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  • Sam

What is Compost, Anyways?

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No… it’s compost!

And it’s coming to save the day. But what is compost? Well, without getting too technical, it’s the result of the controlled decomposition of organic material. The end product that we know and love comes from nurturing a specific environment for the decomposing materials and the beneficial organisms that live and eat in them. You can throw organic materials in a landfill and it sure as heck won’t make compost. Composting is a process that requires the right amount of oxygen, heat, moisture and time. It’s an art and a science.

Compost is a plant’s best friend. Not only does it provide nutrients, but because it is so biologically active, it facilitates nutrient uptake from other sources and it is a great environment for mycorrhizal fungi - the high-speed internet of the soil world. It’s really awesome stuff.

Because compost is so great for plants and is a solution for our food waste problem, a number of companies have sprung up in the last few years to offer technological innovations designed to make composting easier and faster. If you’re like me, you might have seen them advertised online. They claim that you can make compost in 24 hours with a sleek gadget on your countertop. No mess, no smell, just good vibes.

If you think that it’s too good to be true, well, it is. These machines are effectively dehydrators. The resulting material is dried food scraps and not compost, even though they would like you to believe it is, based on their marketing. It cannot be used on plants, as is. If you are skeptical or want to learn more, I highly recommend reading this article about them from Ron Alexander, one of the preeminent compost professionals worldwide.

The United States Composting Council, of which we are proud members, has made pains in the last decade or so to ensure the purity of the term “compost” in advertising. Unfortunately, none of the companies innovating these products heeded these specifications. The majority of them are not members of the Council. Go figure.

Innovation is not a bad thing. Providing solutions to the very real problem of food waste ending up in landfills and incinerators is noble. To this end, we can give these products credit. Even more so if the dehydrated material is then composted under proper conditions. But if it’s not, please don’t call it compost.

If you’ve heard about these technologies or are even trying them yourself, we’d love to hear from you. Because, to solve our food waste problems and the depletion of our soils we need to employ every technique that works. Innovation is always an important part of that mix. However, make no mistake, compost is the real deal and it can’t be made in 24 hours on your countertop. Like most good things, it’s invented by Mother Nature herself and it takes time. Thanks for composting with Blue Earth Compost and helping to steward this sacred process!

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