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Composting: What, Where and How to Do It

Composting is one way to cut back on food waste and turn your scraps into “black gold” that will enrich your garden.

A fungi and compost
Compost can be a solution for organic waste

Source: Alvin Engler [13]

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Indonesia produces an estimated 175 million tons of waste—the equivalent of three times the height of Gelora Bung Karno Stadium [1].

Interestingly, 60% of this waste is entirely made up of food scraps. As a matter of fact, Indonesia is the second-biggest producer of food waste in the world [2]. There are many solutions to reduce food waste, one of which is composting.


Why composting

Plants in the garden
About 80 to 90 percent of all microorganisms found in compost piles are bacteria

Source: Markus Spiske [14]

Even though many people have heard of composting, some still feel reluctant to try it out, perhaps due to common misconceptions that quickly label composting as too complicated, too smelly, and too messy.

In reality, composting is a relatively simple process, which can be done at home, both indoors and outdoors. More importantly, it’s highly effective in not only reducing organic waste but also transforms our throwaways into a rich, nourishing soil amendment (for free!) [3,4].


What to compost

Colorful vegetables and fruits
Compost material is a combination of carbon, nitrogen, and water

Source: Ella Olsson [15]

There are three main ingredients used in composting: green materials (mostly carbon), brown materials (mostly nitrogen), and water [5].

Green materials include food scraps, grass trimmings, coffee grounds and animal manures (not from dogs or cats), and fresh plants. In contrast, brown materials are dry materials, such as twigs, hay, shredded branches, cardboard, and newspapers [6].

Another key to making successful compost is to avoid high-acid food, such as citrus fruits, which can kill good bacteria that help with the composting process [7]. Similarly, meat and dairy products should be avoided at all costs to prevent rodents and unwanted odor [8].

The final ingredient is water so there is moisture to help break down the organic matter [5].

How to compost

Compost and a shovel
Good air and water circulation will produce good compost

Source: Neslihan Gunaydin [16]

1. Separate your waste

Whether it’s for composting or not, it’s highly recommended to separate our inorganic and organic waste to prevent contamination and leakage in the long-run [9]. If composting your goal, then you can take it up a notch and separate your organic waste based on green and brown materials.

2. Choose a place to make your compost

Next, you need to find a place to make your compost, and the ideal place is outdoors, in a well-drained spot. You can either make your compost in a hole in the ground or in a container and the size can be adjusted according to the amount of organic waste you or your family produces [10].

If you are using a container, it needs small holes in the bottom and sides to let air in and water out. A lid is also highly recommended to prevent flies, rats, or other pests, and so it stays dry during heavy rains.

3. Make the compost mix

This is where you will combine both green and brown materials. For best results, use a 3:1 ratio of green to brown materials and make it into layers because this speeds up the decomposition [11].

It can be quite tricky at first but if the compost pile looks too wet and smells, add more brown materials. By contrast, if it looks too dry, add more green materials and water to make it slightly moist.

Another point to remember: feed your pile regularly with new organic material and provide it with oxygen once a week by turning it with a garden fork.

4. Use it

Compost can take a few weeks or a few months to be ready, depending on what you put in, and the weather [10].

Once your compost looks dark, crumbly, and has a pleasant, earthy smell, use it like any fertilizer anywhere the soil needs nutrients.

Compost has shown many benefits. In America, there are 800 to 1000 composting facilities that act as an alternative to landfills [12]. This shows that the practice of compost is very helpful for our environment. Isn't that was our duty to protect the environment?


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