Up until now, composting has been a foreign concept to me. Growing up in the metropolitan suburbs of DC and going to a “progressive” college in upstate New York, I (sadly) was never a part of any community that composted. Something that to me now is pretty disgraceful! After educating myself on the matter, and seeing businesses first hand like The Juice Laundry take part in the effort, I’ll be the first to say it: shame on me and shame on our society for not making composting a priority for all.
While many still view the idea of composting as a newer idea, it has in fact been around since 1921! This was when the first industrial station for the transformation of urban organic materials into compost was set up in Austria. Many countries and individual cities today even require food and yard waste to be sorted for composting. In the US these cities include Seattle and San Francisco. This makes it even more alarming to me that I haven’t been exposed prior to more communities and businesses that take part in the effort.
Composting, in the simplest terms, is nature’s way of recycling. It is when yard and food waste is broken down and becomes food for plants. Four components are needed for composting to work effectively: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and water. At the simple level, the process requires waiting for the green and organic matter to break down into “humus” - the organic component of soil formed by the decomposition of plant material by soil microorganisms - which can take weeks or even months. In more modern, methodical composting these days the process can be aided with water and air levels. Luckily, all we really need to understand is what can be composted and take the action to do it.
Besides acting as a key ingredient in organic farming, compost with its nutrient rich material is used in gardens, landscaping, horticulture and agriculture. Recycling by composting is also a tactic to save space and the outpouring of pollution in our landfills as they continue to fill at a concerning rate. The average American family is said to produce around 500 pounds of leftover organic material per year! Through composting, we can not only help reduce the amount of waste that ends up in our landfills but also build healthier and more sustainable cities. Compost Cab, a compost collection company here in DC, believes composting has endless benefits when it also comes to: food production, education, nutrition, food security and job creation. Until curbside compost pickup becomes the norm, we must make ourselves accountable and take the time to research the collection programs that are available in our areas. With so many benefits, and our earth’s health on the line, I hope through education and a small effort by all we can make composting a standard practice for everyone moving forward. Future generations and their communities depend on it.