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The benefits of composting

Not many people connect composting with recycling.  It is however a great way to increase your recycling game and reducing the amount of material you send to the landfill! 

Composting is allowing the natural breakdown of organic material, thus allowing nutrients to be recycled.  The term 'organics' refers to any material that is biodegradable, or capable of being broken down into its basic components of carbon dioxide, methane, water, or simple organic molecules by micro-organisms such as bacteria in the presence of water, oxygen, and energy from the sun.  Organic also means that the item contains carbon in its chemical makeup. 

The most recent studies show that organics make up 35% of Michigan's solid waste stream, which enter landfills.  Organics also comprise 27% of Michigan's recycling stream.  This number results from a ban that prevents yard waste from entering landfills. 


While the majority of composting is happening in self-moderated backyard composters, many cities offer curbside compost pick-up, including San Francisco, CA; Portland, ME; and many cities in the state of Minnesota.  Here, weekly compost pick-up is offered alongside waste and recycling programs.

An additional method of taking care of organics is using anerobic digesters.  Michigan has six on-farm anaerobic digesters and four commercial anaerobic digesters.  According the the Michigan Recycling Coalition's 2017 report on organics, "Composting is defined as the controlled degradation of organic material in the presence of oxygen while anaerobic digestion is controlled degradation of organic material in the absence of oxygen. The by-products of composting are humus, water, carbon dioxide, and heat. The by-products of anaerobic digestion are biogas (e.g. methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, etc.), water, and digestate. A properly managed decomposition process can destroy weed seeds and plant and human pathogens. "

If you need some encouragement to start composting, consider these benefits as stated by the US Composting Council:


COMPOST:

~Improves the soil structure, porosity,

and density, thus creating a better

plant root environment

~Increases infiltration and

permeability of heavy soils, thus

reducing erosion and runoff

~Improves water holding capacity,

thus reducing water loss and

leaching in sandy soils

~Supplies a variety of macro and

micronutrients

~May control or suppress certain soilborne

plant pathogens

~Supplies significant quantities of

organic matter

~Improves cation exchange capacity

of soils and growing media, thus

improving their ability to hold

nutrients for plant use

~Supplies beneficial microorganisms

to soils and growing media

~Improves and stabilizes soil pH

~Can bind and degrade specific

pollutants, such as lead in

contaminated soils

~Keeps organic materials in the

nutrient cycle

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