Beyond the Plate, the Many Methods of Composting

Some beautiful compost!Here at Eat. Drink. Better. we talk a lot about the process through which food moves from farm to market to plate. But responsible food consumption includes accountability for the manner in which food scraps are disposed. It’s all well and good to have a backyard composter if your property includes some green space or even a balcony, but what about apartment dwellers?

If you are not fortunate enough to live in one of the few cities that has a municipal composting program like Toronto, San Francisco or Mexico City (to give a pan-continental view of those lucky ducks), there are still several options. The simplest of which is to carry your compost to a centralized location. Green markets and community gardens very often accept food scraps to include in their compost bins – it’s easiest to google your city plus “compost drop-off.”

To compost indoors there are a few remaining systems: vermicompost, automated composting, and repurposing. The vermiculture system – true to its name – is a colony of worms (usually Red Wigglers or Red Earthworms) that eat their way through the organic matter, leaving only rich soil in their midst. This beginner’s guide to vermiculture composting is really practical and helpful.

The automated machines are brand new and so the jury is still out on their usability. They look pretty amazing in their ease of use and squeamish-proof maintenance. According to the maker, NatureMill, scraps are processed by an automated mixing mechanism that combines and aerates the matter while a heater maintains an optimal temperature for decomposition. The compost then drops down to a bottom compartment that can be pulled out like a drawer. There is still some debate about the energy consumption of this machine, which some consider unnecessarily wasteful.

Finally, food scraps can very often be salvaged for recipes that employ fermentation like fruit scrap vinegar. Many locavores swear by the fermented food recipes in Wild Fermentations, although I haven’t read it and cannot personally vouch for its contents. I am definitely going to pick up a copy, though: now that I’m moving between a municipal composting city and a compost-clueless one, I will need to develop a method for dealing with my post-meal waste.

How do you get rid of your scraps?

(Image courtesy of Kessner Photography)

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