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Make Compost, Not Garbage

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Guest Rant by Roy Mastromauro

You don’t compost?

Why is that?
Icky?

I’ll tell you icky, broham. How’s about a banana peel 10 years
old, looking like it did before you put it in the garbage?

Yea, that’s
icky. Because it’s in a state of suspended animation, surrounded by all those
styrofoam peanuts, q-tips, and coffee grounds you and everyone else is putting
in the garbage. Encased in a lovely shroud of plastic.

Think your garbage
smells? Why are you combining it with everyone else’s? Let someone else deal
with it, you say.

And they will. It’s not an easy business, and hardly
efficient; all those big trucks running daily routes to pick stuff up that you
just know you could compost.

But, it’s icky. You get some flies in the
house, some flies on the pile, and to hell with it.

Come to think of it,
the landfill is sorta like hell, isn’t it? Where everything goes that everyone
wants to forget about. And each in it’s own little cell, way down
deep.

Know what’s icky? That a “green” landfill might actually promote
itself as environmentally friendly by taking your crap and harvesting the
methane off of it. It’ll be a shining star in the community, because it uses
your crap to build a mountain and make methane.

And someday sell it back
to you? Now that’s icky.

If you’re not composting, and doing it fiercely,
you’re making folks laugh at those that do. “Ah, those crazy kooks out there in
San Fran, what’ll they come up with next? Whatta they gonna do next? Eat raw
fish?” Every time you toss a banana peel, you sushi roll goes bad.

You
like dirt, you keep your eyes out for sales on soil amendments. Once in a while,
you might buy a bag of it. Meanwhile, you’re trying to figure out the best way
to deal with your leaves this fall, all those weeds you pulled. “They’ve got
seed heads,” you say. If your damned garden was so precious, you wouldn’t have
let the thing go to seed in the first place, would you? Compost the stuff, give
your plants the nutrients, and let them crowd out the weeds.

I won’t even
get into the “right” way to compost. There just isn’t. I’m pretty sure, though,
that there are better ways to do it. However you do it, it’s bound to be better
than letting the landfill do it, though.

All that old-school stuff about
what and what not to put in the compost heap has got to end. Nothing magic
happens at the dump that doesn’t happen in your back yard. It’s just going to
take a whole lot longer out there, and it’s going to be mixed in with everyone
else’s crap. There’s a way to compost it. You are not the first one who had a
stinky compost pile, and you won’t be the last. Everything composts somewhere.
You might as well get the good stuff from it.

Roy Mastromauro is a Cincinnati native, husband and father of two boys. His
composting efforts started the day after he bought his first home, and now
involve finding ways to get his hands on other people’s compost stuff. He is
actively involved in learning, teaching and writing about compost methods,
gardening, and securing a sustainable future for his family and community.

Photo credit: D’Arcy Norman.

Posted by on September 29, 2009 at 4:46 am, in the category Uncategorized.
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14 responses to “Make Compost, Not Garbage”

  1. As somebody with four compost bins, I certainly agree, with one caveat. It’s a good idea to put diseased or infested foliage in the landscape waste–not the garbage, but the landscape waste, those brown bags. They are collected and taken to huge, industrial-scale composting operations. Because those places compost in huge, carefully controlled masses that are aerated every few days, they reach temperatures that are never going to be achieved or sustained in a home compost pile. That means they can kill pathogens and insect eggs that could survive the lower-temperature activity in a home pile. Though I pay dearly to have problem foliage hauled away ($2.10 a bag where I live) it means I can avoid perpetuating pest and disease problems and avoid using pesticides. And I know where to order locally-made compost if I ever need a truckload at one time.

