A Rind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Written by: Bennett Slavsky

It is a common misconception that composting is a dirty process that will create a stench in the neighborhood and lure raccoons and other vermin to your yard. In reality, when practiced correctly, composting is a clean, easy, and odorless process that will not only benefit the individual, but also the community and the environment at large.

Kent County has a goal to reduce the amount of garbage entering the landfill by 90 percent by the year 2030. This seemingly ambitious goal is not so unrealistic when you consider that 26 percent of the waste stream that enters a landfill is compostable yard waste and food scraps.

Master Composter, Ken Freestone, kept track and found that his two-person household alone produced twenty to thirty gallons of compostable organic waste every two to three weeks. If compost piles and receptacles were employed widely throughout the Grand Rapids area, it would be a significant step in bringing us closer to the landfill reduction goal, while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The scientific breakdown of organic waste is quite simple. When carbon-rich “brown” material such as dry leaves or straw is mixed with nitrogen-rich “green” material such as grass clippings or fruit rinds, and exposed to oxygen, the compost undergoes aerobic decomposition. The byproducts of this are a highly fertile, organic soil and carbon dioxide. However, when the organic waste is buried in a landfill and not exposed to oxygen, it undergoes anaerobic decomposition, and emits methane gas as a byproduct, a greenhouse gas twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Beyond the environmental and communal benefits of composting, it can also be a money saving endeavor for the home gardener. As the detriments of industrial farming become more prevalent, so do home gardens in urban and suburban areas. With organic topsoil pricing in at around $10 per two cubic feet, depending on the size of your garden, you could be looking at spending anywhere from tens to hundreds of dollars—for dirt.

This expenditure can be completely averted by simply piling up food scraps and yard waste, turning it every two to three weeks, and letting the microorganisms break it all down. Compost turns a once living thing into soil conditioner, weed preventer, and fertilizer all in one that is more beneficial for your garden than anything you could buy at your local home improvement store.

Despite the array of benefits, people still seem reluctant to compost. When exposed to the right amount of oxygen, the decomposing organic waste will be odorless and therefore will not attract unwanted scavengers, as many worry it will. The process is simplistic with very little labor for the composter. “I am just the hired help for the compost,” said Ken Freestone. “I provide the food and I turn the pile, but the microorganisms do the heavy lifting.”

compost

Composting is beneficial in so many facets—from the individual all the way to the atmosphere. WMEAC is working to make composting a more widespread practice throughout the urban and suburban areas of Grand Rapids to have a positive impact on all levels of the community. We hope to make backyard composting clean, easy, and available for anyone who wishes to partake.

Regulations for residential composting in the city of Grand Rapids can be found on the city’s website under Code Compliance.

More information about composting, including a list of what materials can and cannot be added to a compost pile, is also available on the city’s website.  

 

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