Composting is a simple and effective way to reduce and repurpose food and yard waste, yet it’s far from a mainstream practice.According to the Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, the UK throws 7.3 million tonnes of food a year in the bin and new research has found that almost half of the food waste in rubbish bins could have been composted. With so much compostable waste unnecessarily going into landfills, there is no better time than now to change our habits. 

So, what exactly is composting? And more so, how can it help you, your home and the environment? 

What is compost?

We’ve all heard of compost. But what, exactly, is it? Compost is a mixture of mostly decayed organic matter used for fertilizing and enriching soil. Composting transforms otherwise-discarded food scraps, twigs, leaves, coffee grounds, and many other things to a rich soil that add extra nutrients to plants and outdoor gardens and beds. 

Why should you compost?

Each person in the UK generates around 170kg of organic waste per year. You may think there’s little difference between sending your organic waste to a landfill site to rot and putting it in a compost box to decompose in the garden. However, when waste is sent to landfill, air cannot get to the organic waste. It is squashed down then capped with soil and clay so it fits in a combined space and doesn’t smell. As the rubbish breaks down over time, it emits harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Whereas, organic waste that is decomposed by composting rots slowly in the presence of oxygen, microbes, fungi, insects and worms which means hardly any methane is produced. When you compost, you’re reducing your own carbon footprint on the earth.

Composting strips waste of its methane emissions (a powerful greenhouse gas), therefore, even if you throw away compost remains, you’re reducing the amount of waste going to a landfill and the amount of methane that’s released into the atmosphere.

Recycle now says that composting at home for just one year can save global warming gases equivalent to all the CO2 your kettle produces annually, or your washing machine produces in 3 months. That type of impact can’t be overlooked.

What you can and can’t compost

There are a few different techniques for composting, and depending on your living arrangements and preferences, you may want to compost inside or outside.

Next time you’re making your morning smoothie or whole food juice in your Vitamix, take a look at the organic material that’s left over. Perhaps there’s a banana peel, pepper seeds or leftover lime zest. Can these items be composted? If you’re new to the process, it can be tricky to know what you can and cannot use.

  • Items that can be composted include: coffee grounds, banana peels, dryer lint, egg shells, shredded newspaper, tea bags, grass clippings, hair and pet fur, fireplace ashes, and fruit and vegetable peels/scraps.
  • Items that you cannot compost include: lime peels, meat, fat, grease, oils, dairy products, and yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides.

If you’re not sure if an item can be added to your compost pile, it’s best to leave it out. The addition of one wrong ingredient can bring disease and pests to surrounding plants, or create a foul smell, rendering the whole batch of compost unusable.