What is Organic Waste Composting

There is a great deal of talk these days about all things organic and there is also some confusion about what the term organic waste means. It is any type of waste product that comes from a biological origin.

Some examples of organic materials which end up becoming waste products are –

  • Paper based products, including cardboard and newsprint
  • Food products
  • Green waste such as lawn and garden waste
  • Animal feces
  • Biosolids and various sludge materials

Recycling Organic Waste by Composting

The process that organic matter goes through to become waste is called composting. The composting process breaks down the microorganisms in the organic material through a combination of exposure to heat, moisture, oxygen and bacteria. Once this organic material has passed through this decomposing process, it can be reused as a very effective soil additive.

The fact of the matter is that even though most people don’t think about it in these terms, organic waste is an essential and life-giving part of the cycle of life on earth. There is no doubt that the natural decomposition and composting process is simply nature’s way of recycling.

Processes of Organic Waste Recycling

Once organic materials are gathered together in a compost pile, the microorganisms rapidly increase in number and essentially grow into a community that “colonizes” the composter. Through the natural biological functions of the microorganisms, the organic components are systematically broken down and the result is a nutrient rich compost.

As the bacterial microorganisms grow, they assimilate the starches, sugars and organic acids found in the waste matter. A side effect of their activity is a rise in the temperature in the center-most portion of the compost heap. Eventually, the temperature of the core of the compost pile will reach more than 140 degrees Fahrenheit and this heat contributes to the escalating decomposition of the material.

When the busy bacteria have consumed all of the sugars and starches and other materials they feast upon, the interior temperature of the compost heap begins to fall. As the temperatures become lower, other kinds of microorganisms, such as fungi, become more dominant in the composting community. At this stage the organic waste is considered to be stabilizing but there are still biological activities going on which will affect the woody elements of the compost mixture, allowing them to be broken down as well.

In order to continue through the composting process, the compost heap needs to be turned. This is a simple process that brings the material that is on the edges of the heap into the center so that it can be exposed to this process of heating as described above. It is recommended to allow the compost pile to sit undisturbed for approximately two weeks between turnings.

Organic waste can continue to be added to the composting pile. As time goes by and the compost heap is properly turned, all the organic components will have the opportunity to break down. After approximately six months of managing the compost pile, the resulting compost can be used as a very effective soil additive and fertilizer that will help produce a healthy and thriving vegetable garden, or for larger organic farming endeavors.

Page Updated: May 6, 2016
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