A Beginner’s Guide to Composting Kitchen Scraps

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Composting is an ideal way to turn food scraps and yard waste into rich soil amendment for your garden while helping reduce landfill waste and producing less greenhouse gas emissions.

Composting can be daunting for those new to this eco-conscious habit, so this guide aims to explain all of its fundamentals. Composting kitchen scraps should become part of everyday life! To assist, this article covers basic information regarding composting kitchen waste.

What to Add

Homeowners and gardeners generate an abundance of organic waste that can easily be turned into delicious compost. Composting is one of the easiest ways to reduce weekly household waste while replenishing soil nutrients with essential elements. However, it’s essential that homeowners understand which materials can cause unpleasant odors, attract vermin or slow the decomposition process; certain items must remain out.

Assembling an outdoor or indoor compost pile requires only filling a bucket or bin and burying it, with any number of suitable options that include ready-made kitchen compost pails and small metal or wooden containers with lids that include filters to reduce unpleasant odors being suitable.

Kitchen scraps contain high levels of nitrogen, making them suitable for composting. But for optimal results, they must also be mixed with an abundance of carbon-rich brown materials such as grass clippings, hay bales, straw, leaves, paper or cardboard that contain large quantities of brown matter – such as grass clippings.

Composting not only provides an environment conducive to bacteria, earthworms and other helpful organisms but it can also keep soil loose and nutrient-rich. By decomposing organic materials rotting and producing humus – often referred to by avid gardeners as black gold – composting helps keep the planet’s ecosystems healthier while simultaneously decreasing landfill volumes with organic refuse undergoing anaerobic decomposition without oxygen release, creating methane gas which is one of the most harmful greenhouse gases.

Start by collecting one week’s worth of kitchen scraps and placing them into a food scrap bucket or receptacle. Dig a 12″x24″ hole in the backyard or corner yard that fits your container – fill with food waste from that week, dump into hole, cover with dirt as desired (4-6″ would do just fine!). Then cover everything over. For more information on what you can use, here are 11 kitchen scraps you should be saving.

Avoid adding meat, bones, whole eggs, dairy products or oily food products such as grease into your compost pile as these items take a longer time to break down and may attract pests. Also try not to include weed seeds or fruit pits that will sprout. It’s important not to bury animal feces because this can carry diseases as well as being an attraction for rodents and other unwanted organisms.


A properly layered compost pile provides air circulation, balances moisture levels and keeps pests at bay. A good rule of thumb for creating an efficient pile is layering brown materials like dry leaves, straw or paper over food scraps in three-to-four inch thickness parfaits and repeating this process each time more kitchen waste is added to your bin or heap. For maximum effectiveness, keep one bin inside your kitchen dedicated solely for collecting kitchen scraps while another large outdoor bin can collect yard waste as it accrues.

Start your pile off right by layering four to eight inches of coarse sticks or twigs, such as coarse sticks or twigs, to create structure and absorb water for decomposition. Next add food scraps such as peels from fruit and vegetables, coffee grounds, eggshells and other nitrogen-rich kitchen scraps between carbon-rich materials like dry leaves or twigs for maximum fruit fly prevention and strong odor suppression.

As you continue layering your compost pile, be sure to alternate brown and green materials according to what experts suggest (three to four parts browns to one part greens). Maintaining this balance ensures the bacteria that produce compost can do their work more effectively and efficiently.

Turn your compost pile every few weeks using a shovel or pitchfork to agitate materials and speed their break-down. While this step may not be necessary if your bin turns or tumbles automatically, turning is still recommended for outdoor heaps to ensure decomposition occurs evenly across your pile and doesn’t become wet or smelly.

Maintaining a well-kept compost pile is essential to creating a thriving garden, so the effort of keeping one up-and-running should not be underestimated. Once fully broken down, compost can nourish both soil and plants while drawing beneficial insects such as earthworms to your plot. When managed well, your compost will continue providing essential organic nutrients over the course of many seasons to come.


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Attaining zero waste with kitchen scraps is an excellent way to reduce environmental impact, yet most households lack space or access for starting a compost pile in their backyards. But if that’s not an option for you, or you just want an easier solution, there are plenty of alternatives out there: curbside collection from cities and towns or countertop compost bins that cost around $44 may help speed up this process without ever leaving your kitchen

To maximize the potential of composting, it’s crucial to maintain appropriate moisture levels. Microbes that decompose organic matter require water in order to function, and thrive best when materials have between 40%-60% moisture content. At lower levels, however, materials will dry out and become anaerobic – an unpleasant odor will ensue as anaerobic organisms decompose it slowly over time.

Checking your compost’s moisture level is easy: simply squeeze handfuls from different areas to see what feels like a damp sponge; if it feels extremely wet, add browns until it dries down more thoroughly. For an accurate reading, weigh samples before and after oven drying them, although this requires time and an expensive kitchen scale.

An effective compost pile requires mixing three or four parts “browns”, like sawdust or wood chips, with one part food scraps. This ensures you have sufficient dry material to soak up moisture from food scraps while still allowing air to freely circulate between layers. Furthermore, regular turning should keep things moving; adding wet feedstocks like hay or manure may increase moisture content significantly as these have high molecular weights; however if your location experiences hot and sunny weather then more water may need to be added back as you need to compensate for loss due to evaporation from loss through evaporation.


Microorganisms produce heat when decomposing kitchen scraps, which must then be released through either aeration or surface cooling. To minimize surface cooling, keep your compost pile large enough for sufficient air circulation while also being small enough for consistent temperature distribution throughout.

General rule for compost temperatures should be around 140 degrees Fahrenheit to effectively eradicate pathogens, weed seeds and any unwanted organisms from your compost.

At its core, composting requires a combination of “brown” and “green” materials, sufficient moisture, and regular turns of the pile. An ideal ratio would be four parts brown materials such as paper scraps or leaves to one part green materials such as grass clippings or vegetable scraps.

Composting not only adds vital organic material to soils, but it can also drastically decrease waste sent to landfills – this has the added bonus of helping reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. In America alone, 30-40% of food ends up in landfills where it doesn’t belong!

If you don’t have space in your own home for composting, ask neighbors who might accept taking in your scraps and/or have a compost pile if this would work better for them. Additionally, find a community garden or school garden which accepts donations of compost material as another solution.

A thermometer is an invaluable asset in creating an effective compost pile. Digital thermometers enable quick readings of current temperatures; some even feature color-coded zones to make reading instructions simpler for those with impaired vision or language difficulties.

If your compost pile isn’t working as it should, try to adjust its composition by altering its ratio between brown and green materials or by increasing nitrogen. If it remains smelly after this step, the problem could lie with too much moisture or too little air in the pile – or both may need to be addressed simultaneously. You could also consider moving or turning over your pile.

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