The uptake of soil nutrients by plants is common knowledge; therefore, it also makes sense that nutrients must be returned to the soil. When plant matter is left to decay, such as in natural settings and forests, the decay re-introduces nutrients back to the soil.

Intensive food production, especially of warm-weather crops, means a speedier uptake of nutrients. For the farmer and gardener, amendments and nutrients often must be added back in. Otherwise, the farmer and gardener won't be able to continue growing healthy plants that can feed humans and animals.

The nutrient cycle is the manner in which nutrients move from the physical landscape into living organisms and then are returned back into the environment. For a long time, humans have been recycling waste—such as composted cow or horse manure and garden clippings—specifically to feed the soils.

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Food and kitchen waste is also an excellent source of organic material to be composted and returned to the soil. When food and kitchen waste are sent to the landfill, they quickly breakdown and rot. This might sound ideal, but the problem is that methane, which is a greenhouse gas, is produced when decay occurs without enough oxygen—in anaerobic conditions.

Pound for pound, methane's impact is 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, according to the EPA. In the United States, landfills are the third largest source of methane in the environment.

When you divert organic waste from going into the landfill, you reduce methane production in landfills. When organic waste is properly composted and aerated to create aerobic conditions, the decay produces minimal to negligible carbon dioxide. When mixed with the soil in your garden, the carbon is locked up by the soil's mineral content, stabilizes the soil, and increases its fertility.

In 2010, Americans produced more than 34 million tons of food waste. That equivalent to the weight of 850 average-sized cruise ships! That's a lot of weight, and also bulk, in the landfills and too much anaerobic, methane-producing decomposition.

What are your options? Of course, it depends on where you live. If you are a business owner in the low country that produces food scraps or other organic waste, call Wayne at Food Waste Disposal. He picks up! Bees Ferry Compost Facility has been recycling yard clippings since the 1990s and food waste since 2012. It was the first in the state to initiate food waste composting!finished compost sm b

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control encourages backyard composting. Learn about the different methods of composting at this site, and learn more about Charleston County's exceptional composting program.

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