In my household of just two adults, we easily create a minimum of one gallon of vegetable matter waste each week, and most weeks it’s closer to two to three gallons. If we were to simply deposit that into a plastic bag bound for the landfill, it would not only take up valuable landfill space – which is becoming more and more scare each day – but closed up inside that plastic bag and buried under tons of other trash, it will take dozens of years to biodegrade.
Most people know that composting is the best solution to this problem, but feel as if it is either too much trouble, or not feasible in their suburban setting. The truth is, small and simple composting solutions can be set up with a minimum of space, little trouble, and virtually no danger of pests or unpleasant odors.
You don’t have to be Farmer John to successfully set up your own composting system. All you really need is a lidded container with aeration of some sort, soil, water, and some means to turn or mix your compost. My homemade system was made from a 20-gallon outdoor Rubbermaid garbage can. Here’s how I made it:
1) Cut out the bottom and replace it with a piece of screen.
2) Drill 1/8th inch holes all around the rest of the container.
3) Set the can atop two boards – one on each side – to keep it up off the ground to allow air flow from the bottom up.
4) Place a shallow dish under the bottom to catch runoff, also known as “compost tea.”
I keep a half-gallon container on my kitchen counter and deposit my vegetable waste in it until it is full. Then, I add it to the bin, and sprinkle a little dirt on top. This helps prevent odor, as well as promotes decomposition. About once or twice a week I turn (stir) the compost to keep it aerated, and add water. The water will trickle down through the compost, dampening the contents, which is also important for decomposition. The shallow dish underneath will catch the runoff, which can then be used to water your plants and landscaping.
The amount of time it takes to break down your material will depend on several factors, including the outside temperature and the size of the vegetable matter. (Cutting the vegetation into small pieces will reduce the composting time.) You can also add a tub of earth worms to speed up the process. (Worms can generally be purchased at most pet or bait stores.)
I have had my current batch of compost working for about four months now, and the contents have biodegraded so much that my bin is still less than ¼ full. I figure that has kept about 32 gallons of trash out of a landfill, plus I get the added benefit of the fertilizer from the compost tea. Give it a try. You’ve got nothing to lose, and an entire world to help save!