The Black Hawk County Solid Waste Management Commission encourages residents within the landfill’s service area to help reduce the amount of materials entering the Black Hawk County Sanitary Landfill. One great way to help “shrink your garbage” is through food waste composting!
According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ most recent Iowa Waste Characterization Study (2017), food waste comprises over 20% of the total materials (by weight) going into Iowa landfills. For more information about food waste in landfills, visit the Waste Trac Education Team’s YouTube Channel.
Reduce Wasted Food
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, reducing wasted food helps people, helps the planet, and saves YOU money! Most people do not even realize how much food they throw away each week! Figure out how much food (and money!) YOUR family wastes. Minimize the amount of food wasted in your kitchen by planning and storing food more efficiently and taking other steps to get your money out of the garbage! Recycle your used vegetable oil. Also, when factoring in that nearly 25% of Iowa’s waste is paper/cardboard and another 4.6% is yard waste – almost 45% of our waste could be rescued from landfills… just through composting these materials!
Yard Waste Composting
Most cities offer a yard waste and tree trimming drop-off site for their residents, but are not permitted to accept food waste for composting. Residents are encouraged to compost their food, paper, and yard waste at home.
Food Waste Composting in Your Backyard
Composting can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. From simply throwing items into a pile, to building a three bin system, or purchasing a commercially made compost barrel – composting uses a basic “recipe” of nitrogen and carbon containing materials:
- “Green” (nitrogen containing) materials include: banana peels, apple cores, vegetable peels, coffee grounds, green grass clippings, etc.
- “Brown” (carbon containing) materials include: dried leaves, sawdust, shredded paper, straw, napkins/paper towels, etc.
Sources vary on the specific ratios of each type of item to use. Some sources say a 50% – 50% mix is best, while some research says to use 30% greens and 70% brown containing items. Check out these resources for recipes guides, tips, and tricks:
- Residential Composting Guide from the Iowa Waste Reduction Center
- Small Farm Sustainability from Iowa State Extension
- Composting at Home from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Composting Curriculum for teachers and home gardeners from the U.S. Composting Council
- Composting – Nature’s Recycling Guide from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources
- “Don’t Bag It – Compost It” from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
- “Compost Tea – How To Guide” from the Rodale Institute
- Community Composting Resources from the Northeast Recycling Council
- Do’s and Don’ts of Backyard Composting from Treehugger
- Waste Trac Education Team’s YouTube Channel has video playlists about backyard composting and compost tea!
Indoor Food Waste Composting with Red Worms – Vermicomposting
Don’t have the space for a huge outdoor compost bin? Live in an apartment? You can still compost… with the help of wiggly worms! Vermicomposting (composting with Red Worms) is a fun, earth friendly way to minimize food waste from your kitchen and home office. Red worms are able turn organic waste into worm castings. These worm castings, combined with partially processed organic matter, form vermicompost. The finished vermicompost can be used as nature’s organic fertilizer for your house plants or shared with a gardening friend.
Purchase a commercially made worm composting bin online or build your own homemade bin:
- Create and Maintain an Indoor Worm Composting Bin from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Vermicomposting 101 from the GRACE Communications Foundation.
- Episodes about vermicomposting on Growing a Greener World on PBS
- Waste Trac Education Team’s YouTube Channel has video playlists about Vermicomposting and compost tea!