Composting is an easy and effective way to reduce your trash volume. Two-thirds of our trash can be recycled or composted. State regulations prohibit yard waste from the waste stream, and food scraps, vegetable trimmings, and food-contaminated paper can be readily turned into "black gold"... the nickname for compost after it has been processed by the bacteria, heat, worms, and insects that break down organic matter in your backyard compost bin or pile. "Finished" compost can be used to fertilize and aerate your gardens and lawns, creating healthier soil and better growing conditions for your plants, vegetables, and grass.
In April 2011 the Recycling and Solid Waste Committee (RSWC) sponsored a composting workshop.
Forty six residents gathered in the elementary school gymnasium and enjoyed a presentation by Ann McGovern of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). The workshop was facilitated by a DEP grant, coordinated at DEP by Arlene Miller, and managed by Shutesbury Recycling Coordinator Gary Bernhard. Gary had written the grant proposal in response to resident input on a trash and recycling survey conducted during the 2010 trash bag distributions run by the RSWC.
The enthusiastic crowd at the workshop posed questions, shared their tips, and benefitted from the door prize raffle at the end of the evening. The RSWC awarded two New Age plastic composters (a smaller version of the style the Town sells*) as well as gift certificates from Annie's Garden & Gift Store and the Hadley Garden Center. Birch Moon Farm of Shutesbury donated a generous bag of potting soil, and RSWC member Steve Rice donated a highly-sought-after bag of composted alpaca manure.
Aside from the composting overview presentation by Ann, intermingled with questions, comments and discussion from the floor, one of the informational highlights was a 17 minute video titled, Home Composting: Turning Your Spoils to Soil.
The title link in the line above will provide you only with a .PDF transcript of the video, since the file size would be prohibitive given the large number of dial-up internet connections in town. Copies of the video DVD are available for loan from the M. N. Spear Library, however. The visual component of the video truly enhances the information and can be used as a family learning event.
Arlene provided the workshop participants with a wide variety of DEP handouts and brochures, and one of the more complete overviews is available here as another .PDF file - Home Composting: A guide for composting yard and food waste.
Another useful reference is this poster, Composting is easy!
Composting can be done in a formal "compost bin", such as the Town sells; or in an enclosure of your own making. Some people prefer a three-sided wall system of cinder blocks or wood, such as shipping pallets, so they can turn over and aerate the material more easily. Others just use an open mounded pile in a designated corner of the yard.
If you'd like more info, or assistance in figuring out what would work best for you, contact the RSWC through Recycling Coordinator Gary Bernhard at 259-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org or browse the MassDEP website. The internet has untold resources as well, including a wide variety of suggestions for constructing your own composting area.
Thanks for helping our environment, as well as your own, by composting at home. Composting your kitchen scraps helps out the Town budget, too, because that material stays out of our trash stream, which your tax dollars pay to collect, truck and incinerate each week.
*The Town sells the New Age composter — and at a greatly reduced price! The cost of these composters is subsidized so they can be sold to Shutesbury residents at $20, thanks to a grant from the Springfield MRF.