Editor’s Note: This is a new weekly column by the Recycling Coordinator for the City of Framingham.
Residents can submit questions to Recycling Coordinator Stephen Sarnosky via SOURCE at editor@FraminghamSource.com
FRAMINGHAM – Composting food and yard waste can seem new and complicated. On the contrary, composting is as old as time itself and is very easy to do. Its simplicity makes it a perfect method to help with the environment.
I will give you a brief history of composting, show you how it can help out both you and the environment, and give you step by step instructions on how to compost.
Gardening and agriculture have been practiced by humans for centuries. Historic records show that the early practices of composting started during the Assyrian Empire in the 11th century BC. These practices have allowed our ancestors to stop being fully nomadic and enable civilizations to begin and flourish.
Composting has continued through many modern-day changes by botanists and scientists.
Some people might find this article unusable due to its relation to gardening. You might think you don’t know how to garden or don’t have enough space to garden.
However, gardening is possible anywhere that you live. It can be done on a small to large scale. Growing herbs or vegetables on the windowsill is just as much gardening as having a more substantial yard garden.
Composting has many benefits both for the garden and for the environment. It saves water by helping the soil hold moisture and reduce water runoff. It also benefits the environment by recycling organic resources and conserving landfill space. By keeping the natural materials, it reduces the number of commercial soil conditioners and fertilizers.
As a gardener, compost helps plant growth by giving nutrients and retaining water. The compost provides slow-release nutrients, meaning that plants will last longer in the soil and improve the soil in the long term. It also attracts micro-organisms to help improve the overall quality of the soil.
Compost can also be used to help the soil stay together, prevent erosion, and protect the plants. Compost can also be used as mulch, which helps to moderate soil temperature and reduce weeds.
To make compost, you need to know the ingredients that go into compost. Two types of materials are used in compost: green and brown material. Brown material consists of dry and woody plant material.
Often, these materials are brown, which is why they are called brown material. They help to add bulk and help allow air to better get into the compost. They act as the source of carbon in your compost pile.
They consist of items such as wood sawdust, chopped woody pruning, pine needles, dried leaves and grass, marsh straw, shredded paper, cardboard and newspapers, old potting mix, and shredded wood chips.
Green material consists of either wet or recently growing material. They are often green but not always.
These materials supply most of the nutrients that make compost suitable for the garden. They are also high in nitrogen.
Items such as tea bags, citrus rinds, coffee grounds and filters, shrub and grass clippings, fruit and vegetable waste, young weeds, and cow manure are suitable as green material.
Having a proper ratio of green and brown materials will ensure that your compost pile works appropriately. Without the right mix of brown and green materials, your compost pile may not heat up, it may take longer to break down into useable compost and may even start to smell bad.
There are several items/materials that you should not compost as they will harm the process. Items such as dirt/soil, ashes from stoves, fireplaces or barbecues, any animal products such as meat, bones, grease and fat, any dairy products, sawdust from plywood/treated wood, diseased plants, human waste, or seed-bearing weeds (Bermuda grass. Ivy, oxalis bulbs, burr clover, etcetera). Manure from livestock such as cows and chickens and rabbits are acceptable. Other household pets’ waste, such as cats and dogs
are unsuitable due to their diets and high likelihood that they carry parasites.
- Gather green material and brown material (mentioned above).
- Add these materials in a 3 to 1 ratio in layers to your compost container. Let your waste materials set awhile, a month or so is fine, and then stir it with a shovel.
- If the materials are too dry, add a little water to the pile.
- Compost happens. You will get composted material if you do nothing but add material to your pile, it will just take longer to breakdown. So, be sure to “shake it up.”
- Your compost is ready when it is a rich dark black color and has a crumbly texture.
A resident asked a question: Is Framingham saving money by recycling? If so, how much? If the cost of water and sewer is going up, should we assume people would stop washing recyclable items before they toss them?
Many elderly living in Framingham have a fixed income that may prevent them from paying higher water bill. (Yes it all adds up.)
Like all municipalities, Framingham currently pays to dispose of recycling. Our material recycling facility asks that recyclable material be as clean as possible, which helps keeps recycling costs down.
For example, items such as mayonnaise and peanut butter jars are hard to clean, so tossing them in the trash may be a better alternative than recycling?
Most items can be given a quick rinse. And when in doubt throw it out.
Photo from Move For Hunger