What is composting and how it helps the environment?

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A compost bin

Composting is a treatment process that facilitates the decomposition of organic matter in an oxygenated environment and creates a nutrient-rich fertilizer or soil amendment. Food scraps, landscape trimmings, wood products and animal byproducts, packaging and other discarded material can be composted. Bio-waste from food instead of dumping in a landfilled is turned in to compost and forms a resource for organic soil improvers, fertilizers, and bio-based products. The carbon and nutrient contents of bio-waste are mainly concentrated in organic fertilizers. By bringing these nutrients back to the soil, rather than letting organic waste rot away in landfills composting can feed diverse life in the soil. The bacteria, fungi, insects and worms in compost support better soil health and plant growth, ultimately boosting its resilience to cope with harsh drought conditions. These nutrients and can also be extracted, modified or transformed into a range of different bio-based products, too. All these secondary products can replace fossil-based products such as mineral fertilisers, peat and fossil fuels. After use, the residues of these products can flow back safely into the biosphere, thereby closing carbon and nutrient cycles.

Furthermore, compost has the ability to help regenerate poor soils. The composting process encourages the production of beneficial micro-organisms (mainly bacteria and fungi) which in turn break down organic matter to create humus. Humus–a rich nutrient-filled material–increases the nutrient content in soils and helps soils retain moisture. Compost has also been shown to suppress plant diseases and pests, reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers, and promote higher yields of agricultural crops.

Composting organic materials that have been diverted from landfills ultimately avoids the production of methane and leachate formulation in the landfills. Compost has the ability to prevent pollutants in stormwater runoff from reaching surface water resources. Compost has also been shown to prevent erosion and silting on embankments parallel to creeks, lakes, and rivers, and prevents erosion and turf loss on roadsides, hillsides, playing fields, and golf courses.

The benefits of improving organic collection for composting are potentially far reaching. Direct benefits include an improved urban environment for human health, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and reduced costs for municipalities and households. Indirect benefits can include improved soils in peri-urban areas through cycling of organic fertilisers, more feedstock for the local bioeconomy, and clean renewable energy for electricity, district heating, and even transport systems.