A beginner’s guide to composting: Part 2

Photo of a compost bin
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If you think your composting journey ends after ordering and installing your compost bin, think again. While you made a great decision to start composting, you have a lot more responsibility ahead of you. 

This past week, my family’s compost bin arrived. I’ve learned a lot about how to properly take care of it. Now this might seem like I’m talking about it as if it were a pet, but honestly, the responsibility is just as high. 

First and foremost, you and your household need to decide what can go into your compost bin. My family and I ran into some confusion on this topic after we started using the compost. My dad thought eggshells wouldn’t biodegrade in the compost, but I thought they would. My mom brought up the question of liquids. 

We turned to the wealth of information on the internet to figure this one out. The Environmental Protection Agency indicates that the following can go into compost: all food waste, natural waste, small-sized wood, soiled paper towels, shredded paper and cardboard. Other items that can go into compost include sawdust and materials that are also certified to be biodegradable, such as packaging. 

So yes, eggshells are compostable, as well as hair and fur — which we were surprised at. 

The next step in maintaining your lovely compost bin is taking it out as necessary. The suggested amount of time to wait between emptying your bin is three to four days. However, our family’s compost is pretty small, so we have to take it out at least once a day. The point here is not to let your compost get out of hand for multiple reasons.

First of all, no one wants a smelly bin of natural waste overflowing in their kitchen. Emptying your bin regularly will keep the stench away and keep the bin clean, extending its lifespan in the long run. You bought this bin to compost and become more sustainable, so making sure you’re being sustainable with your purchases is important, too. We need to maximize the resources we have. 

Speaking of keeping your compost bin clean, what kind of lining will you use? If you’re still planning on using plastic garbage bags, all that composting you’re doing might not make a difference. Plastic cannot go in the compost, so consider using biodegradable bags as lining. Although they’re pricey, they will make your life much easier. However, if you don’t have the resources for that, it’s totally OK. You can go without a lining — just make sure to give your bin a good rinse every few days. 

One last thing: Where are you disposing of your compost? My first few times taking out our compost in its bag, I caught myself heading over to our garbage bin outside. Even though it takes a mental shift, remembering to put compost in the right bin is essential. If it ends up in the landfill, it will just create methane, and all your compost collection will have been in vain. So check yourself and make sure your compost is ending up in the right place. 

Contact Sophie Horvath at [email protected].