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Week Brings Awareness To The Benefits Of Composting

In today’s day and age, many are focused on protecting the Earth and doing their part. One simple way that anyone can do that is through composting.

New York State’s Compost Awareness Week, which was at the beginning of May, is a week set aside to raise awareness across the state of the many benefits for the environment that come from composting.

According to Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Volunteer Stephen Rees, about 60 percent of waste that ends up in landfills each year is organic waste that can just as easily be recycled or composted. “It’s really about managing your household waste stream and getting waste from places like your kitchen and yard out of landfills,” Rees said.

Additionally, Rees said, when people decide to compost instead of just throwing items away, the waste produced from these organic items, such as food waste, goes to better use when it goes back into the environment.

“The more materials that can be composted the more that go to better usage in gardens or flower beds,” Rees said. “It’s a better use of resources that would otherwise just be wasted. The more organic materials that can go back into the environment, the better off the soil (in the environment) will be.”

Jean Bonhotal, director of the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Cornell Waste Management Institute, expanded on this, adding that organic material is a large portion of the items that get wasted when sent to the landfill.

“Organic material is a large portion of our ‘waste stream’ but it is a resource that needs to be recycled,” Bonhotal said. “It is a real ‘waste’ when building and sustaining our soils and trying to produce healthy food. It is important to compost and recycle our residuals so that we can use the compost to provide good habitats for beneficial soil microbes to build soil, create the sponge that will hold soil moisture, suppress plant disease and improve soil quality.”

Bonhotal added that making and using compost leads to healthy soil, which leads to good food, which then leads to healthy people.

According to Rees, composting is really a process of “managed decomposition.” He described how all organic matter, no matter where it comes from, decays and becomes food for micro and macro organisms, such as bugs found under leaves on the forest floor. These bugs and other organisms then work together to cause the decay that people can see in most compost bins.

But, Rees added, the decaying process can sometimes take a very long time.

“Often people can put their kitchen waste into the bin and it just sits there,” Rees said. “I often only turn my compost bin twice a year. But, when I do I find at the bottom of the bin the stuff that has decomposed, and then I can use that for my gardens and flower beds. This then creates an environment for the creatures who are working to decompose this matter.”

While the composting process can be complex, Rees also said that it does not always have to be.

“Composting can be done in something such as a 10 to 15 gallon bucket,” Rees said. “Of course, no matter what you have to take into consideration what not to put in. But, if someone didn’t want to compost in a bin they could even just dig a trench in their backyard and bury their kitchen waste in it.”

Rees added that composting can be a very simple process or a very sophisticated process, but no matter what a person chooses to do, it can help to lead to a better environment for all.

“We can use everything that we create,” Rees said. “No matter what, when it comes to composting, we should make some effort to create soil amendments to help nourish the environment around us.”

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