Compost, or “black gold” as gardeners sometimes call it, is a decayed mixture of plant waste that is used to improve soil. You can make compost from yard waste, food waste or both. As a natural fertilizer, it is one of the best investments you can make for the health and beauty of your yard and garden. It’s also a great way to reduce food and yard waste, which comprise approximately 20–30 percent of your household waste stream.
Compost has many benefits:
- It enriches the soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests.
- It reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
- Composting waste instead of throwing it in the trash reduces methane emissions from landfills.
- It lowers our carbon footprint.
- It encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.
Your compost investment strategy
Option A: Set up a backyard compost bin
If you have a yard, select a dry, shady, or partly shady spot near a water source and preferably out of neighbors’ sight. Ideally, the compost area should be at least one cubic yard in size. A pile works great for just leaves and grass clippings, but if you want to incorporate food waste, you’ll need to use a bin to prevent rodents and pets from invading.
You can build your own bin or purchase one online or at retail locations. You’ll also need a small kitchen compost bin where you can collect and store food waste before taking it to your backyard pile.
There are four types of ingredients needed to make great compost: browns for carbon, greens for nitrogen, air for organisms, and water for moisture. Visit What is composting? for a list of items you can and can’t compost and tips for mixing it right.
Option B: Set up an indoor compost bin
If you don’t have a yard, or would prefer not to set up an outdoor bin, there are two options for indoor composting: vermicomposting and bokashi composting. Vermicomposting uses earthworms to convert food waste into compost. Bokashi composting involves fermenting food waste. If you don’t have an outdoor space to use your compost, use it for houseplants, give it to friends and family members, or contact a nearby community garden.
Option C: Mulch your grass and leaves
The best food for your lawn is grass clippings and leaves. When you mow your yard, mulch the grass clippings and leaves instead of collecting them for disposal. When done properly, the mulch will quickly decompose and return nutrients to the soil naturally. Visit What is composting? for mulching tips.
Option D: Send it off-site
If you suffer from the “ick factor,” you can take your food scraps to Kansas City’s Residential Composting Program at URBAVORE and they’ll compost it for you.
You can take lawn and garden refuse to a community collection center. Some yard waste drop-off facilities also offer residents opportunities to buy mulch or compost at low cost. Search RecycleSpot to find a center near you.
A number of communities offer curbside yard waste collection in addition to regular trash and recycling services. Search by community in RecycleSpot to see if your city is one of them (and call to verify). If you don’t have municipal leaf and brush curbside collection, look for a private company that collects and manages lawn refuse. RecycleSpot includes a list of many providers; contact them to inquire about costs and procedures.
For more information on recycling, visit RecycleSpot, the Kansas City metro area’s one-stop spot for recycling, reuse and waste reduction information.