Composting is proof there's life after death
A great lesson in both spirituality and earth-based science is that there is no such thing as waste. As permaculture musician Charlie Mgee sings, “it’s just stuff in the wrong place”! In this earthly organic realm, fertility arises from decay. Life, death, decay and regeneration are all part of the transformative cycle of life.
Compost is the circle of life...composting is creating fertility out of decay. It is a practical way to take responsibility for our waste, returning it to the cycle and making not only a highly valuable additive to grow nutrient dense food, but also giving back to the soil in which we depend on.
Why is it important?
We need to look after our top-soil...this is where most of the Earth’s biological soil activity occurs, with the highest concentration of organic matter and microorganisms. Humus is the organic component of soil (gardeners create it as compost) and the humus-sphere is made up of the stable, long-lasting remnants of decaying organic material. Essentially, we mine the nutrients here, through growing food, often harvested and transported elsewhere.
If we do not return to the Earth in which we take, we deplete the Earth’s soil fertility.
Soil degradation is increasing globally at a rate of 12 to 25 million acres annually and it is lost ten times faster than it is being replaced on agricultural land. It is estimated that in the last 50 years, global soils have lost 100 billion tons of carbon (in the form of carbon dioxide) to the atmosphere and erosion caused by human activity which is 10 times higher than that of natural processes.
- Approx 25,000 tonnes of organics (garden and food) waste is collected by the Cairns council annually at the kerbside
- That is potentially 22,500 tonnes of methane released into the air if it is not composted.
- Every tonne of food sent to landfill and not composted, releases to the air 0.9 tonnes of methane
- Australians throw away 4.45 million tonnes of food every year, that’s 936 kg per ‘household
- 1/4 of the food purchased goes to landfill
- Australian landfills contain close to 50% organic matter, primarily food and garden waste
“A mere 2% increase in the carbon content of the planet's soil could offset 100% of all greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere” - Dr. Rattan Lal, Ohio State Soil Scientist.
Every household practices composting to apply to their garden and grows their food, creating a healthy cycle at their doorstep. Beyond this, all refuse (dump) sites convert rotting organic waste to valuable compost to provide to local farmlands! Check out Zero Waste Australia for their City to Soil, Groundswell project for some inspiration of what residents and councils working together can achieve.
You can do it - from garbage to garden!
Anything once living can be transformed into nutrient-rich soil amendment called compost...
Wasted food is wasted nutrients! Composting recycles the nutrients in the food we haven't eaten to put back into the soil in the form of humus by soil organisms that break down plant and vegetable matter into dark brown powdering material often called ‘black gold’ by gardeners. This turns garden and household waste into a valuable soil conditioner, which improves the physical qualities and fertility, resulting in greater vitality and better yield - ultimately more nutritious food.
What is composting exactly?
It’s a verb - doing or enabling the process of converting raw materials into compost by a succession of decomposing organisms - beginning with microbes, bacteria and fungi, which then create the conditions suited to centipedes and earthworms.
It is a technique of layering the ingredients in the right ration of carbon and nitrogen = 30:1 with enough water and dimensions to generate heat to accelerate the decomposition. Hot composting is turning the pile and encouraging up to 60 degrees of heat to kill pathogens and weed seeds and cold composting is layering the ingredients and letting it rest over time to decompose slowing.
There is a vast amount of information available through searches on the web (try edible landscaping cairns) to get the ‘how to’ information to create your own compost with success.
As with everything, diversity is key, so look to some of these options for types of composting or recycling of food wastes to create fertility:
- Hot and cold compost piles
- Banana Circle compost pits
- Compost hot water systems
- Worm farms
- Bokashi (fermented bio fertiliser and trench planting)
- Chicken Tractors
- Weed and compost teas
- Sheet mulching
No matter what technique you choose to suit your lifestyle and space, here are some strategies that work for them all!
- Source separate in your kitchen!
- Dedicate a box to store all paper and cardboard waste and a container for food scraps
- Source separate in your garden!
- Design an area for your fertility zone to dedicate to activities involving recycling for fertility, including storage areas or particular bays for carbon materials like dry leaves, twigs, small clippings, wood ash, straw, dry grass, bark etc
- Set a time!
- Make a goal/intention to recycle your waste and plan for its use/product and book (dedicate) a regular time e.g an hour or so during your week to compost
- Celebrate! Your dedication and gains of working with the cycles of life and death are a positive way to be involved in caring for the earth
● Visit www.compostweek.com.au to see what’s happening during International Compost Awareness Week Australia!
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