How to start or improve compost bins this fall

  • Adam Martin of Martins Farm in Greenfield stands on a pile of compost with more windrows of the fermenting refuse. March 16, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Adam Martin of Martins Farm in Greenfield stands on a pile of compost waiting to be sorted with food scraps and cardboard. March 16, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • A food waste drop off site at Martins Farm in Greenfield STAFF FILE PHOTO/Paul Franz

For the Recorder
Published: 11/17/2020 8:29:54 AM

Autumn, with its abundance of fallen leaves, decaying pumpkins and garden waste, is a great time to start composting, or to improve your home compost system. Fall leaves, while prohibited from the trash in Massachusetts, are a helpful addition to home compost bins, as they add the carbon necessary for effective composting.

Low-cost equipment available locally

Composting is easy, and it can be even easier with low-cost compost bins. The Franklin County Solid Waste Management District sells “Earth Machine” home compost bins. The Earth Machine features a door in the bottom that can be opened to shovel out finished compost.

District residents can purchase an Earth Machine for $50. For residents of Bernardston, Conway, Deerfield, Leverett, New Salem, Northfield, Orange, Wendell and Whately, the cost is only $25, due to a subsidized pricing incentive from those towns. To purchase bins, call 413-772-2438.

District residents may also buy Earth Machine compost bins at the transfer stations in Colrain, Orange and Wendell (pricing may vary). For more information on these locations, visit bit.ly/38whnDE.

The Franklin County Solid Waste Management District also sells “Sure-Close” kitchen compost collection pails for $5. This 2-gallon pail sits on the countertop or under the sink to collect compostables before taking them out to the home compost bin or municipal compost collection. The pinholes in the lid allow moisture to evaporate, which reduces odor.

Greenfield residents may buy Earth Machine compost bins and Sure-Close pails at the Greenfield Transfer Station, and can call 413-772-1528 for more information.

Municipal composting programs

In addition to home composting, commercial or municipal composting can greatly reduce trash volumes. Commercial composting goes beyond the backyard compost bin by accepting items not recommended for home composting, like meat, bones, cheese, oily foods, compostable coffee cups, and BPI-certified “compostable plastic.”

Municipal compost programs at these 10 Franklin County transfer stations accept separated food and paper waste free from residents or permit holders: Bernardston (and Leyden), Conway, Deerfield, Greenfield, Leverett, Orange, New Salem, Northfield, Wendell and Whately. (The Greenfield Transfer Station accepts food and paper waste free from any Franklin County resident.)

The materials collected in these programs is sent to a commercial compost facility like Martin’s Farm in Greenfield or Clear View Composting in Orange.

How to compost at home

In the kitchen, collect fruit and vegetable scraps and peels, eggshells, coffee grounds and paper filters, stale bread and leftover grains. It is not recommended to put the following materials in home compost bins or piles: pet waste, meat, bones, poultry, fish, dairy and oily foods such as peanut butter and salad dressing.

When adding kitchen scraps to outdoor compost bins, cover the scraps with leaves, finished compost or other carbon-rich materials. Covering the kitchen scraps reduces insects and odor, while also speeding up the composting process.

Ideally, a home compost bin should contain about 75 percent “brown” carbon-rich materials like fall leaves, straw, used paper towels, ripped up egg cartons, paper bags or newspaper (printed with water-based inks, like this one is); and 25 percent “green” nitrogen-rich materials such as food waste, coffee grounds and grass clippings.

If possible, only add smaller amounts of oak leaves and pine needles to your compost bin. Maple and other local leaves are ideal.

The composting process needs oxygen; mixing or “turning” the pile every few weeks with a shovel or pitchfork will speed up the composting process. Introduce helpful microorganisms to your bin by adding a few shovelfuls of garden soil or finished compost. Add water occasionally to make the contents as damp as a wrung-out sponge. Compost is ready to use when it looks like crumbly, dark brown, sweet-smelling soil.

For more information, visit franklincountywastedistrict.org or contact the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District at 413-772-2438 or info@franklincountywastedistrict.org.

Amy Donovan is the program director for the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District.




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