Soil

FOOD WASTE: RECYCLING NUTRIENTS

The kitchen waste we so easily get rid of could transform into a resource we rarely think of especially among us urbanites.

When we put vegetable wastes, fruit peels, tea waste, onion & banana peels mixed with egg shells together with some dry leaves and soil, we create a mixture that over time transforms into food for other crops.

COMPOST

Composting happens when organic or rotting matter is allowed to sit in a covered environment over time which breaks up complex waste matter into simpler compounds easily absorbed as crop nutrients.

Depending on the starting material, compost converts into a rich source of soil carbon and nitrogen flavored with a concoction of other micro nutrients such as calcium, sulfur, potassium and boron.

Since crops can’t utilize the rotting matter as it is, composting facilitates the breakdown of waste into substances which crops can easily absorb and assimilate.

MICROORGANISMS

But this is only possible through action of microorganisms.

Composting microorganisms facilitate breakdown of matter not only in a way that’s sustainable naturally but also to allow that good chemical, physical and microbial balance to exist which is ultimately good for any soil.

Composting need not be complex.

All that’s needed is a container where one places waste matter after cutting it into smaller pieces to facilitate fast degradation.

A good balance needs to be struck between waste high in nitrogen (smelly stuff) and that high in carbon (brownish dry stuff like dry leaves).

A handful of material from past composting could be added to introduce the right microorganisms to fast track the process.

Also a carbohydrate source such as molasses or waste flour could be added as a food source for the microbes.

The contents of the compost pile could be ‘optimized’ to provide the required nutrients if need be…

Vegetable waste is rich in nitrogen;

Eggshells are rich in calcium;

Banana peels are a good source of potassium;

Onion and garlic peels contain sulfur:

Dry leaves or sawdust contain a good amount of carbon:

and

Rock dust could supplement the other micro nutrients needed for crops to thrive.

Ensuring that the compost pile is damp while regularly ‘turning’ it over maximizes microbial action over the whole pile.

Though most rotting matter can be composted, dairy, meat and fish waste may be avoided because they attract rodents.

Depending on the size of the pile, finished compost could be ready in about 3-6 months to be on the safe side.

At this stage, it will be a mound of brown, aerated particles with a fresh smell.

NUTRIENT CYCLE

Composting helps us ‘close the loop’ on the cycle of some nutrients preventing losses through the environment.

Of concern is phosphorus, considered a macro nutrient in agriculture which is relatively scarce (compared to nitrate and potassium) and is easily washed away into water bodies leading to development of algae and vascular plants such as hyacinths.

But this same nutrient cycle benefits could also be extended to other micro-nutrients craved for by crops such as sulfur, calcium and magnesium.

But composting could also help in opening up business opportunities to the open minded in more ways than one.

RUBBISH COLLECTION

The budding entrepreneur could take advantage of poor solid waste disposal in urban centres by establishing a rubbish collection service who’s main aim is to recycle organic waste to make compost which could be sold to farmers.

Possibly the only resources needed to start such a venture could be a piece of land in an area where composting is allowed, permits from the local authorities, a business registration certificate, public health permits and some capital to rent vehicles to transport the trash.

IN CONCLUSION

Food waste is a goldmine waiting to be unearthed by those who are ready to sweat it out today in order to enjoy tomorrow.

Take that step of faith.

Go for it.