Why Composting is Important (and Some Disadvantages of Composting)

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Composting has significant environmental benefits. But there are also disadvantages of composting that you’ll need to overcome to hit pay dirt.

In this post we’ll cover some of the basics you need to start composting. We’ll also share some of the dirty little secrets of composting, plus we’ll stop making terrible puns about dirt (well, probably).

What is Composting?

As you move through your day, more likely than not, you create food waste. In fact, it’s almost impossible to eat without ending up with some scraps leftover. You may have the peel of an orange or the stem of a vegetable on your counter after you cook breakfast. And that’s only one meal of your day!

Composting is important because it is basically nature’s recycling process (without any of the negative aspects of recycling). It allows you to dispose of these food scraps in a way that benefits the environment. Simply put, composting is the practice of recycling your food scraps and other organic waste into a fertilizer that can be used in soil. 

Typically people compost by collecting food scraps and storing them in your freezer to bring them to your city’s composting program. But not all local governments offer that option. If you live in a truly enlightened town or city, maybe its included as a curbside service.

You can also pay a company to collect your compost on a regular basis, like every week.

Or you can do it yourself. If you do it yourself, you’ll need some gear and knowledge to get started, but overall, composting is a simple process once you give it a try!

Why is Composting Good for the Environment?

Why composting is good for the environment includes soil health
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Composting is a worthwhile habit to incorporate into your daily routine, and it has significant environmental benefits! As people become more familiar with global warming, they often wonder what they can do to curb the effects of the climate crisis.

Composting is a tangible, real step that every household can take to fight global warming. Composting is listed as one of the top 100 solutions to global warming by Project Drawdown, a list of viable solutions the world can institute today to avoid a climate disaster.

Here’s how composting is an important step you can take to reduce your environmental footprint:

  • Reduces Landfill Waste: Did you know that food scraps and garden waste make up 28% of what we throw away at home? On average, we estimate you can divert up to 600 pounds of waste from the landfill or incineration. By composting at home, you’re sending less waste to a landfill while making something that can be of use – nutrient rich soil!

  • Revitalizes Soil and Enriches Crops: The process of composting creates vital nutrients that plants need such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Many farms use synthetic fertilizers which are full of chemicals and harmful ingredients that end up stripping nutrients from our food and sending toxic substances into our food sources. Compost can replace these fertilizers if conducted on a large enough scale, which is a win for everyone!

  • Cuts Methane Emissions: Many people don’t realize this, but organic waste decays differently than inorganic waste, so when the two are both sitting in a landfill together, methane gas and CO2 are created. Both of these emissions are harmful greenhouse gases, but methane is about 28-36 times more damaging in terms of trapping heat in the atmosphere, meaning it’s even worse than CO2, by a long shot. As a species, we need to do all we can to reduce methane created by humans, and landfills are the third-largest culprit of human methane generation.

  • Conserves Water: When organic matter is added to soil, the soil’s ability to retain water increases. Producers then need less water to produce healthy crops. In the U.S., the agriculture industry can be thanked for about 80% of the country’s water usage. We have already seen the devastating effects draughts can have on communities and crop yield. Through composting, we are building a future that needs less water AND uses less water.

Now you can see why composting is important for the Earth. But as we alluded to earlier, there are some disadvantages of introducing composting into your life.

Disadvantages of Composting

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The power of composting is clear. If we all add it into our routine each day, we can have a massive impact and become a collective force for good. However, nothing comes without a cost. Composting isn’t all fun and games; it takes some work and has a learning curve. Here are some of the biggest disadvantages of composting:

  • Requires Upfront Investment: If you’re composting at home, you’ll need to invest in a compost bin and other equipment before you can get started. While this equipment has an upfront cost, if you’re using the compost in your own garden, these costs will be quickly covered by saving money on fertilizer. Additionally, the cost of a climate crisis is much more expensive than composting equipment, so it’s worth it in the long run!

  • Can be Gross: Dealing with organic matter is dirty. Not only can it attract bugs and other pests, but it can also start to smell if not cared for properly. Some beginners even struggle with mold growing before they get the hang of composting. These are solvable issues and often dissipate once people learn how to properly compost at home. 
    • Some ways you can mitigate the grossness factor, is be more meticulous about what you put into your compost bin. No meats, dairy, or fats! Also, some organic material will take longer to breakdown, such as egg shells and avocado skins. You can choose to avoid these “ingredients” and throw them in the trash. You will then have mostly soil in your bin at the end of the season.

  • Takes Time and Work: Your compost bin will need to be monitored, and the compost will need to be moved periodically, so it’s not an effortless endeavor. Just like incorporating other low-waste activities into your life, composting will be an adjustment. Once you’re used to it, it can fit nicely into your life and quickly become a part of your daily routine.

Good things take time and effort, and composting is no different. As you learn how to compost and what works best for you, there will likely be some growing pains. But we are confident you will enjoy and feel good about the environmental benefits of composting once you get rolling.

Does Composting Attract Rats?

Rats can be attracted to compost piles, but not this graffiti rat
Photo by Taton Moïse on Unsplash

When dealing with waste, especially organic waste, things can get gross. As discussed above, composting can bring about mold and smells that attract pests and animals. These smells can even attract rats because they tend to be drawn toward decaying organic matter, which is exactly what compost is!

Rodents will have a special love for your compost pile in the winter because it can offer them much-needed nutrients and provide warmth in the cold.

Here are some tips to handle this situation:

  1. You can talk to your neighbors, assuming you have some that compost, and ask if they have had any issues with rodents or rats in their compost bin. When we moved to a new house, we could have saved ourselves some trouble by asking. After rats started to sniffing around, our neighbors shared that they had invaded the previous owner’s compost too.
  2. You should avoid putting meat, bones, oils, dairy, and fats in your compost bin in general. If you ignore this advice, you’ll increase your chances of rodents visiting your back yard.
  3. Finally, if you really want to avoid vermin, get a compost container that is lifted off the ground, you’re much more likely to avoid issues with these pesky rodents! That said, our experience is that tumbler-style compost bins are less effective, require more attention, and are prone to stinky sludgy compost.

Progress is Progress

You’re not going to be the poster child of composting as soon as you start incorporating it into your household routine. However, it will also remind you how integrated natural processes are with one another and how the smallest efforts can have a major impact.

At the end of the day, it’s truly amazing how your kitchen waste and food scraps can help save the planet. And be turned into something you can use to nourish your garden!

The hardest part is getting started; once you take the plunge, you’ll be so happy you did – and the earth will be, too!