benefits of composting
HOME · Waste & Recycling
inspiration

12 Benefits Of Composting Encouraging You To Start

Composting, as defined by the U.S. Composting Council, is a product manufactured through the controlled aerobic, biological decomposition of biodegradable materials. Its core benefit is the recycling of natural materials.

Composting also has many social, economic, and environmental benefits. For instance, it helps reduce the need for irrigation. It also reduces the impacts of climate change on the environment. 

This article will discuss 12 benefits of composting in more detail. We'll also explore composting materials and methods at home.

What are the benefits of composting?

1. It reduces food waste.

food waste
Photo by Trish Walker on Flickr (Public Domain).

One of the primary benefits of composting is the reduction of food waste sent to landfills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food waste is about 25% of municipal solid waste.

And in 2019, only 5% of the food waste produced by the food retail, food service, and residential sectors went to composting. 5% out of 66 million tons of food waste.

We can repurpose most fruit and vegetable scraps as compost materials. They are an excellent replacement for chemical fertilizers. Reducing the amount of food scraps helps us reduce the creation of landfills. 

Landfills are starting to replace natural ecosystems. They also produce harmful liquid runoffs that leak and cause environmental harm. Recycling as much waste as possible helps protect our ecosystems. 

2. It reduces the greenhouse gas emissions from landfills.

Organic materials produce methane emissions as they break down in landfills. Within the first year of organic waste entering the landfill, it goes through aerobic and anaerobic decomposition stages. 

The anaerobic decomposition stage produces methane gas. Municipal solid waste landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions in the United States. Methane gas emissions are 28-34 times stronger than carbon emissions.

To avoid the emission of harmful greenhouse gasses, we should compost organic items like fruit and vegetable scraps and yard waste. Composting them gives room for proper decomposition without methane-producing bacteria. 

3. It improves soil health.

soil
Photo by Bruno Braga on Unsplash.

Another benefit of composting is its role in improving soil quality. It improves soil quality depending on the soil type. For instance, compost adds organic matter, allowing sandy soil to retain moisture. 

It aids clay soil in creating enough drainage for water to pass through once your plants have had enough. Composting helps adjust the soil in a way that benefits plants and the organisms living in it. 

Also, composting makes the soil healthier and more productive. A rich soil is essential to the survival of plants and other living organisms, while an unhealthy soil can not hold moisture or nutrients. 

Composting benefits the soil by introducing nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, microbes, and other beneficial organisms into its ecosystem, thereby healing it.    

4. It prevents erosion

Another composting benefit is the prevention of erosion. Composting reduces soil erosion by enhancing the soil’s structure. Compostable materials bind and hold soil particles together to create a firm soil structure. A good structure makes it difficult for water to wash away soil particles.  

They used compost to reduce soil erosion, protecting streams and other waterways from muddy waters in Louisiana. Reports show that repeated applications of compost blankets are most effective in controlling erosion3.

5. It reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.

chemical fertilizer
Photo by Antony Trivet on Pexels.

Farmers use chemical fertilizers as nutrient-rich soil amendments. However, they are dangerous because they are a by-product of fossil fuels. The manufacturing and shipping process produces a significant carbon footprint. 

Producing this fertilizer also costs a lot of time and money. However, the effects of its applications are a primary reason to avoid it. Excess chemical fertilizer enters waterways, causing algae blooms to grow. 

Algae blooms are dangerous to water bodies because water loses oxygen during decomposition. The loss of oxygen in water leads to the death of fish and other aquatic organisms.

Using compost as a primary source of essential nutrients helps prevent the emission of potent greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. As mentioned earlier, composting increases the soil’s ability to hold moisture, reducing the chances of runoff into waterways. 

6. Composting provides an avenue to use agricultural waste.

Agriculture also produces its waste from plants and animal farming. These waste materials come from extra plant materials and animal waste. In a lot of cases, farmers don't know what to do with the plant waste, so they burn it. 

For instance, farmers in India burn crop residues. It causes air pollution, an increase in erosion, and reduces the efficiency of crop herbicides. The air pollution leads to problems like respiratory problems. 

Instead of burning crop residues or dumping them in landfills, we can use them as composting materials. It is more beneficial and has less harmful consequences. 

7. It improves plant growth.

plant growth
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

Previously, we mentioned the benefit of composting in improving soil quality by creating a healthy soil structure. A solid soil structure is highly beneficial to plant roots. Adding compost to the soil increases its nutrient content. 

Plants grow when they get the required nutrients and moisture from the soil. 

Composting provides plants with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It has beneficial composting organisms that aid plant growth. 

Composting helps plants grow by better retaining nutrients and suppressing plant diseases. It also limits the growth of weeds that compete with plants for space and nutrients. Research shows that plants grown with compost have more volume. 

An Italian study shows that compost increased the growth of lettuces2 by 24%, while kohlrabi’s growth increased by 32%.

8. Composting can help you save money.

compost on garden
Photo by Eva Bronzini on Pexels.

Throwing household trash away can be expensive because of the cost of garbage bags. Building and maintaining landfill spaces also costs money. The average price of dumping trash in landfills ranged from $54 to 70$ per ton in 2020.  

You and the government can save thousands, possibly millions of dollars, by composting any organic items. It also reduces production costs for farmers. They don't have to spend excessive amounts on fertilizers. 

9. It sequesters more carbon from the air.

Composting has excellent environmental benefits, one of which is reducing the risk of climate change. Human activities produce tons of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen. 

Composting can remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere by acting as a carbon sink. It soaks up carbon in the atmosphere, reducing the impact of climate change on the environment.  

