Turning Organic Waste into Fertilizer
Composting is the process of transforming organic matter into a rich soil additive, which can be used as a fertilizer to promote higher crop yields, and can even help restore damaged wetlands and forests. Food waste and yard trimmings are encouraged to decompose at accelerated speeds, with the help of bacteria, insects, fungi, and special techniques for preparing and maintaining the compost pile. Nutrients from the original matter are then recycled back into the Earth and are absorbed by new plant life.
How Composting Works
All living things decompose. This basic principle is at the heart of the natural composting process. Organic waste, which includes any plant or animal material that was once alive, is assembled into piles. These piles, which vary in size, can be aerated and periodically turned to foster the activity of natural bacteria and other microorganisms. These microorganisms then convert the matter into CO2 and ammonium, and eventually into nitrates, a key nutrient for plant life. In addition to nitrates, compost returns other essential nutrients to soil, such as water, phosphorous, and sulfur. Worms, yeast, mold, and mushrooms can also participate in the decay.
The entire process usually takes at least a few weeks and up to a few months, but can happen more quickly depending on heat and moisture content.
Composting Has a Long Global History
Composting is not a recent environmental trend. This process has been used across many cultures and time periods, evident as far back as the Roman Empire, circa 23 CE. Modern composting practices for organic farming began to appear in Europe in the late 1920s. Today, compost piles are commonly found in private homes, at the municipal level, and in large-scale commercial farming. New technological advances may increase the rate of decomposition, making composting even more efficient.
Benefits to Business, Community, and Environment
Instead of being sent to a landfill, composted materials can be completely recycled and used in a wide range of applications. The nutrient-rich soil produced can nourish gardens and fertilize agriculture. This fertilizer is less detrimental than artificial fertilizers, which require huge amounts of energy to synthesize. Some communities use the product of local compost piles to fertilize community gardens.
Where to Find Professional Composting Services
Maintaining a compost pile at home is a great way to generate fertile soil for a home garden and dispose of organic waste responsibly. However, not everyone has the space or time to properly compost at home. The free directory at FindAComposter.com lists commercial composting facilities by zip code.