Composting: A guide from our experiences
So you keep reading that Saathi’s products are “biodegradable and Compostable”, but what exactly does that mean? What is the difference between these two labels anyways? More importantly, how do these properties affect you, the consumer? I hope this blog will answer these questions and introduce you to an exciting alternative waste disposal option: composting!
Products labeled as “biodegradable” are able to decompose in a reasonable amount of time (for Saathi the timeframe is six months) when you dispose of them in a landfill. After decomposing, water, CO2, and biomass are the main products left.
“Compostable” implies products will decompose through a very different process. Compost is an intentional mixture of carbon and nitrogen rich products that are combined with water to promote decomposition. The process of composting is often monitored and maintained regularly to ensure optimal conditions for decomposition. The final products are very similar to those after biodegrading: water, CO2, and biomass. However, the mature compost mixture is nutrient rich and useful for enriching soil and nourishing plants.
In comparing the two, letting a product biodegrade does reduce waste in landfills. However, composting a product reduces waste in landfills while creating a useful mixture that enriches the earth. In addition, some companies, such as the Daily Dump, offer programs to buy mature compost. With these additional benefits of composting, Saathi is very excited to share that we are doing some composting, ourselves. We would like to share this journey with you and maybe even inspire you to start composting at home!
June 18th, 2018
We received three stackable terracotta composting pots from the Daily Dump (Thank you to Daily Dump and Envibe for making this happen!!!) and set up our mixtures. Following advice from the Daily Dump and other composting resources, we covered the bottom of each pot with two pages of newspaper.
Next, we added a layer of carbon material. Coco peat is a great carbon material, as well as dead plant scraps, dead leaves, and plain old dirt. The Daily Dump also has a carbon-rich remix powder that is designed to provide the right amount of carbon for composting. Carbon is important because it neutralizes the nitrogen rich materials that give off strong odors when they decompose. A ratio of adding 1-2 parts carbon material to every 1 part nitrogen material is generally effective in eliminating odor. The first couple days we began composting, we had a bit less carbon material and it had a very distinct odor so after that, we were careful to add the above ratio of carbon and it hasn’t smelled since! (I know… I was skeptical about the smell but it truly has no odor).
After adding a layer of carbon material, we began adding alternating layers of nitrogen material and carbon. Kitchen scraps including vegetable peels, fruits, egg shells, and even cooked foods without meat or dairy products make great nitrogen material! As a bonus, you eliminate these materials from being thrown in the landfill and they will contribute greatly to making the compost rich in nutrients! For every handful of kitchen scraps added, we added a handful of shredded paper, coco peat, remix powder, or dirt.
After we used up all of the kitchen scraps, we added a Saathi pad to the mixture and watered the mixture enough to make all parts moist but not so much to soak the mixture and leave excess liquid to pool inside the pot. Then, the mixture was stirred and a layer of dirt/remix powder was added to cover the top. with that, we sealed the pot with a few newspaper pages folded on top between the pot and lid. Sealing the lid prevents ants from disturbing the mixture and also prevents the mixture from drying out.
It is important that the mixture gets enough air and oxygen, which is why these pots are made of terracotta (a very porous material) and specially made with small holes in the sides for added aeration. If using other pots, consider drilling small holes in the sides or not sealing the lid as tightly to allow air to enter.
Every few days, we check in on the compost pots. We open the lid and make sure the mixture isn’t too dry, we mix the mixture with a small shovel-like tool to facilitate the composting and evenly distribute materials. If we have new food scraps to add, we add them alternating with carbon material and always watering before covering the mixture with a top carbon layer.
After even a few days, we noticed the food materials begin to break down and turn brown. The pads are expected to take a little longer to decompose but we are seeing progress!
We are excited to share this journey as we continue to explore the most environmentally friendly disposal methods to keep doing the most good for you and the environment.
For more information on composting and learning how to start your own home composting project, we recommend the Daily Dump’s website for a multitude of resources.