Millburn Green Challenge 2010
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Composting: Compost your Food Scraps and Leaves: Pledge to use a composter or install a leaf compost pile


What is compost?

Compost is a dark, crumbly, and earthy form of decomposing organic matter.

Why should I make compost?

The EPA estimates that roughly 25% of the garbage in the U.S. is made up of yard trimmings and food scraps. That's over 60 million tons each year!Composting is the most practical and convenient way to handle organic home and yard wastes. It is easier and cheaper than bagging these wastes for curbside collection or taking them to the town recycling center, and eventually to landfills which are filled to capacity. Composting reduces the volume and especially the weight of the trash put out at the curb; less trash means less fuel and other resources expended to collect and process it. Vegetarian food scraps, for example, are 40-70% water, so their weight factor is significant. By using compost, you return organic matter to the soil in a usable form. Organic matter in the soil improves plant growth by breaking up heavy clay soils and improving their structure, by adding water and nutrient-holding capacity to sandy soils, and by adding essential nutrients to any soil. Healthy plants help clean our air by removing carbon dioxide and making fresh oxygen and thus conserving our soil and atmosphere.

What can I compost?

Vegetable and yard wastes, such as fallen leaves, etc., make excellent compost. Care must be taken when composting kitchen scraps. Meat, fish, bones, and fatty foods (such as cheese, salad dressing, and leftover cooking oil) should be put in the garbage.

How do I start a compost pile?

(1) Spread a layer of vegetable and plant wastes 6 to 8 inches deep in the bottom of your bin. Moisten the layer thoroughly.

(2) Make a very thin second layer of high nitrogen fertilizer, such as 10-10-10. Moisten thoroughly.

(3) Make a third layer with a few shovelsful of garden soil, about 1-to-2 inches deep.

(4) Repeat these layers as you accumulate organic waste. The first group of layers (at the bottom) results in the desired humus.

Where can I “store” compost?

A holding unit, or bin 3-4 feet in height and 5-8feet square, is the least labor and time-consuming way to compost vegetable and yard wastes. Place the holding unit where it is most convenient, away from your home and any combustible materials. As home and yard wastes are collected, they can be dropped into the unit. Chopping or shredding wastes, alternating high-carbon and high-nitrogen materials, and keeping up good moisture and aeration by turning over the materials in the pile will all speed the process. Holding units, which are also commercially available, can be made of circles of hardware cloth, old wooden pallets, or wood and wire.

Do I need a large yard for composting?

Be sure to place the compost holding unit away from your home and any combustible materials because as the organic material decomposes, heat is produced in its center. Piles smaller than 3 feet cubed (125 cu.ft.) will have trouble holding this heat, while piles larger than 5 feet cubed (125 cu.ft.) don’t allow enough air to reach the compost center.

How long will it take for the organic material to be ready for reuse in our yards?

Composting can take from 6 months to 2 years. Don’t use unfinished compost. It will rob your plants of nitrogen instead of acting as a fertilizer.

Will composting attract unwelcome animals to our yards?

Don’t add meat, fish, bones or fatty food scraps to the compost mixture. They will attract dogs, cats, etc., and they do not decompose readily.

Will composting breed disease?

Human and animal pathogens can be found in soil and decomposing organic wastes. It is important to control the composting process so as to destroy these pathogens. Experiments have demonstrated that as the result of the action of aerobic micro-organisms, the composting materials heat up to produce pasteurization temperatures of 130 to 160F, destroying pathogenic organisms. The humus-like material that is produced can be used safely and beneficially as a soil conditioner and as a source of plant nutrients.

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