Governor McCrory proclamation encourages people to compost food, yard waste

Thursday, May 5, 2016 - 12:00 am

It’s impressive what we could accomplish if everyone decided to compost our uneaten food scraps and our dead leaves, twigs and branches instead of throwing them away.

Consider this: between 20 percent and 30 percent of the waste that winds up in the landfill are food scraps and yard waste.

So just what happens when we compost food scraps and yard waste?

Just ask North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who proclaimed May 1-7 as Composting Awareness Week in the Tar Heel State. (See the governor’s proclamation here).

“Composting is an effective form of waste reduction that reduces North Carolina’s dependence on landfill disposal,” McCrory states in the proclamation issued to encourage more people to try composting their waste. “Composting converts these materials into a nutrient-rich soil amendment that improves soil fertility, productivity and water quality and reduces stormwater runoff and soil erosion.”

The good news is these days more people than ever are learning about the benefits of composting, which is the controlled biological decomposition of organic material in an environment with oxygen that generates enough heat to reduce the number of possible pathogens in initial feedstocks, says Jorge Montezuma, the state’s organics recycling specialist. Statewide, for example, 350 facilities employ hundreds of people who process more than 2 million tons of organic material each year.

“Many people realize there are numerous environmental and economic benefits to composting food, yard clippings and other wastes to feed the earth,” Montezuma says. “We hope that by drawing attention to composting, we’ll have more people wishing to take advantage of a simple and effective way to protect the environment.”

Montezuma and others in the state environmental agency frequently advise businesses and local governments on ways to compost. There are some simple ways you can compost at home, too.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends on its website (https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home) a few simple steps for people wishing to start composting in the backyard. Start by selecting a dry, shady spot near a water source as the spot for placing a composting pile or bin. Combine organic wastes, such as wasted food, manure or yard trimmings into piles, rows or vessels. Add wood chips to breakdown the organic materials. Then, allow the finished material to mature through a lengthy curing process, the EPA’s guidance states. Be sure to moisten dry materials as they are added.

“Once your compost pile is established,” the EPA’s guidance states. “Mix grass clippings and green waste into the pile and bury fruit and vegetable waste under 10 inches of compost material.”

You’ll know when your compost material is a dark, rich color that it’s ready to use. This can take anywhere from two months to two years. Businesses and many residents add compost to soil to help improve the health of crops and plants, Montezuma says.

Interested in knowing more about composting? Check out the state environmental agency’s website, http://deq.nc.gov/conservation/recycling/composting/composting-101/composting-basics#app.