  2. Pam J. says:

    Excellent post! I’m a very active composter, including vermicompost, which is more like a religion than a recycling activity. If you’re interested in world-wide trends in recycling trash check out the ever-so-interesting article in Sunday’s NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/science/earth/27waste.html

  3. Liisa says:

    Hoo-freakin-ray for composting! Now THAT was a rant! Super kudos all around! :-)

  4. LauraBee says:

    Our local gardening guru is famous for saying that the best soil in the area is at the landfill, because everyone sends all their fabulous compostables there. Fortunately my city has a very successful green waste ( there’s an oxymoron for you !) program – things that are too shrubby/large for me to compost in my miniscule backyard – things that call for the chipper-shredder I don’t have – I put in the big green bin. It’s picked up by a separate truck on trash day, and next time I see it, it is being used to mulch the city’s landscape plantings. Would I like to have that mulch for myself ? Sure. But if they can use it, create healthier, greener public spaces, AND save me some tax dollars in the process, I’m happy to hand it over.

  5. Barbara says:

    Love this post. I’d also love to compost the “right way”‘ but somehow I never manage it. However, I do compost. I have a bin into which I throw all my kitchen waste, weeds, etc. (Not diseased plants or bigger branches.) An amazing amount of stuff goes in, but because the process works no matter how lazy I am, in about 4 – 5 months I get beautiful, rich compost to put on my plants.

    Sure I could do better, but I keep a lot of waste out of the landfill and I get wonderfully rich soil for my garden – for free!

  6. Great post! I am a lazy composter (rarely turn my pile, etc). I think all the composting rules intimidate people. When I talk to people about composting, I emphasize that it can be done without a lot of effort – it might take longer, but better than not doing it at all.

  7. dwcasey says:

    Good rant! I agree with Two Green Acres. I’ve been gardening for years and have heard and known about composting, but was a bit intimidated by the “rules”.

    Thinking “Well, if I can’t do it the right way, I won’t do it at all”. Rubbish!

    I’m more of the mind that doing something is better than doing nothing at all.

  8. John says:

    This is related to the problem I have with picking up dog poop in the park. I understand the disease issues but really – is wrapping poop in plastic and then placing inside another plastic bag and then hauling it to the landfill to bury it under mounds of garbage the best we can come up with? I just wish they would install composting trashbins for the dog waste, otherwise Ms. Tami Faye Barker will do her bizness in the weeds off the trail.

  9. Gary says:

    Hello from a wet ( at the moment ) New Zealand.
    Great post, it’s always good to start a discussion about composting.

    I get the odd dreaded “Cold” compost pile ( it’s hard to keep the rain off it in our climate ) but I solve that problem by having a couple of worm bins…man they love that cold wet smelly stuff !! Seems to turn them on and the more I add the more worms I seem to end up with !
    Forces me to annoy friends and neighbours asking for their food scraps. Win win as far as I can see.

  10. Gloria says:

    Great rant!

    Compost is great. I just this weekend harvested a wheel barrow load of wonderful earthy smelling dark rich compost. Everything grown on this place goes back into the soil somehow. Compost is easy and useful, even in the city.
    Between recycling and composting we have very little regular garbage and it does not smell!

  11. Chris M. says:

    We compost all our kitchen waste, paper, and of course, leaves and all garden stuff.
    I’m trying to encourage everyone, even urban folks to compost but they offer the excuse that they don’t have the room. They have yards but imagine they need 100 feet of space for it. Let’s hear more on composting. We must all do this for the sake of our planet.
    Chris

  12. I just bought a composting bin from an organization http://dailydump.org/ to start composting at home. It is a bit tough living in an apartment, but we want to try.

  13. I’m like Two Green Acres – I don’t follow a huge set of rules.

    I dump my compostable stuff in a pile in the corner of my garden, cover it with soil, and let the worms do the rest. Once in awhile during the summer dry spells I’ll water it, and I turn it a little bit when I add to it and cover it with soil. That’s it.

    Boy does it work! I have the happiest worm colony imaginable, and viturally no smell (I think burying it is the key). Rules schmules!! (lol) All it takes is the willingness to try :)

  14. Nina says:

    Wonderful,hilarious rant!

    I’ve been composting all my green kitchen scraps for over 15 years along with garden trimmings. I’ve got 2 3’x3’x3′ wire bins (Falstaff & Mistress Quickly). I turn out some fabulous compost! I do need to keep it watered here in So Cal, but I only occasionally turn it.

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