Composting 101


is the process of recycling various organic materials (like food scraps, coffee grounds, and soiled paper products) into a nutrient-rich soil conditioner: compost. This is done by combining “greens”, “browns”, air, and water which decomposes over a period of months, creating a valuable soil amendment. In a backyard compost bin, you can collect all of your yard waste, or “browns” (grass clippings, fallen leaves, etc.) and your food scraps or “greens”. By composting you can increase your soil quality and reduce your carbon footprint!

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), organic material makes up 31% of household waste. Landfilling organic material, instead of composting it, creates methane, a greenhouse gas that is around 26 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This happens when organics are sealed into an anaerobic environment (without air) and slowly decompose. The waste product of anaerobic decomposers is methane. US landfills create so much methane that, if landfills were a country, it would be the third-largest greenhouse gas producing country in the world, behind only the US and China! This is why it is important to compost organics!

Composting is easy and anyone can do it! All you need is…

  1. A compost bin- make your own or buy one!
  2. Throw your food scraps and yard waste in your bin
  3. Water your compost pile every once in a while
  4. Turn or mix the pile with a shovel occasionally

Throughout the country, solid waste departments are adopting source separated organics (SSO) collection into their solid waste programs. As Otter Tail County begins to pilot a SSO collection program, folks want to know how they can compost now so here are some DIY and store-bought options!

First, some do-it-yourself bin designs if you feel like building your own.

There are pro’s and con’s to each design but depending on your handy-skills, budget, and living situation, there is a bin for you!

If store-bought is more your style, here are some options:

  1. Outdoor compost bin
  2. Indoor compost bin
  3. Worm compost bin

Visit the MPCA’s site for more info!

Here are some tips to get started! Happy composting!

Also see our page on Food Waste

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