Turn food waste into nutrients for plants with composting
Have you ever thrown away leftovers or food that's gone bad? Most of us have.
Composting is a great way to reuse this food without sending it to the landfill.
Composting can be done on a large commercial scale or on as small of a scale as a bin underneath your kitchen sink for food and paper scraps.
The goal is to reuse organic matter for the benefit of nature. This organic matter comes from living things, such as vegetables, egg shells, and paper products.
"When you are throwing all of your good organic material into the trash, that's going to the landfills. That's actually helping to produce extra methane in the landfills, and that's what they're trying to get away from, creating those toxic gases that are coming from landfills," Donna Dent, Team Leader at The Barn Nursery, explained.
Composting is a way to divert this waste from landfills and turn it into naturally nutrient-rich soil matter to be applied to a garden, potted plants, and lawns.
"It goes from food that we can consume, paper products that we use, into soil form which then can be utilized by the microorganisms in the soil which support healthy plant growth," said Leslie Rodgers, the Director of Education & Business Development at Atlas Organics, a commercial composting company.
You can compost directly on the ground in a pile, in a bin in your yard, or even in a small odor free caddy in your kitchen by blending soil with your food waste.
"You want to go with the green things that you're composting, so any vegetables, herbs, old house plants that you may not be able to use anymore, flowers that you are digging up. Those are all going to be good to compost," Dent listed.
The blend must be mixed up at least once a week in the summer and every 2 to 3 weeks in the winter. This turning of it ensures oxygen is consistently available for the decomposition process.
Also, moisture needs to be added to help break everything down.
Dent recommends waiting several months for full decomposition before using it.
“The other simple rule of thumb, when you can't recognize anything that you've put in there before, when an apple doesn't look like an apple anymore, it looks like dirt. Then, you've made compost," stated Dent.
If you don't want to do it yourself, Atlas Organics provides an at-home service called Compost House in Chattanooga.
"Not only do we do the cleaning for you, can we take more food waste than you would ever be able to do at home, but you also get high quality concentrated finished compost as a part of our program," Rodgers said of the benefits.
These extra waste items include meat and dairy products, which are not recommended to compost in a backyard bin.
For a monthly fee, they provide you with a bucket to fill up with all your household’s organic waste.
Then, you can opt for their doorstep program, and they will pick up the filled bucket from your home weekly ($24/month) or bi-weekly ($16/month). Or, a drop-off program where you take the bucket to them ($14/month).
Either way, you earn monthly compost credits to redeem for 10 gallons of fresh compost to use at your home.
Their communal compost piles are located at Crabtree Farms in Chattanooga. This compost can be requested each month, or credits may be saved up to receive a larger amount at once.
Atlas Organics also works with several businesses in Chattanooga to compost on a larger scale.
To learn more about their specific pricing or to sign up for the service, visit Compost House’s website.