Home composting – a simple and ecological method

Due to global warming issues, it is becoming urgent to reduce the amount of garbage stacking in landfills. Organic materials represent about 35% of our household waste and are too often thrown away with the rest of our garbage. Home composting is an ecological practice that reduces garbage but also produces fertile material used for enriching soil and helping plant growth.


What is composting?

Composting is a simple, natural, economic and ecological method that transforms organic materials from the garden and the kitchen into a rich fertilizer. Organic waste is composted using micro-organisms, insects and worms and is processed within four to twelve months.

Composting can be done in your garden or even on your balcony. Indeed, one square meter space is enough space to install your own composter. Apart from purchasing or fabricating a composter, composting does not involve any expense. It simply involves mixing brown materials (such as dead leaves, coffee grounds or rice) with green materials (such as grass, fruits or vegetables). Composting is therefore a practice accessible to all.

Why compost?

Each Quebecer produces on average 750 kg of waste per year, which represents a total of six million tons each year for the entire province. Most of the waste is stacked in landfills outside cities. These sites consist of mountains of garbage and reducing them should become a priority.

A quarter of our waste consists of organic matter. This represents about 200 kg per year for each Quebecer. When this waste is thrown away, it is stacked with the rest of the garbage in landfills. Compost is a rich and fertile material for plants and is often wasted. Composting reduces the size of our garbage bags and therefore lowers waste stacking in landfills. Moreover, composting helps decrease the costs associated with waste collection and CO2 emissions because it limits the garbage truck trips.

In addition, compost is a rich material which can be used as a natural fertilizer in your garden. It helps enrich soils, stimulates plant growth and respects the environment.

What to compost

All organic materials cannot be composted. Here are the garden and kitchen products that can be placed in the compost:

In the kitchen:
-Coffee grounds
-Tea leaves
-Fruits and vegetables (raw or cooked)
-Egg shells

In the garden:

-Plants, leaves and faded flowers
-The grass
-The wood chips

Some materials are however to be avoided, for example:

-Dairy products
-Diseased plants
-Plants treated with harmful products
-Oyster shells

Animal products can be source of harmful substances to humans, such as E. Coli or salmonella. Only high temperatures can destroy these pathogens. Large volume composting, i.e. industrial or local collection, use high temperature processes to makes sure that these bacteria are destroyed, which is not possible to do at home. That’s why animal products shouldn’t be placed in your compost.

Composting in Quebec

In cities, more and more districts offer organic waste collection. In Montreal for example, more than 410,000 accommodations have access to this service. The compost is then used for gardens or redistributed to Montrealers each fall.

There are also community composting sites where composters are installed in public places. There are eleven in Quebec. It is possible to find online if there is a composting site near you.

Some cities, such as Quebec City, even offer free composting trainings. It is also possible in some municipalities to obtain financial assistance for the purchase of a composter.

By Caroline Foucher

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