Composting as Waste Reduction
Compost is good for the garden, and helps put back what we take away from the soil. In addition, it diverts waste from going into our landfills.
Canada produces more garbage per capita than any other country in the world. This should be cause for great concern. We cannot continue to build new landfills and dump our garbage without consequence. Landfills can be sources of pollution, leaking fluid wastes into the soil and groundwater and emitting noxious gases into the air. Therefore, it is essential we try to reduce the amount of waste that goes into our landfills. Recycling is one way. Composting is another highly effective method of processing waste. Approximately 40% of household waste in Ontario consists of yard material or food waste, and is compostable. Therefore, backyard or indoor composting can make a significant difference in the amount of waste we send to landfill sites.
Compost Builds Healthy Soil
Compost benefits the soil in the following ways:
- Compost prevents erosion. Compost absorbs and holds water well, making the soil more resistant to erosion by heavy rainfall.
- Compost prevents plant dehydration. Compost stores water as a film on small soil crumbs called aggregates. During prolonged rainless periods, plants can survive on the water stored in this way.
- Compost improves soil structure. Compost will loosen heavy clay soils so that they absorb water and circulate air more easily. Sandy soils are bound by compost particles, increasing moisture and nutrient content.
- Compost provides nutrients for plants. Compost is rich in a wide range of nutrients, unlike commercial fertilizers, which usually only provide a few isolated elements. The nutrients are released from compost slowly, consistent with the rate of nutrient uptake by plants. Commercial fertilizers deliver their nutrients all at once, which means that plants can only absorb a small amount before the excess gets washed away.
- Compost stores minerals. Positively charged elements such as potassium, sodium, calcium magnesium, iron and copper are held by negatively charged particles of compost called colloids. Minerals are easily dissolved and washed away in soils that are low in compost.
- Compost neutralizes toxins in the soil. The organic acids in compost form stable complexes with elements such as aluminum and lead, leaving the toxins unavailable for plant uptake.
- Compost extends the growing season. Compost makes soil darker, therefore allowing it to absorb more heat from the sun.