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How to Start Composting in Princeton

So you want to start composting but aren’t sure where to start? There are 5 main ways to manage your food waste currently in Princeton. We’ll outline each one and share tips from our SP staff members who compost at home!

Pay for a pickup service

While the town investigates restarting the home composting program, this option is great for those who don’t have a yard or the ability to manage food waste themselves. Several vendors service this area such as One Compost Can and Un-Waste. We do not endorse or recommend these companies and are providing them to you solely for informational purposes. Contact these vendors directly to learn what organic materials they collect and recycle, where and how materials are recycled, and their fees and terms.

Elana Composting
Elana brings her compost to an outdoor bin for pick-up

Elana: “As a renter, these micro-hauling compost services are the best way for us to dispose of our food waste responsibly. I really appreciate how easy it is too. I get a clean bucket after every pickup that I just keep next to our regular trash cans. The lids lock so I’ve never had any problems with smells or animals. The process is so easy and makes me feel good to know it’s going into the soil and not into the landfill.”

Backyard Composting

To start, make a bin from old wood pallets, buy a ready-made tumbler, or repurpose your old trash bin! Check out this tutorial on how to turn your old trash bin into a compost bin. Then add equal amounts of green (i.e. grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds) and brown materials (i.e. leaves, wood chips, straw) to your pile. Water your pile to maintain even moisture throughout. Rotate your bin or use a pitchfork to turn your pile so your compost can breathe. Large piles compost faster than smaller ones, but also need to be turned more often.

For more information, review the Rutgers Home Composting webpage or visit the Mercer County Home Compost Demonstration Site.

Lisa: “I love composting at home because we reduce the amount of waste we’re sending to the landfill and making beneficial fertilizer for our home garden at the same time!”

5 reasons to compost at home:

  1. Save money buying soil for your garden!
  2. Reduces fertilizer and water use
  3. Reduces the amount of garbage going to the landfill
  4. Saves time bagging grass and leaves
  5. Composting benefits your soil and plants

Plus, it’s easy!

Vermicomposting (composting with red worms!)

Vermicomposting for beginners
Photo courtesy of the Rodale Institute

A worm bin can be made by repurposing an old plastic bin or 5-gallon bucket. Use shredded newspaper, cardboard, or dead leaves for bedding and make sure to water appropriately.  When the edges of the bedding begin to dry, add water.

Red worms will eat fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and a few other items, about 3 lbs per week. The worms eat not only the food, but also the newspaper or other bedding. Worms need to avoid extreme temperatures, keep them indoors during winter. Vermicompost can be mixed into garden soil to improve structure and to provide nutrients, can be used as mulch, or as a potting soil mix.

For more information, review the Rutgers Vermicomposting publication.

Bokashi (fermentation)

Photo courtesy of Bernalillo County Extension Master Composters Bokashi Composting Resource

The term Bokashi is a Japanese word meaning “fermented organic matter.” For composting purposes Bokashi refers to an anaerobic form of food scrap decomposition. Food scraps, even meat and dairy are acceptable, and are mixed with bokashi bran. Once your bucket is full, cover it and set it aside for 1-2 weeks. Then drain the liquid fermentation “tea” which can be used to feed plants. Once the fermentation process ends, remove the digested waste and allow it to compost.

Check out the Bernalillo County Extension Master Composters Bokashi Composting Resource for a full step by step guide.

Backyard chickens

Ensue that your coop offers protection from foxes, hawks, and other predators. Provide fresh water and food for your hens each day. Be sure to collect their eggs. Chickens are omnivores and will devour your food scraps. Your hens’ manure, bedding (eg, leaves or straw), and uneaten food scraps are all compostable. Princeton residents should follow the Backyard Chicken Ordinance. If you are outside of Princeton, check with your local officials.

chicken food scraps
Jenny’s backyard chickens

Jenny: “I started raising chickens about ten years ago, simply as an extension of my raised garden beds, fruit bushes, and trees. I have continued throughout this time, mainly because of the ease of chicken care and the value I get from hens: fresh eggs, disappearing food waste, and free compost. My kids would add how fun they are as pets too.”

Do you compost at home using any of these methods? Let us know!