Is Composting Worth It?
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Composting is one of the eco-friendliest ways to get rid of waste, and anyone can do it. Whether you live in the city or on a farm, you can start your own bin and reap the benefits. But what exactly is composting? Essentially, it’s the decaying of organic matter, like food scraps and yard waste. Pretty simple, right?
There are three different composting processes, but many people rely on vermicomposting, which can be done both indoors and out. Those who have outdoor space may also try aerobic composting, which requires more maintenance but can handle higher volumes of organic matter.
Either one may work well for you, but is composting even worth it? A closer look at the pros and cons may help you decide.
Advantages of Composting
There are countless benefits to composting, both for you and the planet. Here are some of the most notable.
In the United States, 30% to 40% of the food supply ends up in landfills, and it has far-reaching effects on the environment and society. As Americans overproduce and waste food, millions of families go hungry and mass amounts of rubbish end up in wildlife habitats. The entire waste collection, storage and transportation process also squanders valuable resources and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
Composting at home helps reduce waste by returning it to the earth after the food distribution process. Instead of ending up in a landfill, it goes in the bin to break down naturally. Consequently, landfills will have more room for unrecyclable items and ones that take many years to decompose.
Improves Soil Quality
Anyone with a green thumb could stand to benefit from composting, too. Whatever you throw in your bin will eventually turn into humus that you can use as a natural fertilizer. Organic material enriches the soil by balancing pH and making nutrients more readily available. Often, it attracts other decomposers like worms and fungi, which help break things down even further.
Compost can also boost the soil’s resilience to extreme weather events like droughts, floods, and forest fires. During these occurrences, compost helps to prevent erosion and maximizes water retention.
Little can be done bout the greenhouse gases already floating around the atmosphere. However, humans can divert new GHG emissions from contributing to climate change. The first step to clean air might be composting.
In a landfill, anaerobic decomposition increases methane emissions but, in a compost bin, organic materials decompose aerobically and release mainly carbon dioxide. This gas is much less harmful than methane, so composting is the better alternative if you want to minimize emissions.
Disadvantages of Composting
Despite its many advantages, composting does come with a few downsides. Here are a few drawbacks to consider before committing to a compost bin at home.
Can Attract Pests
Even if you take good care of your compost bin, you may struggle to keep pests away. Decomposing food is a magnet for bugs and rodents, and they’ll take every opportunity to infiltrate your pile. Nasty odors emanating from unattended bins can also attract pests. If your compost bin is outside, this might prompt a few complaints from neighbors.
Luckily, you can ward off unwanted visitors by storing compost in a container. This approach is ideal for vermicomposting, whereas those who choose aerobic composting may have to leave their pile exposed. Position it at least a few yards away from your house to discourage pests from entering your home.
Maintaining a compost pile takes a lot of effort and energy, especially if you use aerobic composting. This method requires you to turn the pile every day, or at least a few times a week, a task that can be physically demanding in the long run.
Even those who choose vermicomposting will have some upkeep to do. Like their fellow composters, they must also mix their bins periodically. Plus, you have to know which kinds of food scraps to include so the worms stay healthy and you get the best hummus possible.
Another disadvantage to composting is the amount of time it takes for matter to actually turn into usable, beneficial material. Organic matter may decompose faster in a compost bin, but that doesn’t mean the process happens quickly.
Orange rinds can take six months to decompose, while banana peels can take as long as two years. Depending on what other items you put in your compost bin, it might not produce hummus for at least a few months. If you’re unwilling to wait and put in the work, composting might not be worth it.
Making the Right Decision
If you’re someone who wants to create their own nutrient-rich soil amendments, composting might be worth it. After all, it’s often more affordable than purchasing fertilizer. Plus, it does planet earth a world of good.
However, if you don’t have room to maintain and actually benefit from a compost bin, composting might not be worth it. In this case, you can connect with a local farmer and donate your kitchen scraps and yard waste for them to use as animal feed or all-natural fertilizer.
Ultimately, your decision will depend on your lifestyle, living situation, hobbies and personal preferences. If you decide composting isn’t for you, that’s ok! Try recycling or another eco-friendly activity instead. When it comes to defending planet earth, every habit counts.
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About the author
Steve is the Managing Editor of Environment.co and regularly contributes articles related to wildlife, biodiversity, and recycling. His passions include wildlife photography and bird watching.