Each year, Americans send 32 millions tons of food waste scraps to landfills. If you think that sounds like a lot you are right. That number represents 12% of the municipal solid waste in the U.S.
When you add lawn clippings, leaves, branches and shrubbery trimmings, this represents another 33 million tons or 13% more municipal solid waste. We are filling up one-quarter of our landfills with food and yard waste that can be composted.
Every day a person generates 8% waste that can be composted. That adds up to 140 lbs per person of waste that we are needlessly sending to the landfill. A family of four could compost 560 lbs of yard and food scrap waste each year.
Composting is easy and something simple that you can do to make your household a little greener and reduce the amount of waste going to the landfills.
There are several different options available when you are selecting what you are going to use as your compost bin. Bins are sold at many lawn and garden stores and online, but there are cheaper options, too that work just as well.
You can build a compost bin with reusable pallets, two-by-fours and plywood, cement blocks, chicken wire or as a freestanding pile without a bin on the ground.
Another option is to use a 32-gallon dark colored trash can with a lid. Drill holes all over the container and you've got your compost bin.
To start a compost, find a shady spot that is dry in your backyard for your bin. Then add a mixture of greens and browns.
Browns provide carbon and include dead leaves, branches and twigs. Greens provide nitrogen and are grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps and coffee grounds. Water is necessary to keep the compost moist and help the organic material to break down.
As you start collecting brown and green materials from your yard and kitchen begin adding them to your compost bin. Larger items will need to be chopped or shredded.
Remember to add water to any dry materials that you put in the compost to make them moist.You can keep your compost moist by covering it with a tarp.
As your compost begins to mature, continue to add more green and brown items. Fruit and vegetable scraps should be placed underneath 10 inches of compost material.
The compost is ready for your garden and flowers when the bottom turns a rich, dark color. Depending on what you put in your compost this can take anywhere from 2 months to 2 years.
One great item to add to your compost is animal manure (horse, cow or chicken). You can even add your cardboard rolls, dryer lint, clean paper, shredded newspaper and fireplace ashes.
From the yard, add your grass clippings, hay, straw, leaves, sawdust, wood chips and other trimmings. The compost is even a great place for those unwanted houseplants plus you can put your hair and your pet’s hair in there.
Not everything though should go into a compost bin, though. Here's a list of items you will want to AVOID. Black walnut leaves and branches release substance that could be harmful to your plants. Coal and charcoal ash also contain substances that are harmful to your plants.
Leave these items out if you don't want to attract rodents and flies and have your backyard smelling like a garbage dump: cooked vegetables, dairy products, meat and fish scraps, bones, bread, grease, lard, oils and fats.
Avoid insect or diseased plants. You don't want to recycle these back into your garden or plants. Don't add your dog or cat feces and kitty litter which can contain parasites, bacteria and viruses harmful to humans.
Another item to leave out is your yard waste that is treated with chemical pesticides. This can affect and kill the beneficial composting organisms in your bin.
You now have a valuable resource in your yard that you can add to your garden, flowers, roses and plants to help them grow better and healthier. By simply composting, you can reduce the amount of yard waste by 50 to 75 percent that is going to the landfill.