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Save the planet by composting your kitchen waste. Here’s how

The howling on social media has been raging since the state mandated that food waste can’t end up in trash bound for landfill. But here’s a confession from a longtime composter: Throwing food waste into a separate kitchen bin is a snap actually feels good because it’s so easy to make the world a better place.

Look, our landfills are getting full, and organic materials like kitchen scraps and yard waste make up about 50% of the state’s landfill waste, according to CalRecycle, and generate enough global-warming methane gas to make landfills California’s third-largest source of methane.

All these organic materials causing problems in our landfills are actually misunderstood asset that can easily be modified compost – the miracle soil conditioner that rebuilds our depleted soils while nourishing our plants. All we have to do is scrape our plates into a compost bin instead of the trash can.

“Nearly 40% to 50% of the trash we collect from curbside is compostable,” said Michael Martinez, founder of LA Compost. “We need to stop seeing food waste as garbage and redefine our vocabulary to see it as a resource, something that needs to be transformed and reinvested back into the land.”

That’s the goal behind the portion of Senate Law 1383, which went into effect Jan. 1, that requires local jurisdictions to create a way for households to separate food and garden waste from landfill waste and use it instead to make compost, mulch, or biofuel to use. The state left enforcement of the law to California’s more than 400 local governments, and each jurisdiction is developing its own rules for dealing with food waste (about a quarter already have programs, according to CalRecycle spokeswoman Maria West).

The goal is to divert 75% of organic waste disposal from landfills by 2025 — an ambitious goal considering some jurisdictions like Long Beach and the City of Los Angeles are still trying to get their programs to work. (According to spokeswoman Heather Johnson, LA Sanitation employees will present their implementation plan to the City Council on February 3.)

So here’s a suggestion: Segregating our food waste is a win-win for everyone who loves to breathe and eat food, so even if your jurisdiction is still drafting its program, why not start the practice? now By becoming a composter?

If you have a garden, you can easily create a compost heap. Send items you don’t want to include, like bones or moldy cheese, to professional waste handlers and use the rest of your household waste to create great food and free Soil conditioner for your garden. no yard? No problem! Consider a small space option like bokashi or vermicomposting (see sidebar) or connect with a co-op to do it for you.

Get composting


A guide to everything you need to know to get rid of those table scraps.

What you need

1. Lockable containers are crucial for separating your food waste. There are countless compost bins for $25 to $50 — many of them pretty enough to sit on your kitchen counter. It should have a tight-fitting lid to stop odors and deter pests, and be large enough to hold a few days’ leftovers. (Most jurisdictions now offer free or low-cost bins.)

2. garden forks are a must for turning compost piles, an important step in keeping ingredients aerated and pests at bay. (A shovel will work in a pinch.)

3. “Green” materials with high nitrogen content help to stimulate the decomposition of a compost heap. LA soil scientist and compost consultant Lynn Fang recommends keeping a good supply of these materials on hand so the microbes can do their job of breaking down the materials. This includes grass clippings (mixed well with other materials to keep them from compacting), coffee grounds, brewery waste (the leftover grains from beer production), and aged manure (left in the sun for at least three weeks) from cows, horses, and chickens that aren’t have been treated with steroids, antibiotics or other chemicals.

4. wood chips Those made from untreated wood are useful carbon or “brown” ingredients that are good for absorbing odors, keeping the pile aerated and covering newly added food waste, Fang said. You can request free loads of wood chips from local tree trimmers or sign up for free delivery at chipdrop.com. (Note: One shipment can contain up to 20 yards of woodchips, an amount that can easily cover a driveway, so talk to neighbors and friends about sharing. The site also gives you a chance to network with others who are either Want wood chips or have something to share.) Fang said LA Sanitation or other cities have free mulch pickup locations if you want a smaller amount of chips. Other “brown” options include shredded cardboard, dried leaves, straw, or hay, all of which should be mixed well with other items to keep them from bunching up and impeding airflow.

5. Space – preferably in a shaded area – to set up a compost heap, tumbler or heap.

In the helpful but not essential category is a compost thermometer to keep an eye on the internal temperature of your compost (which is a must if you try your hand at hot composting).

Creating a compost heap

Compost needs four main components: water, oxygen, nitrogen – from “green” items like fruit and vegetable waste, grass clippings, tea leaves and egg shells – and carbon – from “brown” items like dead leaves, shredded newspaper and sawdust (from untreated wood). A compost pile should be damp, like a squeezed sponge, but not dripping, and the more times you turn it over and give it oxygen, the faster the microbes can break down the materials into an earthy-smelling, chocolate-brown additive in your soil. You don’t have to rotate it at all, but it takes a lot longer for all the materials to decompose.

Illustration of a woman holding a basket with fruits and plants

(Kelly Malka / For the Times)

The instructions here are for the casual composter who doesn’t use meat, dairy, or cooked foods. These items can be composted in hot heaps, Fang says, but that takes more effort and care.

How-to guides abound on the internet, like this one from LA Compost or master gardener Yvonne Savio’s website GardeninginLA. Here are Fang’s recommendations for creating a simple compost pile by layering multiple ingredients:

1. Start with a 3- to 6-inch layer of untreated wood chips or small broken branches at the bottom of a trash can or just on the ground. This helps absorb odors and allow air circulation.

2. Add a 3 inch layer of green or nitrogenous items such as B. Vegetable waste and eggshells.

3. Add a 2.5 cm layer of a high nitrogen activator such as B. liquid manure, brewing waste or coffee grounds. If you use grass clippings, be sure to mix them up with other items to keep them from compacting.

4. Add a 3 inch layer of brown or charcoal ingredients such as: B. Wood shavings, shredded newspaper or cardboard, straw or hay, pine needles, or dry leaves (mixed well with other ingredients to prevent matting).

5. Water these layers well so the stack is completely wet and when you have enough ingredients repeat the same layering process and water again to ensure all the ingredients get wet.

6. Turn the stack monthly by forking the ingredients from the bottom of the stack up. If you add leftovers, cover them with wood shavings or another brown material to absorb odors and deter pests, but try to keep an even balance of green and brown and make sure the pile stays moist. If the pile gets too dry, decomposition slows and ants and other pests are more likely to be attracted. Add more vegetables and water and toss. If the pile starts to smell or gets too wet, add more brown carbon material and mix well.

7. Once you’ve filled a trash can, let it “boil” for a few months (a monthly turn will speed up the process) and create a second trash can or pile nearby so you always have a place to add your food scraps.

use compost

If you turn it monthly, the compost can be ready in three to six months. Finished compost has a pleasant earthy odor and a dark brown color like coffee grounds. You shouldn’t be able to make out the ingredients, but if you find large chunks, simply place them on the new stack to break them down further.

Use your compost as a soil amendment by mixing it into your garden beds or containers. Or spread it a few inches thick under plants as a sort of fertilizer mulch that will nourish their roots as it breaks down while cooling and enriching the soil. LA Compost suggests a ½-inch top dressing of compost for heavy-eating vegetables like tomatoes. Even lawns can benefit from a thin (½ inch) layer of compost raked over it.

Compost can also be added to water (LA Compost recommends about 2 to 4 cups of loose compost to 5 gallons of water) and allow to “simmer” for 24 to 48 hours. The resulting “tea” can be used to fertilize plants while they are being watered. It can also be used as a foliar spray to feed plants through their leaves.

https://www.latimes.com/lifestyle/story/2022-01-28/stop-ranting-start-composting-the-easiest-way-yet-to-help-our-planet Save the planet by composting your kitchen waste. Here’s how

Tom Vazquez

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