Facts About Composting: 19 Facts to Get You Started: 19 Facts to Get You Started

Have you been hearing the word composting thrown around in recent years and don’t know why people are getting so excited about mouldy table scraps? Well this article has some vital facts about composting to get you started on your sustainability journey!

  1. Compost (sometimes called humus) is organic waste that has been decomposed through the composting process.
  2. Compost is used as a fertiliser that is added to soil to create a potting mix. It is also used to top lawns, and is added to garden soil to improve the quality of the soil and plants.
  3. Composting is the best thing you can do for saving the planet. If every household (and business) was composting, we would see a huge reduction of landfill, and greenhouse gases across the globe. In the war on waste, composting is our best weapon. So as you learn about composting, don’t forget to share some facts about composting with your friends and family. The more people who compost the less landfill we have and the cleaner our planet will be.  
  4. Composting is more impactful than recycling. Everyone in the sustainability space acknowledges the importance of recycling. But really, composting is even more impactful and accessible to everyone. There is more food and organic waste from your household than recyclable waste. And composting is something you can do right here and now in your household. Whereas for recycling to be effective, the whole community must have systems in place that sometimes don’t work as planned. So the efficacy of recycling can be up and down. Composting is nature’s recycling!
  5. Composting is turning your food and organic waste into wonderful new garden soil. Food waste is things like table scraps, vegetable peels, and offcuts and any waste that comes from eating. Organic waste is any material that is biodegradable and comes from either a plant or animal. Things like garden clippings, grass clippings, tree branches, paper, cardboard, untreated wood, animal fur, and the like.

    These things don’t need to go into landfill at all.  All food and organic waste should be composted. The compost bin has a great environment for food scraps, leaves and the like to decompose, so it speeds up the natural decomposing process. It does this with the help of fungi, bacteria, and worms.
  6. Composting is not just for gardeners. Yes, they love the stuff that comes at the other end of the process – compost. Also called humus, compost is an amazing source of nutrient rich soil that plants thrive on. But beyond the horticultural benefits, we should all be composting our food and organic waste to avoid sending it to landfill. Therefore composting is a great waste management tool.

Towards Circular Economy

The facts about composting extend beyond the process of composting itself. Let’s consider the impact it has on the economy and environment in general. As composting is vital for a more sustainable future. 

Image of the 4 bin system, which is an example of Australia working towards circular economy
  1. Composting is a pillar of the circular economy, as it reuses all organic waste rather than putting it to landfill.
  2. Luckily, many countries in the world are moving towards circular economy (read more here). In Australia, there is a goal in place to have a circular economy by 2030.

    A circular economy is an economic model which is different to the traditional linear economy. In a linear economy, we use resources to make a product, then we use it, then we throw it away. This process results in pollution. Unfortunately, this often happens unnecessarily with organic waste.

    In a circular economy, we think about the best way to use resources. The best ways to make products, how we can use and reuse products, repair, mend, hire and then thoughtfully move the product on. We would just have composting and recycling on a large scale and hardly any landfill use. But as we are working towards this, we as individuals must compost and recycle as much as possible. Then only what must go to the landfill will go there.
  3. In Australia in 2006-07 72% of landfill from Municipal (Household) Solid Waste was organic waste. Which when it sits in landfill, cannot decompose naturally. It sits there as if it is being stored, and ends up releasing methane which is a greenhouse gas. Food and organic waste should be composted – not left in landfill. 

    As a global society, we are making too much waste, and we can’t just keep throwing everything away. We are using too many resources, mining too much and cutting down too many trees to make the products we use. We are making too much plastic.

    A lot of the products we use are what’s called single use, where we only have a one time purpose for it. Like drinking one drink, then the container goes in the bin. With eight billion of us, we are globally making too much rubbish. There is too much plastic being made, and a lot of it is sitting in landfill sites or ends up in the ocean. 
  4. In Australia, we are switching to the four bin system which includes the Fogo – Food Organics and Green Organics Bins. Where the food waste and organic (green) waste is being collected by the council in a kerbside bin pick up. Then it is taken to a large scale composting plant and the council is then using the compost on its parks. Which is kerbside pick up composting!! Woohoo! The fogo bins are expected to be Australia wide by 2030, and we are also expected to have a circular economy by 2030 as a federal goal.

    On an individual level, either using a Fogo Bin or having a compost at home (or both), is a huge and incredibly important step each individual can take to make a really significant difference to the environment.

