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A trip to CompostEd: The Hows and Whys of Compost

Written by Ariel Lindholm, Bedford 2030 Rooted Solutions Intern

Composting is reduces the amounts of land and energy resources used for waste management which harm people and the environment. Incinerators, like ones used in Westchester, release greenhouse gasses and other pollutants, endangering communities with respiratory illnesses, and contributing to climate change. It is also an issue of environmental justice, as incinerators and other waste management facilities are often located in disadvantaged areas and within communities of color, increasing health risks for residents there. These issues may seem daunting, however, fortunately, there are many ways that we can mitigate this and reduce food waste!

How Does Composting Work?

Composting is a natural and regenerative method of decomposing organic matter like food scraps and yard clippings into a fertilizing soil material. While it is a priority to prevent food waste from the source by stopping the over-buying of food, composting diverts food waste out of the waste stream, cutting down the amount that ends up incinerated or in landfills.

A nearby and highly interactive way to leaarn about composting is by visiting the CompostEd facility in Valhalla. Opening, fittingly, on Earth Day of 2021, this facility processes nearly two tons of food scraps each week while acting as a compost education center for residents, municipalities students, and more. The facility also accepts compost from municipalities that do not have their own composting programs. 

A Visit to CompostEd

At CompostEd, people learn about the stages of composting by taking and recording compost temperatures, mixing compost ingredients, and hand screening and flipping compost piles. CompostEd will show you that composting can easily be a mess and odor free process that recovers waste, transforming it into a beneficial end product.

 A Sneak Peak at what you will learn at CompostEd:

→ A healthy compost pile has a hearty mix of “browns” (which are carbon rich) like straw, newspaper, and sawdust, and “greens” (nitrogen rich) made of food scraps, grass clippings, and more green, wet, elements.

→ Primary decomposers like fungi and bacteria feed and/or break down organic matter, secondary decomposers such as nematodes and springtails consume primary decomposers and their waste products, and tertiary decomposers like centipedes and beetles consume secondary and other tertiary consumers. 

→ Large compost piles generate a great deal of heat, produced as a by-product of the microbial breakdown of organic matter. A temperature of about 140℉ – 150℉ best supports beneficial microbes. 

→ Temperature regulation by turning or aerating compost piles is in order when they reach high temperatures. CompostEd features aerated static pile composting, where air is blown into the compost heaps from below. 

→ You will assist with “finishing compost” by assisting to sift compost through screens. This aims to break up larger clumps of compost, obtain the “finished” fine-grained compost, and sift out larger particulates such as wood chips or pits that have not decomposed yet. 

How Do I Get Started With Composting at home?

 In Bedford, there are three options for composting! 1) Start composting in your backyard with this easy guide. 2) Community compost is free and allows you to drop off your food waste at the recycling center. 3) Curbside compost is an option where you can have your compost picked up at the end of your street each week. If you’re interested, take advantage of the Bedford pilot program and get a 50% rate if you’re one of the first 75 people to sign on to curbside compost!