Compost Food Waste

Composting is nothing new. It relies on the cycle of life, whereby microscopic organisms decompose nature’s leftovers into a dark, crumbly product called compost. This final product has many uses on your lawn — it improves soil structure, retains moisture and fertilizes plants.

By diverting food waste from the landfill, you are also lowering your carbon footprint.

We are hoping that Princeton’s residential curbside organic program comes back online soon (get program updates here). In the meantime, here are a few things you can do yourself.

Three ways to manage food waste.

Backyard composting — establish a pile or bin

  • Mix it right. Add equal weights of green and brown materials to your pile. Green materials include grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, and coffee grounds. Brown materials consist of dead leaves, wood chips, or chopped straw. 
  • Keep it moist. Water your pile to maintain an even moisture throughout.
  • Air it out. Rotate your bin or use a pitchfork to turn your pile so your compost can breathe.
  • Consider the options. Make a bin from old wood pallets or buy a ready-made tumbler. Large piles compost faster than smaller ones, but also need to be turned more often.
  • Know the details. For more information, review the Rutgers Home Composting webpage. Visit the Mercer County Home Compost Demonstration Site to learn more.

Vermicomposting – composting with red worms

  • Contain your worms. Repurpose an old plastic bin or 5-gallon bucket.
  • Keep them cozy. Use shredded newspaper, cardboard, or dead leaves for bedding.
  • Water appropriately. When edges of the bedding begin to dry, add water.
  • Control their diet. Red worms will eat fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and a few other items — about 3 lbs per week.
  • Watch the temp. Worms need to avoid extreme temperatures — keep them indoors during winter.
  • Get more info. Review the Rutgers Vermicomposting publication.

Bokashi – a fermentation process

  • Mix it up. Food scraps — all scraps are acceptable — are mixed with bokashi bran.
  • Let it chill. Once your bucket is full, cover it and set it aside for 1-2 weeks.
  • Drain liquids. Fermentation “tea” can be used to feed plants.
  • Add it to your compost. Once the fermentation process ends, remove the digested waste and allow it to compost.
  • Learn more. Review the Compost Education Centre’s Bokashi Fact Sheet.

Did you know?

  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Food waste is the single largest component in our waste stream, accounting for one-fourth of what we send to the landfill.
  • Pass the gas. When food scraps break down in the landfill, they generate methane gas, a key contributor to climate change.
  • A lost opportunity. Within the US, 14% of our emissions are from landfill methane gas. When properly captured and converted, methane can be used as a renewable energy source.