How To Compost

NC State Stewards Anna-Grace Agnini and Rosemary Edberg offer their guide on how to compost as an NC State student.

What is composting?

Compost is decayed organic matter, such as food scraps or leaves, that creates a nutrient rich soil amendment that can be used to enrich gardens. It is a lot simpler than you would think, and anyone can do it no matter where you live once you understand the basics. 

Why is composting important?

When food waste is brought to the landfill, it undergoes what is called anaerobic decomposition. The food is in a pile of trash and does not have access to oxygen. In anaerobic composition, bacteria that don’t need oxygen consume the trash and produce a landfill gas that includes methane, which contributes to climate change. Landfill gas also includes non-methane organic compounds (NMOCs), which can be cancerous and have an unpleasant smell. Did you know that 95% of our food waste is currently going into the landfill? Although some landfills are able to collect a significant amount of the methane gas they create, about 18% of the U.S. methane emissions come from our landfills. Instead, composting allows citizens to avoid creating the toxic methane gas and instead allow their food scraps to decompose the aerobic way, which requires oxygen. This is why many types of composting require aeration or rotation of the decaying matter. 

What are the different methods of composting?

There are many different methods of composting, but here’s a basic summary of what you need to know. First, decide whether you will be composting inside or outside. For indoor composting, the most popular methods are vermicomposting or commercial composting. Vermicomposting uses earthworms to break down organic waste, and commercial composting is when you collect your compost and take it to a facility for processing. Some cities will collect your compost for you, but at the moment Raleigh is not one of them. For outdoor composting, popular methods include open air composting (a pile of organic matter), direct composting (digging a hole for your scraps), and tumbler composting (contains scraps in a sealed bin, requires turning). 

The best/recommended way to compost in an apartment?

Many people believe that in order to compost, you have to have a backyard; however, anyone can compost no matter if you have a huge backyard or live in a dorm. There are many unique composters available, such as worm bins and electric composters, but they are not necessary to participate in composting. One of the easiest ways is to collect your compost in a separate bin and take it to a convenience center. If you are concerned about odor, you can collect your compost in a bag in the freezer.

Where should you bring your collected compost?

For NC State students, if you live on campus, you can drop off your compostable food scraps at one of the numerous Pizza Box Composting bins on campus. For those living off-campus, you can drop off your compostable waste at a Wake County Convenience Site.  The closest one to campus is located on 3600 Yates Mill Pond Road in Raleigh. There are several other options for those who live off campus. An app called ShareWaste connects people with food scraps to others in their community that can use it, and there may be commercial services in your areas that can pick up the compost you created for a fee.