According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a report from 2014 stated that more food ends up in municipal landfills than plastic or paper. Food scraps that end up in a landfill generate methane gas, a greenhouse gas that is at least 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
The average household throws away 2 pounds of organic waste each day which includes vegetable cuttings, fruit peels, eggshells, coffee grounds, and yard trimmings that could instead be composted. When organic waste is discarded a valuable resource that can help beautify parks, gardens, and lawns is wasted.
One invention that was created to help with food waste was the garbage disposal. While it may seem like a newer invention it was actually invented in 1927. It hit the market in 1940 after the Wisconsin architect who invented it tweaked his invention for over a decade. While this invention may help keep some food waste out of the landfills, it has not solved the problem.
Part of the reason this invention is not a cure-all is because there are some foods that should not go down the disposal. Vegetables that are “hairy” like squash, pumpkin, corn husks, and even celery can get tangled in the blades and may cause a blade to break off. Another food item that can damage the blades is meat bones as they are difficult to break down. Grease, coffee grounds, onion skins, egg shells, rice, pasta, oatmeal, potato skins, nuts all have the capability of clogging the pipes of the disposal.
These food items that should not go down the disposal drain are all excellent for composting. Yes, even egg shells are great for the compost pile. They add calcium to the compost. This important nutrient helps plants build cell walls. While the shells don’t have to be crushed before composting them, doing so will speed up how fast the eggshells break down in the compost.
Left on its own, all organic matter will eventually break down through the action of hungry bacteria and fungi as well as larger creatures such as worms, sow bugs, and centipedes. In just a few months, a topsoil-like amendment is created that would have taken decades to form naturally. It can then be added to soil to improve its structure, allowing air and water to enter easily and be retained.
Concern about smell and how to get started is all answered on the Internet. Dozens of sites on “how to” and beginner guides on composting teach the benefits of this natural process. There’s even a compost guide for city dwellers.
— Marla Ballard’s Master of Disguise normally appears in the Times-Journal Wednesday editions.