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Compost your kitchen scraps

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Composting isn't just for gardeners with big back yards. And you don't need a garden to make use of it as compost can be used on houseplants, landscaping plants and lawns.

Composting kitchen scraps can have a big impact. Twenty-four percent of the waste Americans send to landfills is organic waste—kitchen scraps.[1] Keeping that waste out of landfills doesn't just save space, it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions, as decomposition in landfills creates methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.[2]

How to compost your kitchen scraps

  • Choose a composting system that fits your lifestyle.
    • Collect kitchen scraps to be taken to a composting facility. This is the easiest way to compost your kitchen scraps, requiring the least amount of work and space. Some municipalities have composting programs, where they collect organic waste and then sell completed compost to gardeners. In San Francisco, for example, 1.8 million tons of solid waste were created in 2002, yet only about 700,000 tons were landfilled, as more than 1.18 million tons were diverted through the city’s recycling and composting program. Contact your municipal solid waste service to see if composting facilities are available in your area. Alternatively, some community organizations collect composting materials at farmer's markets. For a list of farmer's markets in your area, visit FarmersMarket.com.
    • Set up an indoor composting bin. You can do it right in your kitchen. Some indoor composters require only that you supply the food scraps and some basic composting agents, such as baking soda, saw dust, or wheat germ powder. Others are known as worm bins, which create compost through a process called vermicomposting. This uses earthworms to break down organic solid waste into nutrient-rich worm castings that can be used as a soil conditioner and fertilizer. Vermicomposting is not only compact enough to work indoors, it's also quicker than other composting methods. Vermicomposting can break down 6 to 8 pounds of organic material each day.
    • Create a backyard compost pile or bin. If you have a large yard, pick an out-of-the-way spot and start a compost pile. Empty yard waste, kitchen scraps, and leaves into the pile. Over time the pile turns into compost. Dig compost from the bottom of the pile once it's done. A neater and more attractive solution, especially if space is at a premium, is to enclose the compost in a bin. Compost bins can be purchased or homemade. Tumblers, another option, produce compost more quickly and provide good heat. They're self-contained, neat, more attractive than an open pile or bin, and can be located virtually anywhere, including on a back porch or patio. But they do take some work: they need to be turned either by flipping the container end-over-end on its stand (with a barrel-type model) or turning the rotating drum with a crank (with an drum-type model), and a full container can be heavy.
  • Collect your kitchen scraps.
    • Choose a container to gather your scraps. Find an appropriate receptacle or just collect your scraps in a plastic bag. If it's going to be a while before you can take your scraps to the municipal drop-off or farmer's market, you can put your scraps in the freezer to decrease odor. You can also use a recycled plastic quart-size yogurt container that sits under the kitchen sink, or a lidded garbage pail outside the kitchen door. You'll need a container that's large enough to collect your family's kitchen scraps, has a secure lid, and is either washable or uses biodegradable liners.
    • Know what can be composted and what cannot. The following kitchen scraps can be composted: raw fruit and vegetable peels, rinds, or scraps; fruits and vegetables that are past their prime; coffee grounds; tea grounds or tea bags; egg shells, crushed; bread; and nut shells. The following kitchen scraps should not be composted: cooked food; dairy products; fish; meat or bones; and grease, lard, and oils.
  • Learn the how-to's of whatever composting method you choose.

Find it! Composters and composting accessories

Composting your kitchen scraps helps you go green because...

  • It reduces the amount of solid waste sent to landfills. Each individual American create 1,200 pounds of organic waste, which could be composted, annually.
  • Less landfill waste means fewer greenhouse gases will be emitted as the waste decomposes.
  • Synthetic fertilizers are made from petroleum. Using natural compost as fertilizer instead saves the fossil fuel equivalent of 2.5 gallons of gasoline per 40 pounds of synthetic fertilizer.
  • Organic composted fertilizer saves water: compost helps retain soil moisture, reduces evaporation, and prevents water run-off.

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