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[GreenYes] Re: NPR Story on Proposed Boston 'indoor' Composting Facility

To all:

I've been composting continuously in probably a dozen backyards since I was a student at the University of Oregon in the 1960s.  It's amusing to read lists of all these things that "can't be composted," because I put all of these and more into my backyard pile.  "More" includes food paper; worn-out clothing made of cotton, wool, rayon, linen, and tensel; occasional dead animal bodies (pets get a decent burial, but dead birds and rare dead rodents get composted); spoiled meat; floor sweepings; tissue paper, etc.  I produce about two cubic yards of finished humus per year, but probably put twenty or more times that volume into the system.  Most of the volume is cut-up weeds, shrubbery, and spent food plants that I raise in my garden soil, which gets better and easier to work every year I add finished compost to it.  

I don't use any mechanical assists, bins, or enclosures, either.  The cut-up sticks from shrubbery give the pile enough structure to go about four to five feet high before I start a new one by peeling off the the top layer of the old one.  This top layer contains most of the worms and insect decomposers, so they keep right on actively working up as the new pile increases in stature.  The weekly offering (ten to twenty pounds of wet stuff) gets buried in the center of the pile under at least a foot of fresh or partly decomposed plant clippings that I store in old rigid plastic curbside collection boxes until needed.  I make the pile big enough to provide about a foot of plant debris buffer on the outside edges, too.  All that plant debris surrounding the putrescible material does a very good job of controlling odors, which are what attract unwanted critters.

We don't have bears to worry about in our urban area, but we do have raccoons.  So far no trouble from them, either.  The compost critters do the work of digestion quite rapidly, usually within a week or so.  There are only a few days when fresh food in the most active area might interest scavenger animals; after that, it's rotted away far beyond what they find interesting even if they could get to it.

Fats and oils digest in compost just fine, but anything in excess will overload the system.  Turkey bones are somewhat resistant, but eventually break down.  

Oil-based plastics are quite resistant, but do show evidence of degradation such as browning.  I try to keep plastics and oil-based textiles out of the piles, but some food paper has a very fine film of plastic on it, and these bits have to be picked out after the paper is gone.  Once I composted an expensive wool suit that got moth holes in the fabric; the only thing left after half a year was some nylon thread used in the seams!

I greatly prefer this system to curbside collection of green bins.  No collection times to worry about, no green bin to clutter the front of the house.  The exercise is good for my body and mind, sort of meditative.  

The neighborhood cats keep rodents suppressed.  

Dan Knapp
Urban Ore, Inc., a reuse and recycling business in Berkeley, California since 1980
On Mar 28, 2008, at 7:38 PM, Nancy Poh wrote:

Thanks for the advise.  I read in the local newspaper that a team of students have successfully reduce the composting time to 15 days by using cooking oil (0.5%) as a catalyst.  They call it the Organic Dome Aeration Technology.  The process reduced food waste up to 77%.

I discovered a website that provided a list of stuff that you can or cannot compost.  Here is an extracted list for leftover food:

Can I compost....

Baked Beans     No     read more â??
Meat     No     read more â??
Fish     No     read more â??
Fat     No     read more â??
Cooking oil     No     read more â??
Pasta     No     read more â??
Bread     No     read more â??
Biscuits     No     read more â??
Cake     No     read more â??

You can read their reasons for not using these leftovers at the following link:


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