On November 15, 2012, nationally observed as America Recycles Day, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that food is now the single largest type of waste going to America’s municipal landfills and incinerators. More than 33 million tons of food is wasted each year. When food is discarded in landfills, it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Americans throw away up to 40 percent of their food, an average of 20 pounds per person a month. Much of this wasted food is actually surplus, wholesome and edible food that could have helped those in need. Food waste makes up about 12% of what is thrown away.
Composting is nature’s way of recycling. Composting converts organic materials, including food scraps (like fruits and vegetables) and yard waste trimmings (like leaves, grass and small tree branches) into a dark, earthy-smelling soil conditioner, thereby preserving valuable nutrient-rich organic resources. Additionally, composting can save money by lowering disposal costs and replacing store-bought fertilizers. Compost also saves water by helping the soil hold moisture, reducing water runoff . Composting can make a significant contribution to achieving waste reduction goals, especially if organic waste comprises a large proportion of your waste stream.
If you are interested in developing an onsite composting bin, first check with your local community or county waste and recycling coordinator to identify any restrictions on outdoor composting. A properly constructed compost pile is needed to minimize nuisances (such as odors) and achieve a quality finished compost.
Composting is easy with some basic guidelines. To learn more about backyard composting and tips for success, download the Compost Guidelines and watch SWANCC’s composting video to the right.
University of Illinois Extension
University of Illinois Extension is the outreach effort of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, offering educational programs to residents of all of Illinois’ 102 counties – and far beyond. Through learning partnerships that put knowledge to work, U of I Extension’s programs are aimed at making life better, healthier, safer and more profitable for individuals and their communities.
Cornell Cooperative Extension
The Cornell Cooperative Extension puts research into practice by providing high value educational programs and university- backed resources that help solve real-life problems, transforming and improving New York families, farms, businesses and communities. Compost: Truth or Consequences video available.
U.S. Composting Council
The U.S. Composting Council is involved in research, training, public education, composting and standards, expansion of compost markets and the enlistment of public support.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Information regarding composting, along with the Greenscaping Your Lawn and Garden guide (#530-K-03-002).
Home Composting Made Easy
Step by step instructions, products and resources for backyard composting
How to Compost
Composting Inside and Out
By Urban Worm Girl
Let It Rot: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting
by Stu Campbell
Worms Eat My Garbage
by Mary Applehoff
Flowerfi eld Enterprises, LLC
Angelic Organics Learning Center
Caledonia and Chicago
(815) 389-8455 or (773) 288-5462
Chicago Botanic Garden
Have a composting question?
Call weekdays (847) 818-2901
or (847) 298-3502
Growing Power Urban Farm
(414) 527-1546 or (773) 486-6005
Can O’Worms worm bin