Sunday, April 25, 2010

Composting and Friends

From time to time I see people ask on message boards what they should hold their kitchen scraps in until they are ready to dump them in the compost pile. This is what I use: a tall glass jar with a tight-fitting lid from IKEA. I leave it open most of the time without odor problems. From what I have read, the reason that rotten plant material (not meat) starts to smell bad is usually because of a buildup anaerobic bacteria. They can only live in the absence of oxygen, so if the jar is open and doesn't have water in the bottom of it, it doesn't really get smelly. Some people keep their jars in the fridge, but this is only necessary for me if it takes longer than a week to go empty it.

I also have, from time to time, apartment-dwelling friends who want to compost but can't have a pile of their own. I have accepted donations in jars and 5-gallon buckets. Recently I received my last donation from a pair of good friends whose landlord let them keep a trash can full of rotten kitchen scraps outside his home. They drilled holes all over a regular outdoor plastic trash can to allow air to flow in and liquid to drain out, and put in all the veggie peels, apple cores, corn husks, coffee grounds and eggshells they produced. (They eat mostly freshly-prepared vegetarian, so it was probably more than the average married couple.) About half of it would be completely broken down on arrival, and I was always interested to see what was still identifiable at the bottom! Once when they delivered during winter I found a layer of dead maggots just above the frozen-solid stuff - fascinating! Sadly, they are moving on and I will be missing their scraps - as well as RM's company.


  1. I don't know Shaela. I am still skeptical of the system. You didn't mention that it just sits on the counter staring at you. Maybe I would have gotten opaque jars.

    Also, what about some composting basics? I know you read at least a dozen books on the subject. What's important for a successful compost pile?

  2. I will miss both you, and the compost bin, Shaela. We have nowhere to compost at our new place, but I'm glad that two years of kitchen scraps went to a good home. And I hope you'll keep the blog going so I can read about your life.