Composting is the fifth tier of the Food Recovery Hierarchy. Even when all actions have been taken to use your wasted food, certain inedible parts will still remain and can be turned into compost to feed and nourish the soil. Like yard waste, food waste scraps can also be composted. Composting these wastes creates a product that can be used to help improve soils, grow the next generation of crops, and improve water quality. Nationally, the composting of food rose from 1.84 million tons in 2013 (5.0 percent of food) to 2.1 million tons (5.3 percent of food) in 2015. In 2015, Americans recovered over 67.7 million tons of MSW through recycling, and over 23 million tons through composting. This is 1.16 pounds per person per day for recycling and 0.4 pounds per person per day for composting. Food composting collection programs served over 3.8 million households in 2015.
Gardeners and farmers add compost to soil to improve its physical properties. They may even use compost instead of soil to grow plants. Mature compost is a stable material with a content called humus that is dark brown or black and has a soil-like, earthy smell.
Compost is created by:
· Combining organic wastes, such as wasted food, yard trimmings, and manures, in the right ratios into piles, rows, or vessels.
· Adding bulking agents such as wood chips, as necessary to accelerate the breakdown of organic materials; and
· Allowing the finished material to fully stabilize and mature through a curing process.
Mature compost is created using high temperatures to destroy pathogens and weed seeds that natural decomposition does not destroy.
There are a number of benefits to compost that not everyone is aware of. Some examples are listed below:
· Organic waste in landfills generates, methane, a potent greenhouse gas. By composting wasted food and other organics, methane emissions are significantly reduced.
· Compost reduces and in some cases eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers.
· Compost promotes higher yields of agricultural crops.
· Compost can help aid reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization efforts by improving contaminated, compacted, and marginal soils.
· Compost can be used to re-mediate soils contaminated by hazardous waste in a cost effective manner.
· Compost can capture and destroy 99.6 percent of industrial volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) in contaminated air.
· Compost can provide cost savings over conventional soil, water and air pollution remediation technologies, where applicable.
· Compost enhances water retention in soils.
· Compost provides carbon sequestration.
It is important to know the composting process before beginning composting or starting a composting program.
· Learn more about home or backyard composting.
· Find out more about composting for organizations, businesses and communities.
· Explore EPA’s Managing and Transforming Waste Streams Tool to identify over three dozen examples of real-life organics recycling programs and policies throughout the U.S. that communities can implement.
· Learn about compost-based storm-water best management practices.
· Locate a composting facility near you. Findacomposter.com is a free directory of composting facilities throughout North America, created and managed by Bio-Cycle magazine and sponsored by the Biodegradable Products Institute. You can use the searchable database to locate a composting facility near you, or add your composting facility to the database.
· Composting on Tribal Lands
o Use EPA’s Tribal Green Building Toolkit to integrate or improve on composting in your community. The Toolkit, made available to the public in 2015, is designed to help tribal officials, community members, planners, developers and architects develop and adopt building codes to support a variety of green building practices, including composting.
o Read about how Tribal composting nourishes land and tradition in EPA’s Tribal Waste Journal. The Journal contains case studies of composting projects in different Tribal communities.
· Learn more about composting practices, benefits, marketing, policy and regulations by referring to Bio-cycle, which is an organics recycling magazine, and the U.S. Composting Council, which posts free articles and reports on composting.
· The Institute for Self-Reliance’s July 2014 report, Growing Local Fertility: A Guide to Community Composting , describes successful community composting initiatives, their benefits, tips for replication, key start-up steps, and the need for private, public, and nonprofit sector support.
Composting Legal Basics for Businesses and Organizations
• Landfill Bans on Organics
• Some states have bans on landfill disposal of organic materials like wasted food. The U.S. Composting Council compiles information on state compost regulations.
• Bio-solids Composting and Use or Disposal of Sewage Sludge
• The Clean Water Act covers land application, surface disposal, and combustion of bio-solids sewage sludge as well as bio-solids composting. EPA published federal standards for the use or disposal of sewage sludge, which can be found in title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in part 503. Many of the standards in this rule may apply to municipal solid waste compost. More information can be found on EPA’s Bio-solids website. Source credit EPA website.