A recent study by researchers from the University of California shows that composting in semi-arid regions has a high potential for carbon storage. Composting also provides nutrients for microbes that filter carbon to make more stabilized forms of carbon in the soil1

10. It creates a closed-loop sustainable system.

We spend time, resources, and energy to live on Earth. However, our activities are doing a lot more harm than good. All we do is create and use without thinking about the effects of the waste produced on the environment. Our activities are accelerating climate, ecological, and economic change. 

To improve the ecological and economic state of the environment, we need to create a closed-loop sustainable system. In this system, the waste from the products and human activities are recyclable. It's a use-and-reuse cycle. 

Composting allows us to turn organic waste like yard waste and food scraps into a valuable resource through a natural process. The government can incorporate a large-scale composting program, and every person can create a small compost pile in their homes.  

11. Composting can assist in stormwater management and help conserve water.

gardening
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

Another benefit of composting is the management of stormwater treatment. It helps slow down and infiltrate water. Instead of using plastic sheets to cover areas with disturbed soil, we can use compost instead.

It also helps to conserve water. In the United States, the agricultural sector uses 80% of the country’s water. Compost helps conserve water by increasing the soil’s organic matter. Research shows that a 1% increase helps the soil hold 20,000 gallons more water per acre. It allows farmers to use less water during agricultural activities4.

12. It reduces the cost of gardening.

Composting is an excellent way of tending to your backyard garden and growing food for your consumption at no cost. You can recycle the waste from your garden and your cooking activities as fertilizers, boosting the health of your soil and vegetables. 

What is compostable waste? 

Before we discuss the methods of composting waste, let’s examine the types of compostable materials. Compost should contain organic matter rich in carbon, nitrogen, water, and oxygen. Materials that fall within these categories are:  

  • Grass clippings
  • Fruit scraps
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Leftover food scraps
  • Coffee grounds and paper filters
  • Paper tea bags
  • Crushed eggshells
  • Dry leaves, plant stalks, and twigs
  • Untreated wood chips
  • Shredded paper and brown bags
  • Shredded cardboard

Read more: What you can and can't compost.

Home Composting Methods 

The composting process is easy. Here are some steps to follow as advised by the Environmental Protection Agency.

1. Gather and store compostable materials.  

compost bin on kitchen
Photo by Lenka Dzurendova on Unsplash.

Collect organic material scraps in a bin in your kitchen. Avoid putting in animal products since they can attract pests. Place the scrap bin wherever you find it convenient. It could be on your kitchen counter, underneath the sink, or in your fridge. 

Moreover, set a bin outside to store brown organic items like grass clippings and leaves. 

2. Select a suitable space for a compost pile. 

compost bin
Photo by Conall on Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The next step is to select a space in your yard to compost the materials gathered. Select an area that is easily accessible and has good drainage. The EPA suggests a placement that's not close to the fence but close to a water source. 

After selecting an area for your compost, the next step is to pick a bin. You can make compost bins from wires, wood, barrels, and tumblers. For inspiration, check out our guide to DIY compost bin ideas. It's also not impossible to compost if you live in areas without much land, as we explain in our guide to urban composting.

3. Prepare compost materials before adding them to the pile. 

Don't just dump all your compost material into the compost area. First, break the materials into small pieces to help them decompose faster. 

4. Build your own compost pile. 

Start your pile with 4 to 6 inches of twigs, leaves, and wood chips because they absorb extra liquids and allow air to circulate to the bottom of the pile. Next, layer green and brown organic items while wetting them intermittently. 

Use the correct proportions of organic matter because it provides microorganisms with the essential nutrients they need for decomposition. So, add two to three times the volume of brown organic materials to green materials. 

5. Maintain the pile. 

To get a properly finished compost, maintain the compost heap regularly. Use a garden fork to turn and mix your pile regularly to speed up the decomposition process. Also, monitor the moisture, temperature, and odor of the compost. 

If the pile is too dry, its degradation activity will slow down or stop, while a smelly pile may be too wet or need more air circulation. Add more water to a dry pile and more dry material to a pile if it is too wet.  

6. Harvest finished compost.  

sieving the compost
Photo by SuSanA Secretariat on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

You can harvest the compost heap when there are no visible scraps and when it doesn’t heat up after mixing. The pile will shrink to about one-third of its original size when ready. Expect a well-maintained compost within 3 to 5 months. 

The finished compost looks dark, loose, and crumbly. It smells like fresh soil. Shift the finished compost to remove materials that didn’t break down completely.  

Conclusion: Benefits of Composting 

Composting has a wide range of benefits. It helps us reduce the amount of waste we send to landfills, improve the food system, and reduce the emission of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. 

Composting is an excellent recycling technique if done correctly. Avoid adding diseased plants, plants treated with chemical pesticides, dryer lint, and glossy paper to a compost heap. Also, don’t add meat, fish, and bone because it can attract animals and unwanted pests to your environment.  

1

Tautges, N. E., Chiartas, J., Gaudin, A. C. M., O’Geen, A. T., Herrera, I., & Scow, K. M. (2019). Deep soil inventories reveal that impacts of cover crops and compost on soil carbon sequestration differ in surface and subsurface soils.>Global Change Biology(11), 3753–3766.

2

Pane, C., Palese, A. M., Celano, G., & Zaccardelli, M. (2014). Effects of compost tea treatments on productivity of lettuce and kohlrabi systems under organic cropping management. Italian Journal of Agronomy.

3

Bhattarai, R., Kalita, P. K., Yatsu, S., Howard, H. R., & Svendsen, N. G. (2011). Evaluation of compost blankets for erosion control from disturbed lands. Journal of Environmental Management.

4

Hudson, B. D. (1994). Soil organic matter and available water capacity. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation.

By Jennifer Okafor, BSc.

Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.

Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Photo by SuSanA Secretariat on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).
Pin Me:
Pin Image Portrait 12 Benefits Of Composting Encouraging You To Start
Sign Up for Updates
SIGN UP