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The Many Benefits of Composting

written by: Lindsay Evans•edited by: Tania Cowling•updated: 3/24/2010

Should you start a compost pile? Composting kitchen and yard waste has many benefits and is a great way to nourish your soil and cut back on household waste. Any green home shouldn't be without a compost pile!

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    Composting - Recycle Nutrients and Replenish Your Soil

    Composting can happen anywhere, from a tiny city apartment to a country farm. Many municipalities now allow (or even require) residents to set aside their yard waste and kitchen scraps for city composting programs. The organic waste is properly treated and broken down into rich compost, which is generally offered for sale back to the community.

    Composting food and yard waste helps to complete a natural cycle of life. Composting occurs naturally everywhere. As plants grow and eventually die, their nutrients are made available again by returning to the soil.

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    Cut Back on Household Waste and Save Money, Too

    One major benefit of composting is that you will greatly reduce the amount of garbage your household throws away. Sending less waste to landfills is an effective way to reduce your environmental impact.

    Compostable food and yard waste can make up a significant percentage of landfill waste. Although it is hard to accurately estimate the amount of food that US consumers throw away, experts say that between 25% and 50% of the food we buy ends being thrown away.

    Composting is one of many environmentally friendly ideas that can also save you money. By composting your household's organic waste you can cut back on garbage bills while helping the earth.

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    Help Reduce Greenhouse Gasses

    You can have a direct effect on reducing greenhouse gasses just by having your own compost pile. Organic waste that is sent to landfills ends up buried, where sunshine and air cannot reach it. The result is decomposition that occurs in an anaerobic environment, which creates methane gas. Cutting back methane emissions, which are many times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, is a top priority in reducing greenhouse gas.

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    Free Organic Fertilizer

    Perhaps the most significant benefit of composting it that it gives you a free supply of organic fertilizer for your yard and garden. You just can't buy a richer soil amendment than the finished product from your compost pile.

    Homemade compost is highly beneficial to your soil. Compost contains nutrients and microorganisms that your plants, shrubs, and trees will love. Compost helps to retain water in your soil, thereby reducing erosion.

    Mix your compost with your soil as you prepare your garden beds for planting in the spring. You can also use compost to top-dress the soil around the bases of perennial plants, trees, and shrubs.

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    Remediate Contaminated Soil

    The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advocates the use of compost to help clean up contaminated soils. According to the EPA, compost can "absorb odors and treat semivolatile and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including heating fuels, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and explosives."

    Compost also helps retain heavy metals in the soil so they do not enter the water table. Furthermore, the EPA states that "the compost process degrades and, in some cases, completely eliminates wood preservatives, pesticides, and both chlorinated and nonchlorinated hydrocarbons in contaminated soils."

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    Start Composting!

    Put the benefits of composting to work for you by starting your own compost pile or participating in your city's composting program. Composting is an easy and rewarding way to reduce your household waste and replenish your soil.

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    US EPA:

    How To Compost - Your Compost Resource