blog: Composting is For Everyone …. |

blog: Composting is For Everyone ….

Pallavi Mukerjee
Vail CO, Colorado

What is this thing we call Composting??

Composting is nature’s ultimate form of recycling. It is the decomposition of plant remains and other once-living materials to make an earthy, dark, crumbly substance that is excellent for adding to houseplants or enriching garden soil. It is an excellent way to recycle yard and kitchen wastes, and is a critical step in reducing the volume of garbage needlessly sent to landfills for disposal.

Compost enriches soils

Compost has the ability to help regenerate poor soils.

The composting process encourages the production of beneficial micro-organisms (mainly bacteria and fungi) which in turn break down organic matter to create humus. Humus–a rich nutrient-filled material–increases the nutrient content in soils and helps soils retain moisture.

Compost has also been shown to suppress plant diseases and pests, reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers, and promote higher yields of agricultural crops.

Compost helps cleanup (remediate) contaminated soil

The composting process has been shown to absorb odors and treat semi-volatile and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), including heating fuels, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s), and explosives.

It has also been shown to bind heavy metals and prevent them from migrating to water resources or being absorbed by plants.

The compost process degrades and, in some cases, completely eliminates wood preservatives, pesticides, and both chlorinated and non chlorinated hydrocarbons in contaminated soils.

Compost helps prevent pollution

Composting organic materials that have been diverted from landfills ultimately avoids the production of methane and leachate formulation in the landfills.

Compost has the ability to prevent pollutants in storm water runoff from reaching surface water resources.

Compost has also been shown to prevent erosion and silting on embankments parallel to creeks, lakes, and rivers, and prevents erosion and turf loss on roadsides, hillsides, playing fields, and golf courses.

Using compost offers economic benefits

Using compost can reduce the need for water, fertilizers, and pesticides.

It serves as a marketable commodity and is a low-cost alternative to standard landfill cover and artificial soil amendments.

Composting also extends municipal landfill life by diverting organic materials from landfills and provides a less costly alternative to conventional methods of remediating (cleaning) contaminated soil.

What to Compost:

– Animal manure

– Cardboard rolls

– Clean paper

– Coffee grounds and filters

– Cotton rags

– Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint

– Eggshells

– Fireplace ashes

– Fruits and vegetables

– Grass clippings

– Hair and fur

– Hay and straw

– Houseplants

– Leaves

– Nut shells

– Sawdust

– Shredded newspaper

– Tea bags

– Wood chips

– Wool rags

– Yard trimmings

What Not to Compost and why:

– Black walnut tree leaves or twigs

o Releases substances that might be harmful to plants

– Coal or charcoal ash

o Might contain substances harmful to plants

– Dairy products (e.g., butter, egg yolks, milk, sour cream, yogurt)

o Creates odor problems and attracts pests such as rodents and flies

– Diseased or insect-ridden plants

o Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants

– Fats, grease, lard, or oils

o Creates odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies

– Meat or fish bones and scraps

o Creates odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies

– Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)

o Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans

– Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides

o Might kill beneficial composting organisms

A useful Link:

I found an interesting website which has a complete guide to composting and it may be helpful to readers who are interested in further literature on this subject.

Composting: Exploring further opportunities in the Eagle County Landfill:

Composting opportunities are somewhat limited within Eagle County. In 2008, Eagle County Landfill will be exploring the possibility of establishing a full scale composting operation on the landfill property.

Next week we will talk about Geenscaping………

Pallavi Mukerjee can be reached at

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