Although I am genuinely pleased to live in an area that has implemented a system of organic waste pick up, when recently hearing that Waterloo Region will be sending its waste to Guelph (and currently sends it to Hamilton), I was struck by a reasonably obvious question: why aren’t more residents composting at least some of their own waste in their own back yards?
Obviously, not everybody can feasibly manage their own food waste. Those living in apartments may feel they don’t have the option, but for those of us who own our property, don’t run the risk of attracting potentially dangerous wildlife, and are physically able to carry a bucket to the yard, composting our own organic waste makes perfect sense. In fact, I can’t think of anything else that humans can do to give the earth a break that is so aligned with what nature does itself.
In a day and age when we run the risk of teaching our kids to accept and perpetuate the “out of sight, out of mind” attitude about garbage, backyard composting is an excellent way to promote the understanding that we can, and should take more responsibility for our own consumption habits and waste production.
There is not one single down side to using my own composter. It’s been in use for years, it’s expense-free (it came free from the Region) and it doesn’t require any more effort than taking out the garbage.
I wish I could say I’m on the ball enough to harvest my finished compost to further reap the benefits of this process that produces a nutrient-rich fertilizer for gardens and flower beds. But although enthusiastic, I am an inattentive composter, and luckily, my lack of attention doesn’t make a difference. I feed it food scraps and “brown” materials (paper towels, coffee filters, etc) every one or two days, and occasionally turn it for aeration. I have only dug out the finished product twice, yet I never run out of space to keep loading it up. Especially in the summer, my composter quickly digests whatever it’s fed. (We also have worms in ours, and although they seem to make it more effective, they’re not necessary)
Of course, it’s not entirely maintenance free. Living at the edge of a wooded area, we have battled our share of unwanted diners, but have been successfully keeping them out for a number of years now…except for a friend’s 110 pound dog who recently body-checked the middle section off its base and hastily gobbled up what he seemed to consider an appetizing smorgasbord. But again, it was easy to fix and thwart his subsequent attempts.
There were two evenings last summer that I was aware of an odour from the composter. On further inspection – I lifted the lid and looked in – it was obvious it was too damp. I removed the lid, turned the contents a few extra times and within about 48 hours, the extra 10 minutes or so I had spent completely remedied the problem.
I don’t suggest that I know the best method of managing the Region’s waste, and although nothing is perfect, the current program has dramatically reduced the amount of “garbage” that used to go to landfill. But even if you have organized pick up of organic waste, managing all that’s suitable for your own composter helps reduce transportation and facility costs.
When possible, it seems that we should try to put less waste at our front yards to be trucked away, and more in our backyards to be easily managed by our own composters.
For more information about backyard composting, check out, Composting, The Natural Choice