An Argument For Composting

I grew up in New York City, the heart land of waste removal and disposal. You put your garbage outside your back door and it goes away. Your home is as cluttered or uncluttered as your ability to put things out the door. The other side of this was that if there was a garbage strike, which inevitably occurred in the heat of the summer, garbage would pile up on the sidewalk stinking to high heaven. All associations with “waste” on this level are as something not to be handled and to be gotten rid of as quickly as possible. It is no wonder that there is so little composting in American society.

With the exception of human waste (urine and Feces) composting was the pre-industrial way to handle waste in many cultures,. Human waste is generally too toxic to compost like most carnivorous animal waste, and generally was run back into bodies of water to the chagrin of downstream neighbors, or was buried. Any non carnivorous animal organic waste (vegetables, leaves, cow manure, horse manure) was put into a compost pile. I first learned this visiting a farm as an adolescent and my first reaction was “ewwww”. The farmer chuckled and showed myself and my class the whole process from beginning to end, leftover food and cow poop goes in, it is digested and “cooked” by microbes, composted humus comes out. The most shocking thing was, it smelled right, you intuitively knew this was a good and natural process.

Waste disposal is hugely expensive for any municipality. Environmental News Network reports that in 2003, nearly a quarter of all municipal trash in the United States crossed state lines for disposal, according to the Congressional Research Service. Ten states imported at least 1 million tons of trash that year, up from only two states in 2001. At issue for many importing states is the smell and the threat to the environment if the garbage is handled improperly — reasons that more urban trash is winding up in rural communities where political resistance is likely to be minimal.
For instance, my home city of New York now transports more than 1,300 tons of garbage each day to Fox Township, Pa., located in hilly hunting country 130 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Not only is the cost of transporting waste huge financially, but it is also tremendous environmentally.

Composting is the way to give back to the land. It builds soil culture by adding organics and active microbes to the soil. It helps plants digest organics through maintaining a vital and alive soil culture, and it eliminates chemically produced nitrogen which is an oil product and as such has a large carbon footprint. A return to home composting of organic waste will not only help cut costs for municipalities, but reduce oil usage, your carbon footprint, and be beneficial to the landscape.

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