Add more greens and water and rotate. If the pile starts to smell or gets too wet, add more brown carbon and mix well.

7. When you fill a container, let it “cook” for a few months (rotating it every month will speed up the process) and start a second container or pile nearby so there is always room to add food waste.

Using compost

If it is rotated monthly, the compost will be ready in three to six months. The finished compost has a pleasant earthy odor and is dark brown in color like coffee grounds. You don’t have to be able to recognize the ingredients, but if you find large pieces, simply put them in a new heap to decompose further.

Use compost as a soil improver, mix it into garden beds or containers. Or spray it a few inches thick under the plants as a kind of fertilizing mulch that nourishes their roots while decomposing while cooling and enriching the soil. LA Compost recommends the use of a ½-inch side compost dressing for hard-to-eat vegetables such as tomatoes. Even lawns can benefit from a thin (½ inch) layer of compost raked on top.

Compost can also be added to water (LA Compost recommends about 2 to 4 cups of loose compost for 5 gallons of water) and allowed to “cook” for 24 to 48 hours. The resulting “tea” can be used to fertilize plants during irrigation. It can also be used as a foliar spray to feed plants through their leaves.

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