The average person produces 4.40 pounds of waste each day. Multiply that by the estimated 331,002,651 people living in the United States and you can understand why landfills are brimming with waste. That is why there is an increasing interest in finding new ways to deal with waste. One of the easiest ways for the average person to manage their own waste footprint is by turning their biodegradable waste material into compost.
Materials are biodegradable if they originate from plant or animal sources and can be degraded by other living organisms. Examples of biodegradable waste include raw food scraps like vegetable and fruit peels, tea bags, coffee grounds, raw leftovers, grass clippings, leaves, and more.
Compost is then made when the biodegradable material rots and decomposes. Rotting happens when our biodegradable waste is broken down by different organisms including bacteria, fungi, worms, and insects. The organisms use the waste as food and help to turn it into compost. When this process is complete, a brown crumbly mixture is left behind. It looks and smells like soil.
In this activity, you’ll be using worms as the composting organisms. After they eat the material, they produce special droppings called castings. These castings are rich in nutrients and help to keep the soil very healthy.
- A large dark plastic bin with a lid.
- A drill.
- A garden cultivator.
- Raw food scraps collected over a day or two
- Old newspapers
- Shredded leaves
- Grass clippings
- Compost worms
- If your bin does not have holes in the lid or on the bottom of the container, use a drill to carefully drill holes into both.
- Set the bin up in a corner of your garden on the ground. Note: Smelly science can be awesome – but you might want to keep your new compost bin a little distance away from your house.
- Add a layer of shredded leaves, grass clippings, and/or slightly damp newspaper pieces along the bottom of the compost bin in layers. Make sure the mixture is moist.
- Place your compost worms on top of the layer.
- Next add a layer of food scraps. Make sure these items are completely biodegradable.
- Be sure to carefully aerate the contents of your compost bin with a garden cultivator. Mix up the contents so that the pile gets oxygen and can break down effectively. You should do this every three to four days to keep the materials healthy.
- Make sure your composts stays slightly moist but not too wet. If the compost materials become too smelly, it may be a sign that you’re using too much water.
Watch your compost over the course of several weeks. You will see new soil forming in a thin layer at the bottom of the bin. Over the course of several months, you will see the layer of soil continue to grow. Continue to add shredded leaves, shredded newspapers, or grass clippings to the compost when the worms have eaten through the old layers.