Compost at Home
Benefits of Composting
Composting is recycling! Composting is the natural process that decomposes yard waste and food waste to make a brown, crumbly soil additive that enhances the health of your lawn and gardens. Adding finished compost to soil improves soil texture, helps soil retain moisture, reduces run-off, and naturally increases nutrient content to help sustain healthy plants. Healthier plants are more resistant to pests and disease.
Diverting organic waste from the Orange County Landfill for composting conserves precious landfill space and reduces production of methane from anaerobic waste decomposition in the landfill. Twenty percent of Orange County's waste is food waste.
Anaerobic decomposition of organic waste such as food waste and yard waste in landfills is the Number 1 producer of methane gas in the United States. When not controlled and simply vented to the atmosphere, methane gas is the most potent of all the greenhouse gases contributing twenty-five times as much to climate change as carbon dioxide.
Home composting also saves the energy used to run waste collection trucks, conserves water in the garden by helping soils retain moisture, and reduces the need for chemical pesticides and fertilizers, all of which save money, and the environment wins as well.
To learn more about the benefits and the process of composting, visit the Outdoor Demonstration Sites in Orange County:
- Community Center (behind the rose garden) on South Estes Drive in Chapel Hill.
- Orange County Solid Waste Management Office 1207 Eubanks Road Chapel Hill.
Orange County Solid Waste Management provides compost demonstrations several times a year the Outdoor Composting Demonstration Sites. Contact 919-968-2788 or email recycling to find out more about indoor composting using worms or outdoor composting demonstrations.
If your neighborhood, civic group, garden group, or faith-based organization is interested in learning how to compost, you can arrange a class with Orange County Solid Waste Management staff at one of the demonstration sites or at your location. We can also offer assistance in starting a composting program on site for these types of organizations.
How to Compost
There are as many different ways to compost as there are people who compost!
There are four basic ingredients needed to compost:
- Carbon ("Brown material such as wood chips, brown leaves, or shredded newspaper)
- Nitrogen ("Green" wet waste such as grass clippings, or fruit and vegetable scraps from your kitchen)
If you have these ingredients, you can compost at your home, office, or school.
Many people prefer a tidy structure in which to place their organic waste, whether it be a commercially available composting bin or a home-made one. Building a loose pile of leaves, food waste, grasses and brush or digging a hole in the ground to bury the materials are time-honored composting methods as well. Each method has its pros and cons, depending on one's living situation and one's composting goals.
Orange County Solid Waste Management sells compost bins known as the "Earth Machine" for $50 at the administrative office, 1207 Eubanks Road Chapel Hill, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. We have provided links for more information on commercially available composting units.
Composting is not limited to the outdoors. Indoor composting using red worms is an efficient method to convert organic waste into wonderful rich compost too, good for houseplants as well as outdoor landscapes and gardens.
The links provided on this page by no means encompass the wealth of composting resources on the World Wide Web. Sources listed here do not represent endorsement of one information resource over the other.