Another random one, for which I apologise, but this sort of thing is considered important to many people within our little community, and their views are always worth assigning space to, so that’s the apology over.
This week is International Compost Awareness Week, an initiative from Canada.
Composting is a relatively easy way of reducing the amount of household waste that would needlessly be put into a rubbish bin by approximately a third.
Those tea bags, egg boxes, vegetable peelings and little cardboard tubes that make your toilet paper roll create the harmful greenhouse gas, methane, when sent to landfill. This is because, when waste is sent to landfill, air cannot reach it. When composted above ground instead, oxygen helps the waste to decompose aerobically, which means that less methane is produced. Methane is 24 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide, and aren’t we all getting our knickers in a twist over the effects of carbon dioxide on, and in, our atmosphere?
The added bonus being, of course, free fertiliser in a few months’ time, which will not only increase the health of your soil, improving the quality of your plants and vegetables, but will reduce the need for you to condition your soil with harsh chemicals. Additionally, because compost will reduce the evaporation from your garden, it therefore also reduces the amount of water that you need to use on it (by an average of 30 per cent). The finished product acts as an able substitute for peat-based products (peat being a limited resource which takes a lifetime to form; UK extraction alone produces just under half a million tonnes of C02).
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the assumed ‘waste’ from gardens and kitchens accounts for nearly a quarter of the USA’s waste stream. Annually, leaves and trimmings amount to a (granted, still huge) smidgen over 56 million tonnes of waste. Disappointingly, only 64 per cent of garden waste and a dismal 2.6 per cent of wasted food was composted in 2007, although the figures are rising. (Have a look at these if you need encouragement.)
Worldwide, the statistics are similarly depressing: compostable material in landfill sites causes over three per cent of Australia’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions, for example. Every home in Ireland produces over a tonne of waste each year. Of this, 32 per cent could be composted.
The benefits of composting are obvious: perfectly recyclable, organic material would be diverted from the waste stream, reducing collection and disposal costs (think of those big, noisy vehicles that pick it all up – encased in plastic bags – and the toxins they emit on their routine travels), and valuable landfill space would be conserved. Plus, you turn your waste into something useful from which more plants, trees and vegetables can grow. It’s the ultimate means of recycling.
Just think of all those nut shells, the pet hair, finger- and toe-nail clippings… If it was once a living ‘thing’, it can most likely be composted. You don’t even have to do anything other than throw it all in a heap; ‘lazy’ (anaerobic) composting may well produce the slowest turnaround of fertiliser, but, I’m led to believe, it will be all the richer for your non-interference.
If you ensure that you throw in a good mixture of greens and browns (greens being grass cuttings, kitchen scraps, and the like; browns being twigs, leaves, saw dust, newspaper, etc.), add water occasionally to keep the mix damp, and turn it every once in a while to let the air in, the process quickens considerably.
If you’d like to win a top-of-the-range Aerobin composter, assuming you’re a UK resident and over 18, click here before midnight tonight (Wednesday 5 May).
So, blogging as someone still relatively new to composting but very pleased with the results attained from minimal effort, I’d be keen to hear if you compost already, what you put in, if you’ll start… and, for the sake of frivolity, songs that (loosely) contain in their title something that you can put in a composter.
Here are five to start you off:
– Bob Dylan, ‘Buckets of Rain’
– Coldplay, ‘Strawberry Swing’
– Eagles, ‘Waiting in the Weeds’
– Kings of Leon, ‘Dusty’
– Nirvana, ‘Territorial Pissings’