The Benefits of Composting

The benefits of composting and facts about composting extend beyond reducing waste, landfill and greenhouse gas emissions, which we talked about above. It is also good for:

Composting caddy that is showing the benefits of composting and what you can put in your compost

9. Water conservation and soil health: Composting helps to conserve water. By improving soil health, compost can help the soil to retain moisture which reduces the need for irrigation. This lessens soil erosion as well. This is especially important in farming, but is good for your home garden as well.

10. Fertiliser: Compost is a valuable fertiliser that reduces the need for chemical fertilisers and pesticides. People spend money buying compost at garden stores to improve the quality of their soil and plants. We could do home composting and have it for free.

11. Improved air quality: Less landfill means fresher air in our communities, due to decreased greenhouse gases.

12. Healthier plants: Compost is full of nutrients and beneficial microorganisms, increasing the health of the plants when compost is used in gardens.

Facts about Compost Uses

13. Compost can be added to your garden or scattered on your lawn. It is also great scattered around fruit trees, used as mulch or added to potted plants.

14. If you aren’t going to use it yourself, you can always offer it to your neighbours. Or put it online and share it, or look at trade websites or Facebook groups. It is a sought after product, so you shouldn’t have trouble giving it away. Alternatively, you can also just use your Fogo bin, if you have one. Or use a local community garden to drop off your food scraps instead of having a home compost system.

What is Compostable?

It can be very confusing when starting out our composting journey to know what is compostable and what isn’t, hence why we have included these essential and useful facts about composting.

15. Organic matter that is biodegradable is usually compostable. Compostable materials (organic matter) are anything that comes from a plant or animal. Yard waste like leaves and branches, paper and cardboard products that haven’t been coated, sawdust, woodchips, untreated wood, some biodegradable plastics (check the label), food scraps, and natural fabrics like cotton and linen are compostable.

Not all biodegradable materials are compostable, and not all compostable materials can go in your backyard compost bin or Fogo bin. Composting requires specific conditions, and each method and type will accept slightly different things. Below we will go over the different types of composting. Many things will break down better in the Fogo which is an industrial composting facility, especially things like bioplastics, just make sure to check your council specifications.

Different Types of Composting

16. When discussing facts about composting, we cannot miss the many different types of composting, so below we will go over the types of home composting and include a rough overview of what can go into each bin. When you get a home compost bin, it is important that you have a read of the manufacturer’s instructions and follow them.

Remember that compost will go back into our soils and thus nourish our future food, hence why we need to be particular about what we put in. We don’t want plastics or other non compostable materials in our food and bodies.

Passive Composting or Cold Composting

Passive composting (sometimes called cold composting) is just basically letting mother nature do it, use a bin or a pile and add greens, food scraps and also brown things like dead leaves and paper. You just let it happen by itself, without actively mixing up the pile, and it takes a year or two to have the compost. This is also a bin that has no bottom and is placed on the earth.

You can cold compost garden waste and fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grinds, eggshells, paper and cardboard, corks and other untreated wood.

Compost Tumbling

An image of a composting tumbling in a garden

Compost Tumbling is when you buy a container on a mount or stand, called a Compost Tumbler, that you can rotate to ‘tumble’ the compost inside. You place organic matter in there and regularly give it a tumble. This is a smaller scale version of hot composting. Check the instructions on your tumbler to know exactly what you can compost in there, as it depends on the type you buy. Some will accept more items than others. 

It is self contained and can be placed in the yard, and is a small, clean and neat option, good for

smaller properties.

Worm Composting or Vermicomposting

Worm composting, also known as Vermicomposting, is placing worms together with the organic waste in a self-contained bin. It is a a good indoor option and the worms do the work. It takes 2-6 months to break down into compost. You can vermicompost fruit and vegetable waste, paper, cardboard, untreated sawdust, coffee grinds, crushed eggshells, corks. Limit or avoid citrus, onion and potatoes, meat, dairy and animal waste.

This is a smaller, self-contained option, where you buy a bin, the soil and the worms and set it all up yourself. You have to be more careful of what you put into it, as the environment has to be right for the worms to thrive.

Bokashi

Bokashi is a small compost bin that uses ‘bokashi bran’ which is a mix of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that you have to buy. At the bottom of the bokashi bin is a tap. This is a good option if you live in an apartment as it doesn’t take much space.

