If you think composting is a stinky, yucky waste of time: the City of Denver would like you to reconsider this common misconception.
Currently, Denver offers composting pickup for about half the city. This spring, they've expanded their program with two new routes able to serve 4,000 more homes in Denver.
The program requires you to opt-in and costs about $30 every three months.
But, Charlotte Pitt with the City of Denver's waste management team says composting organic material can cut back on what you throw away by fifty percent or more!
Here's 9 facts about composting to know heading in to spring gardening season.
1. You can opt into the city's compost collection program, but you can also simply start a compost in your backyard.
Composting is relatively easy to start, and can be as time consuming as you would like it to be. If you aerate and turn your compost more frequently, it will turn into usable material much faster. But, you can also let it compost naturally and wait a year or so for it to be usable.
“It's natures way of recycling," Pitt says. "Composting happens whether we do it or not. What we try to do is do it in a concentrated process so that we can capture that material and use it for growing vegetables or flowers.”
2. It doesn't smell. It's not gross.
‘"If you work compost in correct way it’s actually very not gross," she says. "It’s really not a yucky process. The finished compost is very earthy and actually smells quite good." Plus, it's extremely nutrient rich and beneficial for your vegetable or flower garden.
3. Composting saves greenhouse gas emissions.
When organic material such as food waste is tossed in with regular trash, it decomposes differently.
"It starts to decompose in anaerobic conditions, which means without oxygen. That process creates methane gas, a huge greenhouse gas," Pitt says. "Methane gas is 21 more times potent than carbon dioxide. It’s not only a valuable resource we want to keep out of our landfills for that reason, but it's great for our soil too, when it’s composted correctly."
4. You can compost everything from meat to paper towels to lawn clippings to dog hair.
Coffee grounds. Tea bags. Branches. Grass clippings. Paper towels. Moldy cheese and grapefruits. You can compost it all (and more).
For the average family, 30 percent of what they compost is yard debris, and about 10 percent is uneaten food.
"The rest is what we call non recyclable papers – paper towels, paper plates, facial tissues. things you might use that don't go in recycling bin. If you participate in the composting program really what you should have leftover is pretty minimal," Pitt says. " If you participate in the composting program really what you should have left in your trash can is pretty minimal. What people report to us is things like plastic film, plastic bags, Styrofoam meat trays, toothpaste trays. The people who do participate are really able to minimize what they throw away.
5. In your backyard, compost a good mix of "greens and browns."
Greens are moist materials and browns are dry materials. Keeping a good mix of moisture levels (and turning it frequently) will earn you stellar compost more quickly.
6. It doesn't need to be fancy.
You can buy a plastic composting bin for your backyard from major stores, or you can build one yourself. It doesn't have to be complicated or special. Pitt showed us several models, both store bought and homemade, that all serve the same purpose.
The key is to have a spot or container with good air flow and which you can turn and aerate relatively easily.
7. You can reduce your trash by half if you decide to compost. And, you can reduce your summer water consumption.
Think the food and paper waste you throw away each week isn't really a big deal? It is. More than half of what typically goes in a trash can can actually go in your compost.
In areas served by compost collection in Denver, it's as easy as dropping everything in the green bin and waiting for pickup each week.
Since compost can be mixed into soil or spread thinly over lawns to help retain moisture, you can also save a bunch of water (and money!) in the warmer months with less frequent sprinkler use.
8. Even if you don't want to compost, you can buy it in bulk from the city.
If you'd like to reap the benefits of others' composting, each May the city of Denver holds a discount compost sale at Havana Nursery at I-70 and Havana.
Throughout the year, compost is sold at various garden stores, too.
9. Denver offers classes to become a 'master composter' as well as introductory (free!) classes throughout the year.
Love composting? Or want to learn more about it? The City of Denver offers 30 classes per year on basic composting skills in partnership with Denver Urban Gardens. The classes are taught by 'master composters' who take a 40-hour, ten-week course in the science of composting, solid waste management and recycling. Sign up a week in advance of any class here.
If you're interested in signing up for home compost collection, call 311 or visit Denver's recycling website.
The city of Denver uses a contractor to haul the collected materials to a facility in Keenesburg. What you can compost via pickup or in your backyard does vary slightly (you won't want to compost meat in your backyard, for example).
Finally, compost is a labor of love, in a way. "The amount of work you put into it directly impacts the time and the final finished product," Pitt says.