Chicago Recycling Coalition
Composting is the controlled process of decomposition of organic waste. Or in plainer language: everything alive eventually rots, but by composting, you help the process. Composting is rotting, but with an element of intervention, or control.
Compost, also called humus, is organic waste that is broken down into elements that plants can use for food. These nutrients need to be constantly replenished to keep soil healthy. Compost is a natural fertilizer that can be used instead of chemical products. The physical structure of compost also improves soil quality. It only makes sense to return the nutrients trapped in organic waste to the earth rather than permanently sealing them off in landfills.
Most of the decomposition process happens on a microbial level, by organisms that are too small to be seen by the naked eye. These many species of bacteria and fungi break down the organic material until it is in a form where basic nutrients can be utilized by plants. These bugs ingest, digest, and excrete like all other living creatures. They need food that provides energy (carbon-rich materials) and protein (nitrogen-rich materials), water for hydration, and air (oxygen) to breath.
When they finish their processing, what was once a large volume of miscellaneous material is transformed into a much smaller amount of rich brown, sweet-smelling humus. This is an oversimplified but accurate explanation of the complex chemical and biological processes that occur during composting.
The Composter Composts the Compost The word compost comes from the Latin, "to bring together," and this etymology describes the subtle difference between 'rotting' and 'composting.' Discussions of compost sometimes sound circular, since the word is used in multiple grammatical forms. "To compost" (verb) means to perform the process. "Compost" (noun) is the end result, the material produced by the process. Someone who composts to produce compost is a composter.
"My whole life has been spent waiting for an epiphany, a manifestation of God's presence, the kind of transcendent, magical experience that lets you see your place in the big picture. And that is what I had with my first compost heap." -Bette Midler
Composting Table of Contents
Why Should You Compost? - If you’re a gardener and you don’t compost, you’re missing out! Compost is an organic soil fertilizer that restores depleted nutrients and reduces the amount of synthetic fertilizers needed to maintain soil. . .
How to Compost- In our experience, there are two main reasons that people don’t take up composting. One is that people feel daunted by the “complexity” of the subject. Composting is “scientific,” and seems too difficult to “master.” The second reason is the “ick factor.” People are simply squeamish about handling their wet garbage. . .
Vermicomposting- Vermicomposting is a special type of composting, using worms to do the work. It’s ideal for composting food wastes, because worms can process a large amount of food waste in a small area. . . .
Techniques and Troubleshooting- The microorganisms that are responsible for the decomposition process need both nitrogen and carbon, known as 'greens' and 'browns.' These are the building blocks of food. . . .
Safety concerns- Compost piles have the same ability to transfer harmful or disease-causing microorganisms as soil does. When working with compost, you should use the same precautions you do when gardening – for example, wear gloves. . . .
Chicago Educational Resources- If you feel the need of some professional assistance, the Garfield Park Conservatory Demonstration Garden is the best place to see working compost bins, including a large vermicomposting system. The City of Chicago also offers composting workshops at North Park Village, where simple enclosure bins are available for a nominal fee. . . .