What is Composting? How Does it Help?
What is Composting?
You may have heard the term composting before. But what is compost and what does composting really mean?
The term compost refers to decayed organic matter that is broken down by worms, fungi, and microorganisms for the purpose of fertilizing soil. So, composting simply refers to the controlled process in which organic matter is converted to this nutrient rich fertilizer.
Compost is often created using kitchen scraps like banana peels and coffee grounds, yard trimmings like grass and leaves, and household waste like newspaper and Mythic Goat Coffee bags. The end result is a dense nutrient rich humus that contains everything plants need to grow and thrive, including phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen.
In addition to being an excellent fertilizer, compost also helps improve soil structure, retain moisture, and stabilize soil pH, while naturally fighting off plant disease.
How Does Composting Help the Environment?
The decomposition of our food waste in the landfill produces large quantities of greenhouse gasses such as methane. This waste, once discarded, is no longer breaking down within the natural system of our world. Mixed into our landfills with all of our other waste, items that were previously compostable become contaminated, making it impossible for the matter to be recycled by nature. Composting, because it is a controlled process, manages to avoid these two issues.
The process of composting allows the organic matter to partially decay aerobically instead of anaerobically. Or in plain English, the stuff is broken down in the presence of oxygen, versus being buried underground. This aerobic digestion allows the material to be broken down without the production of harmful greenhouse gasses, such as methane.
In addition, the broken-down organic matter avoids contamination from the landfill. Allowing the compost to be recycled back into the natural system.
If implemented at a large scale, composting also avoids the use of synthetic fertilizers on agricultural land. This benefit also mitigates harm to local waterways while preventing the negative consequences of manufacturing the synthetic fertilizer in the first place.
Written by Tyler Chandler, who holds a
Master's Degree in Sustainability Solutions and Founder of Sustainable Ed.