What Makes Something Compostable?

Welcome to lesson four in rethink the bins best practices for smart recycling and composting. In lesson four, we’re going to talk about composting and look at what makes something compostable. So there are a number of different factors. The first is it needs to be an organic material. In lesson two we talked briefly about organic versus inorganic matter and materials. organics are things like leaves, branches, food scraps, agricultural waste, those types of materials and it also has to be Of course non toxic. To make compost, you’re going to use the compost to enhance soil that’s used to grow crops. You can’t have toxins in there, like heavy metals, lead, cadmium, various other different things. Now, unfortunately toxins often do get in. But ideally there should be no toxic materials in there. It all needs to be biodegradable, which means it will degrade, it’ll break down. And it needs to do so within a reasonable amount of time. So when we talk about industrial composting, it’s generally between two to six months. There are particular rules for things to be industrially compostable. And so the industrial compost is what gets picked up at your curb and take into a facility in your city or county to be processed into compost which is then sold. They can take sometimes things with large branches, or pieces of material that gets ground up, it gets processed under high heat and ideal conditions of humidity, get just the right water level mixed up and turned into compost. But only 2% of households in the US have access to curbside pickup. And for industrial composting of food waste, if you don’t have that, the other option is backyard composting, or on a patio in a container and you can do your own composting, but there’s a lot more restrictions about what you can and cannot put in there because it doesn’t have those ideal conditions that they have at the industrial composting facilities. So here are some big About backyard composting. You generally want to avoid using meat products like bones from fish or meat, because there’s a couple of reasons. One is the smell is probably not something you want in your backyard or on your patio. And also it will attract animals. You don’t really want a bunch of rodents or raccoons in your compost. Keeping it to scraps from fruits and vegetables, maybe egg shells, trimmings from the yard like grass clippings, small leaves and branches, nothing too big. Anything that’s in very large pieces. We’ll have a harder time breaking down. If you really want to get into backyard composting, there’s a lot of resources that you can get the Master Gardeners association is one place where you can learn more about making sure that your compost has the right mix of ingredients and the right amount of water. But if you want to do it, you absolutely can. You just need to be careful about what you put in there. Regardless of what you do with composting, contamination is a big problem. This photo here, I got myself a whole truckload of compost from Cedar Grove, our local industrial facility for use in my backyard, and I found this stuff inside it. So again, we as individuals as citizens, we need to provide clean waste streams. And this contamination problem is not only for compost, but also for recycling. In fact, it might even be a greater problem with recycling.