Benefits of composting (even if you don't have a garden)

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In the U.S alone approximately 25% of municipal solid waste is made up of materials that could be composted, adding up to 65 million tons of unnecessary waste being sent to landfill each year!

Composting is not just good for your garden, but for your pocket and for the planet too!

The composting process

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, composting is a process that works to speed up the natural decay of organic materials by providing the ideal condition (warm temperature, nutrients, moisture and oxygen) for detritus-eating organism to thrive. The result of decomposed organic waste is nutrient-rich soil that can then be used to help the growth of other crops as well as garden plants and trees.

If you are lucky enough to have a garden, start putting together a pile in the corner of your yard, or repurpose an old bin, or build your own with welded wire mesh, concrete blocks, or wooden pallets, and start the process! If you don’t have a big outdoor space you could still get a smaller bin and put in on your balcony, or, much like how you hide your trash can, fit it in a pull-out cabinet or under your sink. A properly managed compost bin will not attract pests or rodents and will not smell bad, so don’t let those negative side effects put you off. 

Alternatively, if you really don’t have the space for composting at home, check to see if your community has its own group composting area where food waste can be dropped off or whether there’s a pick up service.


Why compost?

Composting doesn’t just divert organic waste away from landfills, saving the city and tax payers a lot of money on waste management, but it also cuts down on emissions. Did you know that landfills are the third-largest source of human-generated methane emissions in the United States? By composting we avoid sending organic waste to landfills while repurposing it into something useful. Also composting will help you reduce personal food waste, as you will be able to asses if you’re buying to much or what leftovers you should strive to repurpose into something else. (Learn more about the environmental hazards of throwing leftovers down the drain here)

Last but not least, composting improves soil health while lessening erosion. According to research in fact, compost has the capability to increase soil’s water retention capacity, productivity, and resiliency. This means that by using compost to foster healthy soil, farmers for example, do not have to use as much water as they previously did, and can still have higher yields compared with farming with degraded soil, as it reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. (Find other ways to save water here)

What can be composted:

  • Food scraps: Fruits, vegetables and eggshells (NO TO dairy products, eggs, fats and oils, and meat or fish bones and scraps)

  • Coffee grounds and filters

  • Tea bags

  • Nut shells

  • Shredded newspaper, paper and cardboard

  • Yard trimmings: grass, leaves, branches, and twigs (NOT ALL types of tree leaves and twigs can be composted. Black walnut for example releases substances that might be harmful to plants. Please check before hand)

  • Houseplants (NO TO diseased or insect-infested plants)

  • Hay and straw

  • Sawdust

  • Woodchips

  • Pencil shavings

  • Cotton and wool rags (fabric scraps of natural fabric ONLY)

  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint

  • Hair and pet fur (NO TO pet waste including dog and cat feces and used cat litter)

  • Fireplace ashes (NO TO coal or coal ash)

  • … and even nail clippings!


Every year new products which are specifically labeled BPI Certified Compostable, are being developed all over the world. These range from dinner and flatware, to garbage bags, to even diapers. Keep a look out for those products, and before you add them to your compost make sure they are safe for home composting, or that they are accepted by your local compost collector.

What to do with it (even if you don’t love gardening)

If you have a garden you can use your new, nutrient rich soil, to fertilize your flowers, your plants, your vegetable garden or your trees. If you don’t have a garden, the soil can always be used to boost up your indoor plants.

Other options could be to donate your compost to friends or neighbors who have a garden, or even get in touch with your local school, community garden or farmer!

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