Thursday, January 23, 2014

Go Green with Composting

A bucketful of kitchen waste
My objective in writing this blog post is to encourage people in Jamaica, who are not already composting kitchen and garden waste to start, and for those who are already doing so to encourage others.
When a leaf drops from a tree in a forest, it slowly decomposes releasing nutrients that are re-used by the tree. One aim of composting is to allow waste organic matter to break down in the same way, naturally, producing humus which is a good soil conditioner. In the end, organic matter breaks down to carbon dioxide, water and minerals. A second aim of composting is to get rid of unwanted vegetable matter, including kitchen and
Kitchen waste covered with dry leaves
garden waste, at source, without burning it or having it taken away by a truck. It seems to me to be an unnecessary use of scarce resources in Jamaica to pay people to carry, in a gas-guzzling truck, material which in 6 months of composting would be reduced to one hundredth of its original weight and volume.
Much has been written about composting, explaining methods which can be used if you live in an apartment or if you have a small or a big yard. My question is, why don’t people compost more? Some people think it is a complicated process, but you do not need a big yard space, or a purpose built unit. You can collect the kitchen waste in a
Finished compost  (ackee seeds need to be taken out!)
covered container such as a bucket until it is convenient to take it to the compost heap. This can be as simple as a bucket-full of kitchen waste covered over with dry leaves or grass clippings. The next bucket-full is put on top of the dry leaves, and more leaves are put on top of that. After about 3 months, that pile can be left to decompose and a new pile started. If you turn the old pile, so that the fresher material is at the bottom and the more decomposed material is on top, it will break down more quickly. After about 6 months, all that is left is the humus, which you can mix with soil for your potted plants or in your garden beds.   
     When the same material ends up in a landfill or a garbage dump, it is mixed up with all sorts of stuff such as metals, glass and plastics, which do not break down, so it is of no use to anybody.
My preferred method is to have a countersunk heap, in a hole about 1 foot deep by 3 ft square, which can be covered with soil when it is finished.  Given the rocky terrain in my yard, that is not an option.
If you don't have a compost heap, try it nuh!

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