Earth Talk:

How to recycle food -- without the odor

By Georgina Guiney
How can you compost without attracting bugs?
How can you compost without attracting bugs?
Dear EarthTalk: I’d like to get into turning my food waste into compost for my garden, but I don’t want a stinky pile of table scraps lingering in a pail in my kitchen or backyard. Are there any new high-tech ways to expedite the process? 

-- Billy A., San Francisco.       
    Composting is a natural process of recycling food and organic matter by exposing it to oxygen so it can decompose into a nourishing soil fertilizer. Whether you let your municipality process your food and yard waste into compost or do it yourself at home, you’re doing right by the environment. 
    The problem with dumping food and plant waste into the garbage bin is that when it reaches the landfill, the waste won't decompose buried under layers of inorganic matter because it's not exposed to oxygen. When organic waste is trapped in a landfill it can generate large amounts of groundwater-polluting leachate and potentially flammable methane (a potent greenhouse gas) as bacteria try to break the waste down in the absence of oxygen.
    Given how easy it is to compost these days, it’s hard to believe that food and yard waste make up as much as 30 percent of the waste we send to landfills. Luckily, if you want to make your own compost at home or don’t have curbside food and yard waste pickup, there are easy, low-cost ways to get started.
    The Epica Stainless Steel Compost Bin is a great way to recycle food waste from your countertop. The Epica’s airtight lid and replaceable charcoal filter work together to confine any harsh smells. Another plus is the attractive stainless steel exterior, designed to last a lifetime and warrantied against scratches, cracks or chips. And all you need to clean the Epica is water, soap and a sponge.
    Other products can speed up the process of making garden-ready compost right in your kitchen. For instance, the Food Cycler CS-10 ($299) employs motorized agitators to break down cooked and uncooked food waste into small particles that are then heated and sterilized. The dishwasher-safe, countertop-sized unit makes ready-to-use compost within three hours.
    If you want to go even bigger, Zera’s new appliance-sized Food Recycler ($1,199) reduces food waste by over two-thirds its original volume and can handle a week’s worth of kitchen scraps. It makes usable compost in 24 hours, and also connects to your home’s Wi-Fi network so you can monitor and control it remotely via an app. Yes, there’s even an app for that!
    Old-school (outdoor) composters include Yimby’s low-cost, worry-free Tumbler Composter ($81). Just insert your food scraps and/or yard waste, close the door and turn it manually  five to six times every  two to three days. The exterior is a recycled plastic bin with a steel frame, and can stay outside all year in any weather. The Tumbler Composter has a 37 gallon capacity, but takes two weeks or longer to turn your scraps into compost.
    Composting is great for fertilizing your home garden, and it’s satisfying to make something useful for free out of waste that you would otherwise discard. However, if you want to make a difference but don’t need the compost itself, municipal food waste curbside pickup is probably a better way to go. 

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An old-school compost bin at a community garden. --StudyHall.Rocks image.


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