Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Adventures in Composting

Adventure #1: I took a tour of Penn State's composting and recycling facilities (see badge on left for proof!) Extraordinary to see the variety of sorting, recycling and composting that is going on, which diverts thousands of tons of material each year from the landfill (the whole operation is paid for several times over by the cost savings on landfill fees).  PSU has just started including bins for compostable material into all the dining facilities, and will be extending this initiative more widely.  Compostable waste is collected daily in bags which are also compostable - made of cornstarch and cellulose. It then goes (still in the bags) to huge linear heaps (I think they are called "windrows" - I saw three or four, each easily a hundred feet long) where it is mixed with sawdust and turned several times over a several-week composting period. The heaps run at a high enough temperature to digest all the food waste, even cooked foods and meats.  The final product is screened mechanically and then goes to PSU landscaping.

Adventure #2: For me, this is just an adventure in reading - but for the two students who took it, it was a whole lot more than that.  An entry in the blog of the AASHE (American Association for Sustainability in Higher Education) describes the journey of two students who brought about a major change in their school's waste management policy.  Very refreshing to read about people moving from words to action in this way.

Adventure #3: Installed a compost tumbler in the garage.  (We'll see whether that is the optimal location - it makes unloading kitchen scraps into it very easy, and of course it keeps the temperature high; I'm trying to persuade myself that the "organic" smell in the garage is a pleasant plus, but the clouds of gnats every time I open the tumbler certainly are not.  If things get too bad, the tumbler will have to move outside.)   I grew up in a family that carefully composted kitchen scraps and it feels right  to be doing that again (not to mention making me much more aware of the part of our waste stream that can't be composted or recycled).


Frotastic said...

Can you describe your compost tumbler a bit more? I'm reluctant to make a compost pile in the back yard, but also reluctant to invest in something that takes a lot of maintenance.
Do you use worms at all in your composer?

John Roe said...

The link in the post shows a picture of the tumbler. It came flat-packed, but was easy to assemble once I figured out that the instructions are for two different models, and not all apply to the one I bought. We keep a little container for vegetable scraps on the kitchen counter, and empty into the tumbler each day, turning once to mix stuff up. No worms - but plenty of insects! After keeping the tumbler in the garage for a while, we decided we had to move it outside because it was doing too got a job of boosting the fruit fly population in our house.