MADISON – Many Wisconsin residents perform the routine task of taking out the garbage once a week, but state waste management specialists say it’s likely almost 25 percent of their trash is organic material that could be composted. In other words, a quarter of what is being thrown away isn’t garbage at all.
That’s why the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is inviting people all over the state to learn and compost more during International Composting Awareness Week May 6-12.
“Composting has a lot of benefits and can be done in a variety of easy and bug-free ways,” said Ann Coakley, DNR waste and materials management director. “This is a worldwide event, and it’s a great opportunity for folks to start composting at home or work, or learn more about the benefits of composting.”
Organic materials that have traditionally been considered waste – grass clippings, leaves, vegetable scraps, and coffee grounds, for example – can sidestep the trash can and become a household staple in your garden or backyard.
“The end result of composting is a nutrient-rich, soil-like material that can be used in many ways,” said Brad Wolbert, DNR recycling and solid waste chief. “People can sprinkle it into their lawn soil or use it in their gardens. It can also be used as mulch around trees and shrubs. The benefits are just great.”
Wolbert noted that compost improves the health of lawns and gardens by providing organic material and nutrients to soil. Composting ultimately saves people money by reducing the need for fertilizers, and municipalities spend fewer tax dollars collecting yard material. Compost also saves water, since it helps soil hold moisture and reduces water runoff.
Since state law bans yard material from Wisconsin landfills, composting is also an environmentally-friendly option for managing leaves, branches, grass clippings and other yard trimmings.
Home composting isn’t complicated, and the DNR website has helpful resources for people to learn more and get started. Here are some quick tips to remember:
- Mix it up. The key to a good compost pile is having a mix of “browns” – fallen leaves, dead plants, coffee grounds and small branches – and “greens” – grass clippings, green plants and vegetable food scraps.
- Supply the basics. Compost needs fresh air and water to help microbes break down material and prevent odors. Rainfall may provide enough moisture for an uncovered compost pile, but if your bin has a cover, add some water occasionally. Turn the pile about once a week to make sure air gets mixed in.
- Make it a habit. Keep a bucket with a tight lid in the kitchen and label it “Compost,” and throw away fruit and vegetable scraps in the bucket instead of the trash. When it’s full, dump the contents onto your compost pile.
To find more information about composting, go to the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “compost.”