You layer your food scraps with the bran in the bokashi bin. Once it is full, you leave it alone for a few weeks for the stuff inside to decompose. It will not be fully decomposed, it will only get to about half decomposed but at the bottom will collect a liquid that is very beneficial for your garden. This is why there is a tap at the bottom of the bin, so that you can drain that liquid out.

While one bin is being left, you will need a second to use for your kitchen scraps. After the first one has finished its course, you can bury the contents in your garden or empty the contents into a community compost pile. You can bokashi fruit and vegetable waste, meat and dairy, coffee grinds, eggshells, tissues and corks and untreated wood.

Direct Burying or Trench Composting

Direct Burying (also known as Trench Composting) involves burying your organic waste directly into the earth. This can be done if you don’t have much compost or have a really big yard.

When the food scraps break down they are naturally already there to fertilise the soil.

You can bury fruit and vegetable waste, eggshells, and coffee grinds, although you cannot compost as many options with direct burying or trench composting. You can also first use a bokashi bin, then bury what’s in there after you fill the bin and leave it for a few weeks.

Hot Composting

Hot composting is when you have a compost bin outside where you place greens, food scraps and brown things like dead leaves and paper. You actively manage it by turning and aerating the pile regularly which breaks down the compost quickly. The process means the pile heats up to warmer temperatures. The process is very efficient and you have the compost ready in six weeks. It requires more attention than other methods but achieves compost much faster. Avid gardeners often enjoy this method, or people that have a lot of land and want to have a faster turnaround of garden waste to compost.

The bin has no bottom, and is placed on the earth, so worms and other things come up from the earth and eat the scraps.
Anything that used to be plant or animal can be hot composted. So food and table scraps including meat and dairy, paper products, teabags, citrus, cardboard, garden waste, corks and other untreated wood.

Most of the Fogo systems are/will be using an industrial hot composting system.

Fogo Bins

Although not a typical type of composting, Fogo Bins will soon become the most common type around the country. Thus it is crucial to talk about in this post ‘facts about composting’.

A kitchen bench chaddy for Fogo Bins

As a general rule, any waste that comes from a plant or an animal can go in a Fogo bin. This includes food scraps and table scraps, garden waste as well as small amounts of paper products. If it lives or has lived, it can go in a Fogo bin. Generally, a lot more things can go into a Fogo bin than into your home compost. Because it is a large industrial compost it can handle more complicated items.

Here are some things that some councils accept and do not: cooked bones, shellfish shells, animal waste and bioplastic compostable packaging. It is super important to make sure you do not contaminate your fogo bins with plastics and other things that are not accepted. Because if it is contaminated, then it will just go into landfill and currently there is a big issue with many residence putting plastic in their fogo bins (read about it here

Read more about the types of composting here

Subsidised compost bin from council & Free compost bin from council


17. In Australia, depending on location, you might be able to get a free compost bin from council websites. Other councils will have subsidised compost bins you can buy. As well as other schemes and initiatives to help you along your composting journey. So make sure you check out your council’s website for facts about composting and any offers of substitutes or freebies they might offer.

Otherwise it is worth looking at free or cheap second-hand compost bins from Facebook Marketplace or your local community. In the name of sustainability, if you do buy a new one, try and find one made out of recycled plastics. 

Community composting: Finding composting centres instead of having your own bin

18. You can find a place to take your compost instead.  You don’t have to do it yourself. Some people can’t or don’t want to have their own compost bin and that is ok. Trust me, someone will be grateful for it!

Check with your local council to see if there is a local garden or composting community that will accept food scraps and garden waste. If not, ask them to start one or consider starting one yourself. I bet you’re not the only one in your area with this thought! There might even be a local Facebook Group where you can ask about community composting and other facts about composting.

A communal Fogo bin, that is an example of community composting

You can also get on Sharewaste and find someone near you that wants food scraps for their bin. Collect your compost in a compost keeper or a bin with a lid. Either take it over frequently or freeze it to prevent flies and smells.

Facts About Composting Never End

19. You can continue your composting efforts while you are away. Whether you are at home, on a day trip, visiting friends or family or travelling to far off places! Composting is always an absolute essential for a sustainable future. Bring a container with a lid with you on your adventures so that you can take your food scraps home for the compost bin. Or if you are away, look for a community compost drop off to use while there.

Composting is nature’s recycling. It is the biggest step you can take right now to reduce your household waste and carbon footprint.

By reading and learning these facts about composting and incorporating composting as a part of our daily lives, we can create a more sustainable and resilient future for ourselves and generations to come. Composting is an important part of reducing waste and going towards a circular system. 

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