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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Why Use a Compost Tumbler?

Posted by admin on November 10, 2010

About Compost Tumblers and Why They Work So Well

With all of the talk about going green, reducing your carbon footprint and helping to reduce climate change these days, more and more people are looking at the possibility of using compost tumblers in their back yard. I am going to show you some of the benefits of composting here and then look at some of the best methods of creating compost from your kitchen scraps, yard waste, and many other sources.

The benefits creating compost

One of the most prominent reasons to compost is that you are creating a natural fertilizer for your yard and garden. The nutrients from the food waste and yard waste is naturally turned back into the same plant nutrients that you get when you purchase commercial fertilizer from the hardware store, except that the compost form of these nutrients is completely natural and much less harmful to the environment. Why is it less harmful to the environment? Because commercial fertilizers are made from ingredients that require a vast expenditure of energy to produce them. The main nutrients in plant fertilizer are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Most nitrogen production uses natural gas as its base ingredient, and then nitrogen is forced to react with the gas at high temperatures and pressure, requiring lots of energy. Phosphorus and potassium are mined from big open pit mines using heavy machinery requiring massive amounts of diesel fuel for transporting and processing. The traditional end result, sadly, is that food waste and yard waste end up going to the landfill.

How it can save the planet

Imagine for a moment if every household in the United States returned every shred of organic household and yard waste into compost on the spot. Actually this is a little unrealistic because logistics, such as lack of area in around apartment buildings, for example, make it an unlikely prospect. But just imagine if three quarters of all households did this. The benefits would be three fold:

1. Tremendous savings in fuel by not having garbage trucks transport tons of organic matter to the landfill.

2. Tremendous savings in energy by greatly reducing the amount of industrial fertilizers used.

3. Reductions in fuel used for mining, processing and transporting industrial fertilizers.

By composting, you are putting an end to the wasteful one-way stream of energy use and putting nutrients directly back into the soil, for your yard and garden to naturally thrive on. By doing so, you are also saving money on expensive store bought fertilizer. You are moving one more step toward self sufficiency by not needing to go to the store and buy something that can be produced in your back yard. And you are indirectly reducing carbon emissions. The traditional and most common method of composting is to simply pile the material up, say, in a corner of your yard. This will work, but there are many disadvantages, such as odors, a messy looking yard, and unwanted vermin feeding or nesting in the pile. There is a much better, quicker, and cleaner way to create compost. That is with a device known as a compost tumbler. The compost tumbler makes it super easy to create the conditions needed to create compost in quick order. Organic matter such as food waste, fruit peels and grass clippings need air and a modest amount of moisture to decompose properly. The composting process also creates heat, and this heat needs to be distributed evenly for the best results. By turning every few days, the heat is dispersed evenly, and air is introduced into the compost, and the process proceeds much more rapidly. In addition, the compost tumbler saves the back-breaking work of shoveling and turning the compost pile.

Buy or Build your own compost tumbler

There are many forms and sizes of compost tumblers on the market, if you want to get one all set and ready to use. Alternatively, if you are on a limited budget, there are also plans available that show you how to build your own compost tumbler. The key features are a container capable of holding a large enough quantity of material to make it worth your while, a method of turning the container, the ability to keep any openings closed off when the turning takes place, and vents or holes to allow air to circulate through the mass. Aerating the compost mass creates optimal conditions for the efficient breakdown of organic matter into fine particles.

Two are better than one

Once you get started with using a compost tumbler, you will probably find that two units will work much better than one because once you have a batch started you will want to allow it to complete its process before adding any more raw material to it. By having two units, you have the option of adding raw material to the second one while the first one is finishing its cycle. It will also allow you to make compost in a shorter time as little as two weeks under some conditions! Some of the compost tumblers on the market have two sides, which is basically two in one, that allow you to do this.

It’s a lot less work

It’s a lot less work than turning compost piles with a pitchfork, I can tell you from experience. Compost tumblers are way ahead of compost bins or piles, in terms of efficiency. The most important ingredient for creating good compost is oxygen, and when you have a stagnant pile you can’t easily get oxygen into the middle of it. Sure you can turn it, maybe using a pitchfork, maybe using a compost turning gizmo, but quite frankly it can be really hard. When I compost I compost kitchen scraps, leaves, weeds, spent flower stalks, and bush clippings. Some of those things can be a little rigid and deep inside the pile they end up tangled together and they do not want to budge.

It’s becoming mandatory!

No kidding, there are some cities that are now issuing fines for households that don’t compost their kitchen and yard waste. In October 2009 a new city ordinance in San Francisco took affect that mandated people either compost at home using a compost bin or compost tumbler, separate their compostables out of their trash into a separate recycling bin, or face fines. Fines for individuals start at $100, fines for businesses start at $500.

Doing our part

By composting, we are setting a good example, for sure. While it may still seem odd to some people, once it becomes commonplace, more people will be inclined to begin a composting program for their household or business. By actually visualizing the amount of carbon dioxide saved from entering our atmosphere, and doing the math for what it would be like to have 300 million people doing this, we can see just how worthwhile it is for everyone to do their part in reducing energy use and reducing greenhouse gas production. Imagine 6000 garbage trucks, all billowing black smoke into the air, hauling our organic waste to the landfill, while we go and purchase yet another bag of industrially produced lawn fertilizer. Now imagine no garbage trucks, and no black smoke billowing into the air, and the compost tumbler quietly doing its part in making our yard and garden lush and green. See the difference?

Hal Merrill,
Finding ways to save the planet.

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