Trash talk: Composting

Trash talk: Composting

There are a lot of articles and blogs about how to start zero waste. I’ve noticed that most of them list the following as the first baby steps to go zero waste:

  1. Refuse plastic straws.
  2. Bring your own reusable water bottle.
  3. Bring your own reusable grocery bags.
  4. Shop package-free, in bulk, and/or second-hand.
  5. DIY your own products.

While i find these as indeed easy steps to start lessening one’s waste, i think that to go zero waste one must begin with composting in mind.

For me, the first two ways to begin zero waste are: 1) use a menstrual cup and 2) compost. (So obviously, at least for me, if you don’t menstruate, you can skip no. 1.)

I know Bea Johnson said that zero waste must follow the 5 Rs–refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot (and in that order!). But when i first learned about zero waste through Lauren Singer, i made a quick mental survey about all the trash that i generate and realized that the two things that i needed to address right away were disposable pads/tampons and food waste. These two can’t go to landfills!

So when i decided to go zero waste, i knew i needed a composting site. Luckily, we have a space in the garden where i can dump our organic trash.

Here are the things we throw away for composting:

  • vegetable and fruit scraps
  • crushed egg shells
  • dried leaves and twigs
  • nail clippings and hair
  • shredded brown paper bags
  • guinea pig poop and fur
  • hay
Benn, one of my guinea pigs who help me compost by donating their poop and hay to my compost pit :3

There are many ways to compost in the city. In fact, i do two different methods of composting.

The first one is the compost pit method. We have an unused garden bed, which i now use as a compost pit. I simply dump daily food scraps into the pit and cover them with soil, dried leaves, guinea pig poop, and hay to prevent it from becoming smelly and attracting flies. Earthworms and millipedes (of which we already have a plenty in the garden) aid in the decomposition and i have observed that this method works even if i have a continuous or steady stream of new materials to compost. The down side of this method is that i can’t harvest the compost as the compost is constantly mixed with new materials and soil. I’m still figuring out when to stop filling the pit and wait for all the materials to finish breaking down so we can use the “soil + compost” mix for gardening and, hopefully, growing.

My compost pit. It’s not an ugly sight (or a smelly pit) as long as you have lots of dried leaves around.

After more than two months of composting using the compost pit method, i thought i wanted to set it aside for a while to give it time to finish breaking down. And so i decided to do another method. This one’s easier to manage for those who don’t have a garden bed. It uses a clay pot (or any container with a hole for draining water) as a composting bin. In this method, i simply dump in our organic waste, covering every layer of greens (nitrogen-rich matter) with a thicker layer of browns (carbon-rich matter). EcoWaste Coalition has made a simple instructional video on how to do this method. I think this method is a slower process than the other, but adding in a bit of soil and/or compost activators can speed it up. This method also works like Daily Dump’s khamba composting: once the pot is full, it can be set aside for a few weeks while another pot is being filled.

My compost pot. I’ve read that the water that drains out of it is “liquid gold.” I’ll put a container underneath the pot soon to collect the water.

Composting is so easy and fun to do that i easily got hooked to it. I love returning to Earth what nourished us and it has made me appreciate the concept of ecosystem in a deeper, beyond-textbook level.

As a beginner, though, there are times when i feel like i’m doing it the wrong way (as sometimes plants sprout out of my compost pit), so i find myself always googling how to troubleshoot composting problems. I’ve realized that composting is a learning process.

Now as for leftovers and cooked food waste, well, we let animals–i.e., stray cats–do the job for now. But i’m also planning to start bokashi composting soon in order to manage other food wastes such as meat and fish bones (my family is omnivore while i’ve been pescetarian for more than a year now).

If you want to start composting at home but live in Metro Manila or have no space for a pit, you might want to inquire with your barangay if it has a community composting project. (I did this and found out that our barangay used to have one but discontinued it. Sad.) If there’s none, your best options are the pot composting that i mentioned, bokashi composting, and/or vermicomposting.

Composting is simple and easy. I think everyone must give it a try!