Southern Regional Water Program

Research, Extension & Education Water Quality Programs through the Land Grant University System

Composting

The waste disposal problem is one of growing concern to agriculture, municipal officials and corporate managers, and, in some sections of the country, it has become critical. As the population has grown and industrial production increased, so has the production of wastes. At the same time, the costs of disposal have increased as a result of increased regulation and centralization of waste disposal sites. Taking materials from urban sources, such as sewage sludge, yard waste, the organic fraction of municipal solid waste, the byproducts of agricultural and seafood processing waste, and adding them to the soil makes good economic and environmental sense. Believe it or not, composting (EPA) can be used for: bioremediation and pollution prevention; disease control for plants and animals; erosion control and landscaping; composting of contaminated soils; reforestation, wetlands restoration; and habitat revitalization.

What is Composting?

Composting PileComposting is the controlled biological decomposition and conversion of solid organic material into a humuslike substance called compost. Composting is the process of letting nature transform organic materials into a material with environmentally beneficial applications. The process is aerobic, meaning it requires oxygen. The process uses various microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi to break down the organic compounds into simpler substances.

Composting is a viable process of treating solid waste for beneficial use and destroying pathogens, diseases and undesirable weed seed. By properly managing air, moisture and nutrients, the composting process can transform large quantities of organic material into compost in a relatively short time.

composting pipeDuring composting, the microorganisms consume oxygen while feeding on organic matter. Active composting generates heat, carbon dioxide and water vapor that are released into the air. The carbon dioxide and water losses can amount to half the weight of the initial organic materials, so composting reduces both the volume and mass of the raw materials while transforming them into a beneficial humuslike material. Composting is most efficient when the major parameters of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, moisture and temperature are properly managed.

composting packerComposting is both an art and a science. Basic Principles of Composting gives information about the process of composting. Even though the basics of composting can seem simple, when it comes to large-scale operations there is no room for error. To find more information on large-scale compost training, go to the LSU AgCenter's Compost Facility Operator Training Course.

The following organizations maintain web sites that can be accessed for current information on the process of composting and its use.

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