From the kitchen to the compost pile: scraps are too good to waste
April 6th, 2018
By Danica Jarvis, GreenUP Environmental Education Coordinator
GreenUP is excited to announce a new partnership with the City of Peterborough. The Kitchen to Compost: Too Good To Waste program will commence in May and will include the delivery and installation of a composter, along with a comprehensive workshop on compost care, all for $20 plus tax. A skilled installation team will also help answer questions and boost the confidence of new compost users. Eligible residents must live within the City of Peterborough and be new to composting.
This new program comes alongside the announcement of a curbside organics program for the City of Peterborough that is set to commence in fall of 2019. In the meantime, residents are encouraged to look for ways to cut down on their own household waste and the Kitchen to Compost program can help. Our target is to install 150 composters throughout the City during the summer of 2018.
Composting has direct benefits for the environment; one of biggest being that composting conserves landfill space. Ontario’s landfills are filling up and composting not only reduces the volume of waste going to landfill, it also reduces the production of greenhouse gases. Specifically, methane gas emissions are lowered when less food waste is added to landfill.
Composting completes the food cycle by returning plant scrap nutrients to the soil. Most farmers and avid gardeners will make soil amendments before planting for the season, and compost is a viable soil additive that can help enrich your garden beds with nutrients. Many gardeners refer to compost as, “black gold” mostly due to its dark, earthy colour and nutrient rich content that is a valuable addition to your beds. Compost not only adds nutrients to the soil but also saves water. Organic matter retains almost 20 times its weight in water, acting like a soil sponge.
Those of you who are excited to get started composting should give GreenUP a call and book a date to have your composter installed! For residents who are already composting and are feeling discouraged by lack of success, here are some tips about how to get your composter back on track and summer-ready:
To avoid unwanted guests, you will want to be sure to choose the right contents for your composter. To deter wildlife from snacking, do not put any meats, fats, or dairy products in your composter.
Be aware of what we call the nitrogen-to-carbon ratio, otherwise known as the greens and browns balance. A healthy composter should always have more browns (carbon) than greens (nitrogen). Greens are the waste items you bring from your kitchen such as veggie scraps and coffee grounds while the browns are yard waste items such as grass clippings and collected leaves.
“Any food waste placed in your composter should then be covered with browns such as leaves or a small amount of earth,” suggests Peterborough Waste Diversion Manager Virginia Swinson, “Since leaves are not readily available over the winter or even at this time of year, you can add shredded newspaper in their place. Cardboard egg cartons and recyclable paper towel can be used as well.”
If you have a persistent squirrel or raccoon, you can pest-proof your composter. Swinson suggests using a heavy gauge mesh along the bottom opening of the composter, “Dig a shallow hole, around 1 inch deep, in which to place your composter. Then backfill with the dirt you dug out and surround the perimeter with rocks.”
You may be interested in composting but are concerned about the potential for offensive odours. Unwanted smells can be avoided, both in your kitchen catcher and at the compost heap. Keep an eye on the moisture level in both areas to avoid any stinky scraps.
“If a composter gets too wet it may begin to smell,” says Swinson. Again, make sure you have more browns (leaves, newspaper, cardboard) in your composter, which will keep the moisture balanced. If you are keeping your indoor food scraps in a countertop container, avoid placing it in the sun, “If there is room, keep your kitchen catcher in the fridge, or a cool area under the counter; line your indoor pail with newspaper or paper towel to absorb liquids. This will help eliminate indoor odours and pests such as fruit flies.”
Oxygen is also an important factor to consider in the process of compost breakdown. Add oxygen to your composter by turning it once per week with a shovel or a pitchfork. Once your compost is established, mix in newly added materials instead of layering. This will accelerate the process, providing you with nutrient-rich soil more quickly.
Even with the proper care, it can take a composter six months to fully decompose your scraps into valuable soil. Temperature and moisture are limiting factors, even when you are doing everything right. Don’t give up, even during those cold winter months the process will likely slow down, but that rich “black gold” will be worth the wait and your plants will thank you for it.
The Kitchen to Compost program is not available during 2020. We hope it will return in 2021. Please follow @PtboGreenUP on social media for updates.
If you wish to install your own composter or need a second unit, The City and County of Peterborough provide composters to local residents for a nominal fee. These are available at the Household Hazardous Waste Depot on Pido Road, at the City and County offices, and at the GreenUP Store in downtown Peterborough at 378 Aylmer Street North.
Need More Compost?
Regardless of how much compost you produce at home, many gardeners are looking for even more “black gold” to add to their gardens. Small quantities can be purchased at GreenUP Ecology Park on a self-serve basis, from May through October.
For further information about Ontario’s Waste Free Strategy please read here: www.ontario.ca/page/strategy-waste-free-ontario-building-circular-economy
For more information, tips, and tricks for backyard composting, read our Fact Sheet | Composting: Getting Started:
City of Peterborough
The City of Peterborough supports GreenUP through an annual Community Service Grant. This funding supports many of our programs and services which positively impact Peterborough residents each day....