Written by Chloe Gonzalez

Most people have heard of compost. It is decomposed organic material that provides a variety of important nutrients for plant growth. Yet most people don’t consider its potential as nutrient-rich fertiliser and carelessly toss food scraps, lawn clippings and leaf litter straight into the trash. This is problematic in several ways. Firstly, the organic material becomes unnecessary waste that is taken to landfill. Secondly, the decomposition of this organic material in landfill occurs without oxygen and therefore releases methane gas (one of the most harmful greenhouse gases). Thirdly, it is not put to use as nature intended – providing essential nutrients and minerals for plant growth, improving soil structure and texture, storing water and holding moisture, acting as a mulch and creating an overall healthy soil. Healthy soil removes excess carbon from the air. This carbon then becomes part of the plants which grow from the soil. Lastly, tossing organic material means that the benefits to your health are not reaped. This is due to the fact that compost provides the soil with nutrients that end up in your food. It also increases soil fertility over time to ensure healthy nutrient-rich food for future generations that is free of synthetic fertilisers.

It seems that nature always knows best. For example, dead matter naturally decomposes on a forest floor, becomes part of the soil and thus delivers nutrients for new growth. It is only that the spread of built environments and the unconsciousness associated with buying our food at supermarkets have impeded this natural process. But we can make changes to ensure our waste does not go to waste!

If you have a garden, you can purchase or make your own compost bin. Once you have set it up, simply add green matter (food scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, grass clippings and green leaves) to the compost bin as you collect it. For each part of green matter that you add to your compost bin, you should add two parts of brown matter (dry leaves, hay, sticks, dry grass or shredded paper). The pile needs to be turned to ensure that oxygen is supplied to the organisms living in the compost and that no unpleasant odours emanate from the pile. Once the organic matter breaks down fully, it can be added to your garden as a natural nutrient-rich fertiliser for your soil. Alternatively, if you do not have your own garden, you can find a municipal system or community garden to drop your compost to. It is easy to keep a bin or bucket for this purpose.