September 8, 2008 | Dominique Bayne, Former Senior Horticulturist

I was once jokingly asked by a co-worker in a previous career if I was going to answer 'the call of the compost heap' and quit my job to garden full time. It seems that this turned out to be closer to the truth than I thought at the time.

Do you compost your kitchen and garden waste at home? If you do you are already aware of the reduction in waste going to the landfill that that causes. Varying sources estimate that 30-40% of waste going to the landfill is compostable.

Did you attend any concerts at the gardens this year?  With the help of our Green Team volunteers you probably helped reduce our addition to the landfill by composting some of your trash. The Gardens' Green Team (comprised of a staff team and a volunteer team) have been working to extend the composting program beyond garden waste. Now you can compost at the cafe's and at major events.

Which waste is compostable? It depends on how you are composting. Theoretically anything that was once recently alive can be composted  - I say recently alive as technically plastic is made from oil which came from plants but that occurred millions of years ago & so does not count.  That said,  the typical home gardener does not want to deal with potential problems associated with composting meat and other cooked foods - though some experienced composters have found ways to do this successfully. Similarly bio-plastics do not break down quickly enough in a normal compost heap. This leaves garden waste (leaves, grass clippings, annual plants etc.) along with vegetable scraps from the kitchen.

At the Botanic Gardens we can compost pretty much everything, including meat and bio-plastics. The difference is we send our compost off site (we do not have the space to compost on site as we produce such high volume) to A1 Organics. I have yet to visit their site to find out exactly how it works but my understanding is they grind the trash before composting and also have enough volume to get it to reach much higher temperatures than the typical home compost heap.

What if you don't have a garden? You have two alternatives - I have two worm bins at home that compost my kitchen waste as I live in an apartment. Click here to find out more about worm composting or visit the demonstration worm bin at the information desk. Worms are probably the easiest pets I have ever had and the compost is a great soil addition for houseplants.

Alternatively Denver Recycles is currently piloting a new home composting scheme similar to the Purple bin program for recyclables - click here to check it out & sign up.


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