Compost Brilliance

Student volunteers from the University of Kentucky move finished compost to nurture a garden

Student volunteers from the University of Kentucky move finished compost to nurture a garden

It does not take long for a novice urban composter to despair. Smells hover, creatures wriggle and writhe, and the amount of compost finished annually fits into a shoebox. In the country, with lots of room and time, compost forms itself from food and plant scraps piled up and left alone at some distance from the house. Our backyard compost bins don't work that way. The bins' contents need a lot more "brown" material than we have handy, they require frequent turning with the compost crank Seedleaf's Nurturer-in-Chief Ryan Koch recommends, and they don't heat up enough to speed good compost development.

Being lazy, I have longed for city food scrap pick up, something residents of Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, and other cities enjoy. Food waste occupies a lot of space in landfills. I have seen estimates ranging from five to 20 percent, without adding packaging, another whopping landfiller. Lexington's good solid waste staff have a food scrap pick up trial running in one part of town right now. Since other parts of our  recycling system began with similar trials, I hope food scrap pick up will soon come to my neighborhood, and that our city will develop a new income stream from the finished compost.

Entrepreneurs are filling the food scrap pick up gap in some cities. I learned about Compost Cab in Washington, D.C., from my latest favorite book, Will Allen's The Good Food Revolution.

Seedleaf, our peerless food leaders, partnered with the local Division of Waste Management and Bluegrass Pride to hold Lexington's first Master Community Composter training in 2012, and will offer the course again in 2013. Seedleaf volunteers and staff pick up food scraps from many area restaurants and food prep sites that ask to be Compost Partners. Seedleaf then composts the scraps at several appropriate sites around town, and uses finished compost to grow their beautiful, productive gardens. Seedleaf also offers some links to helpful compost resources for those of us trying to do it ourselves. These can help us all, while we wait for the rapture—food scraps picked up at our curbs as part of our regular waste collection, and composted into rich soil amendments that help grow more food.