Composting: Worthwhile At Any Scale

Compost is my passion. I caught the bug a few years ago, at an age when careers are generally winding down.  I had no relevant educational or work experience.  I bought a bin, and then a second one.   In 2017, I attended the week-long world-famous Maine Compost School.  I was intimidated to be both the oldest person there and the least experienced, but I loved it. 

I went to the annual industry convention, COMPOST2019, in Glendale back in February.  I was able to attend the sessions and presentations for free in exchange for doing volunteer work.  I’ve done ride-alongs with a local compost collection company, and would happily do many more.  Although I’m not yet certain exactly how, my dream is to participate in composting for as long as I can.
The Cambridge English Dictionary says that compost is, “decaying plant material that is added to soil to improve its quality.”  Save your food waste and combine it with your yard waste and let it sit for awhile, turning it occasionally.  Natural organisms and microorganisms will transform your garbage into beautiful brown, crumbly, soil-like, good-smelling compost that is garden-ready.  Of course, there are some guidelines to follow, such as no meat or dairy and limited inclusion of bread.

  Here is a link to one useful guide: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/composting-way-easier-you-think.
In my many compost discussions with friends and acquaintances, I hear lots of enthusiasm, and varying levels of familiarity and knowledge.  Those who do not already compost hesitate for all sorts of reasons: they don’t produce enough food waste; they’re afraid it will stink, or attract pests, or that they’ll  “do it wrong”.  Maybe, like me, they currently live in an apartment and have no access to a yard where they could locate a bin or a pile.  Yes, for the last couple of years, for all my passion, I have not even had my own compost pile, but I still compost.  It’s just a question of scale.

At COMPOST2019, the scale was massive!  We rode buses to a remote site where huge expensive machines drove over piles of compost 10 feet high and hundreds of feet long, demonstrating their ability to turn (mix up) the compost.  A few steps down in scale, this can be done with a forklift or similar smaller machinery.  You might think one person shoveling a pile or turning a bin represents the smallest scale at which you can compost.  

But NO!  There are even smaller scales!  For those of us without bins, or with small amounts of food waste, there are companies which do a weekly pick-up of a five-gallon bin filled with your egg shells, banana peels, paper napkins and so on.  If you generate less than five gallons weekly of compostable waste, the pickup can be scheduled every two weeks, or even less often.  (See the links to some of these companies below)  Do you produce very little food waste but it still pains you (as it should) to throw it out?  Save it in the freezer and give it to your composting neighbor or someone who has a pickup service.  It’s easy, and so worth it!  

Finally, if you are a coffee drinker, you can add your used grounds directly to your soil to serve as a mulch or soil amendment.   It’s not composting, but it is a creative use of food waste.  Here is a link to an article which explains how to do this: 
http://pubs.cahnrs.wsu.edu/publications/pubs/fs207e/
Happy composting!
Local composting service options:
Collective Resource:  https://collectiveresource.us/Compost Club:  RESIDENTIAL COMPOSTING — The Urban Canopy

Healthy Soil Compost:  Chicago Composting Service | Healthy Soil Compost

Waste Not Compost:  WasteNot Compost