It's been a BUSY summer and I just realized I haven't posted in almost a month! Here is a repost of one of my Greene Westford columns from Westford Patch.
Earth Machine Composter use at the Westford Road Race this past spring
When I was a child, my grandparents always had a wire stand with a small bag attached to it on their counter. Kitchen scraps would go in and then be taken to the large garden out back. I really never thought about it much until years later. They were composting! To my grandparents it made total sense. Why throw out useful material when it was so good for their garden.
According to Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, “[f]ood scraps account for more than 800,000 tons of the waste generated each year in Massachusetts.” Some of this is good food that goes bad. This waste can be reduced by watching how much you buy. You can save money in the process.
Some of this cannot be eaten – melon rinds, vegetable ends, coffee grinds and the like. These items can be composted into rich food for your garden. If you aren’t a gardener, you still might care to reduce this waste. Why? Westford pays for each ton of trash that is hauled away. Compostable items are heavy! So the more you throw into your trash barrel, the more it costs the town.
The whole process can seem confusing and daunting. It really isn’t. Composting is easier than you think. Composting will happen regardless of your efforts, or lack thereof. Organic materials rot!
There is no single correct way to compost. A very quick way to get started is to purchase an Earth Machine Composter from the Westford Recycling Commission for $45. This same composter retails for well over $100. If you don't live in Westford, check with your town. Quite a few of them offer these, especially if they are paying for any of your trash disposal.
Start throwing your compostable items in and Voila! Compost! Or at the very least a lot less trash. You could turn the compost, but it’s really not necessary. You could make sure you have the right ratio of “brown” to “green” materials, but again, not absolutely necessary. Roughly equal parts of brown and green materials will give you the optimal ratio. You should keep the pile moist but not soggy. Add some water when you think of it.
I don’t really pay attention to my compost bin. Sad to say I did not inherit my family’s green thumb, so I am not terribly concerned with getting usable compost at the end. To me, if I am reducing my trash I am happy. After 3 years, my Earth Machine is pretty much always half full no matter how much I put into it.
With any big change, figuring out a system that will work for you is key. Most likely you will need someplace to gather your scraps in the kitchen, then transfer them to your yard composter. I generally use a porcelain crock that sits on my counter. When it fills (which for me is pretty quickly) I take it out back to dump it. Sometimes in the winter months I have a secondary stage. I keep a 5 gallon pail out my back door. The counter-top composter gets dumped into the 5 gallon pail, then the 5 gallon pails goes to the yard composter less frequently
Here are some items that CAN go into your composter:
Fruit and Vegetable scraps – melon rinds, banana peels, apple cores, carrot tops...
Coffee grounds (include the paper filter)
Shredded newspaper or cardboard
Paper napkins or paper towels (depending on what is on them)