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Composting – A Waste Management Process

In today’s complicated world where everything is connected (from manufacturing to consumption to disposal), waste management takes on several disposal methods (landfills, incineration, recycling, pyrolysis, etc.) because there is as yet no ideal disposal system.

One of these processes is composting.


Composting happens in nature all the time. These days, composting takes on a new meaning as it becomes one additional method of waste disposal under the bigger umbrella of waste management.

Composting is controlling the decomposition of organic matter in a more scientific manner. The product is compost (humus), and is used in gardening and farming (the industrial kind) by mixing it with the soil. This improves the soil quality, soil structure and brings back the nutrients.

Compost or humus is the end-product of decomposed organic matter as performed primarily by microbes, fungi, molds, and other microorganisms. They are helped by larger creatures like the earthworms, ants, snails, millipedes, sow bugs, slugs and others who consume and break down the organic matter.

To encourage the microbes, the compost heap should have the correct mix of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and water. If the heap is too wet, it will block the oxygen needed by the bacteria. If the pile is too dry, the bacteria do not have the moisture to survive and reproduce. Nitrogen is needed for the proteins the microbes need.

Decomposition still works even if some ingredients are missing, but not as quickly as is planned. This mix of biodegradable materials is still capable of being completely broken down from the action of microorganisms into carbon dioxide, water and biomass.

Industrial composting

Together with other advanced processing systems, progressive cities and many urban centers around the world are now installing large-scale composting systems as part of their total urban waste management. In landfills, mechanical sorting of mixed wastes is done along with in-vessel composting called mechanical biological treatment.

Today, biodegradable waste materials are treated before it is dumped into landfills, making it industrial-sized compost pits. This is to help reduce global warming. Untreated materials break down anaerobically and produce gas that includes the greenhouse gas methane.

The size of waste materials is also a significant issue in compostability. Big pieces of wood may not make up for fast composting while saw dust is a good one. Contaminating materials are also dealt with bioremediation and other special composting approaches.


There are two composting techniques – active (hot) and passive (cold) composting.

Active composting allows the most effective decomposing bacteria to flourish, killing most pathogens and seeds, and producing usable compost quickly. This is used by most commercial and industrial composting ventures because not only this ensures a higher quality, it also produces fast results.

Most home composters usually employ the passive kind unconsciously – just throw in everything in there and leave it for about a year or two. Some, of course, are extra-religious in their home composting endeavor – monitoring temperatures, regularly turning the soil, adjusting the heap, etc.)

Community action

Organic materials included in waste sent to landfills produce the dreaded greenhouse gas methane during decomposition. In suburban areas, organic waste materials can be removed from the total stream from the very start – at household levels.

Promoting backyard composting to the community at large can help reduce organic materials (kitchen scraps, other biodegradable materials) thrown out to landfills. This goes a long way in helping decrease the production of greenhouse gases.


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