Composting is among the most integrated waste disposal systems currently used for the collection of organic wastes and the conversion to a useful product like compost. Composting techniques vary in the period of maturity, strength of decomposition and chemical stability, sanitation and composting effectiveness. Thus this research was aimed to explore the relative effectiveness of four composting techniques viz. aerobic composting, worm composting, wet composting and dry composting.
This composting method involves the complete oxidation of the organic matter through the collective action of microorganisms. During the composting process, the organic matter decomposes and releases the carbon compounds (carbon dioxides, nitrogen, oxygen) in a process that takes place in the soil and in the air. These carbon compounds (and their by-products) can be used for fuel, fertilizer, pharmaceuticals, cleaning and other applications. The carbon and nitrogen in the composted material make it highly effective in improving the soil fertility and the environment’s quality.
The composting method is also referred to as aerobic composting and requires the presence of aerobic (oxygen-loving) microorganisms (called the mesophilic bacteria’) for complete aerobic reaction of the soil. The presence of these bacteria also ensure the breakdown of the organic matter faster and at a faster rate. This results in the increased availability of nitrogen for plant and crop nutrition, and the increased fertility of the soil and plants.
An example of anaerobic composting is the continuous digestion of dead leaves, straw, grass clippings and other organic material. Under such condition, there is no or very less air circulation in the pile. Such composting is very energy-inefficient because the energy required to break down the organic matter and release the nitrogen is not readily available. In such a case, the use of a combination of aerobic (oxygen-loving) microorganisms along with anaerobic (carbon dioxide -loving) bacteria forms the right combination needed for composting.
Aerobic composting or the more popular dry composting, where there is no or very little air movement, is the most energy efficient way of composting because there is a high concentration of nitrogen in the product resulting in very slow decomposition. Nitrogen is needed for the production of the enzymes for the decomposition of organic material. If there is no air or if the air flow is too slow, the nitrogen concentration in the product will be too high resulting in high Nitrogen concentration in the product. High Nitrogen concentration in the compost means that high amounts of N will be released as the compost breaks down. High levels of N are needed for the plants to absorb the necessary amount of Nitrogen for their growth.
High Nitrogen concentration in the product means that too much C will be released as waste during the composting process. This excess C is usually made up of plant fiber and will not be useful to the plants. High Nitrogen also means that the process of photosynthesis by aerobic bacteria is inhibited. Photosynthesis is a process whereby plants obtain energy from light and convert it into food through photosynthesis. When the C present in the product makes the growth of plants slow or inhibits the photosynthesis, this deters the use of such plants for further nourishment and is not good for the environment.
In order to get the most out of any composting activity, it is important to choose the correct type of organisms for the task. A good example would be to consider using a commercial composting fertilizer with a light to medium nitrogen level. You should consider getting high levels of nitrogen just before the turning process. High levels of nitrogen would help accelerate the composting process and provide a high quality end product when you make your next lumbar pile or compost tumbler.
The next part of composting involves the storage of the collected organic waste. A good rule of thumb is to never compost long term food waste as it breaks down too easily and the nitrogen level will quickly drop below the ideal level. Also, consider having a tumbler ready to go at all times so that you can conveniently add more organic material without waiting for a compost bin to fill up.
As mentioned earlier, composting with different cultures of microorganisms can be beneficial as well; however, if you compost with too many different types of organisms you can invite the growth of unwanted bacteria and fungi that release toxins into the air and can harm both humans and pets. If you have questions about composting, no matter what kind of information you need, be sure to look up a reference that uses or has used the material in question.