You can compost that?

Posted by Hometalk | Apr 25, 2010
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My trash company hates me. It offers free recycling with paid trash pickup. However, I barely pay for trash pickup. Our provider offers pay-as-you-throw service (which you should lobby your trash company to do as a way of encouraging less waste).

I buy a roll of bags instead of paying for monthly service. The trash man expects me to haul out about a bag every week, going through at least a roll every year. I aim to haul out less than one a month, and am on track to stretch out my roll for more than two years. Now some woman in my local paper is trying to show me up. She wrote a column about her four bags a year of trash.

My Earth Day challenge is to match that. To do so, I'll divert much of my trash to my worm farm. You can feed almost anything biodegradable into either a worm farm or a hot compost bin to make some great fertilizer. Here are five ideas that go beyond apple cores and orange peels.

The shirt off your back

If clothes are made from cotton, wool or other organic fibers, they will break down in either type of compost. In both cases, cut them into small pieces, but it's pretty fun to throw in a pair of jeans and end up with nothing but rivets a few months later.

Your bed

OK, maybe not your bed, but definitely my bed. Worms can't chew through metal springs, but they will gladly munch on chunks of my FloBed mattress, which is made of natural latex and organic cotton. I threw in a sample block of the foam last year. It took a while for the worms to eat it, but it was eventually gone.

Turn fertilizer into fertilizer

Manure can help speed the hot composting process, and make for a richer compost fertilizer. It's about the only animal product that can be composted. However, dog and cat waste harbors nasty parasites, so it should not go in the compost bin. I'm glad I don't have any pets. They would really drive up my bag count.

The shell game

The other animal product exception is shells - rinsed shells from eggs, clams, crabs, shrimps and other crustaceans. Crush any shells for quicker hot compost or worm compost.


Each spring, dandelions alone could fill one of my four trash bags. However, weeds can be composted to a degree - 140 degrees, that is. If weeds have gone to seed, they must be cooked at that temperature to keep the weeds from returning in your freshly fertilized soil. You can safely compost younger weeds.

By diverting all this stuff into compost (and recycling), you can minimize your landfill footprint, though it might mean putting your garbage man out of business.

Here's more on my vermicompost, and some tips on urban hot composting.

Posted by: Steve Graham

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