Composting is a process that has been around for thousands of years, and it involves breaking down organic materials into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. While most people are familiar with the basics of composting, there are many interesting facts that are not widely known. In this section, we will explore 13 composting facts that are sure to inspire anyone to start composting.
1. HUMANS AREN’T THE ONLY ONES WHO LIKE COMPOSTING
While most people are familiar with the benefits of composting, they may not know that some animals also use composting to their advantage. The Brush Turkey, a bird species found in South Australia, constructs mounds of decomposing plant matter and uses the heat produced by the microbial decay process to incubate their eggs. These large composting nests are capable of producing 20 times more heat than sitting on the eggs, and Brush Turkeys are able to incubate more eggs as a result.
2. COMPOSTING HAS BEEN AROUND MUCH LONGER THAN YOU THINK
Composting has a rich history that dates back to ancient civilizations. Archaeological evidence of improving soil with decomposed organic matter dates back to the ancient Scots in about 5,000 BC. The practice was also used by ancient Hindu and Chinese civilizations, as well as Indigenous populations in the Americas. Across the globe, individual methods depended on climate and soil properties, but the composting basics were the same.
3. CONSIDER COMPOSTING WHEN YOU’RE PREPARING YOUR WILL
In 2021, the state of Oregon made it legal for someone to compost their body once they die. They follow two other states—Washington and Colorado—in legalizing greener funerals. As the first to do it, Seattle-based Recompose uses oxygen, microbes, and plant matter to gently return human remains to the soil, in either a non-profit land trust in Washington or a greenhouse that produces plants.
4. IT’S GETTING HOT IN HERE (VERY QUICKLY)
Composting is often thought of as a months-long process, but it can actually get hot—and it can do so quickly. While it’s dependent on many factors (weather, plant matter, microbial activity, etc.), a hot compost pile can reach an astonishing 49-77°C, or 120-170°F in just a few days. At these temperatures, organic matter can be broken down completely in only four weeks.
5. COMPOST HEAT = A COOKED MEAL OR HOT BATH
One of the most interesting facts about composting is that the heat produced by the composting process can be used to provide some of our modern luxuries. Compost heaps have been used by high-end restaurants to cook food, a practice anyone can do with a little patience and a heap that’s hot enough. After enjoying a meal cooked in a compost heap, you can even relax in a hot tub heated by decomposing plant matter.
6. COMPOSTING CAN EVEN HEAT A GREENHOUSE OR HOUSE
People have been using compost as a heat source for greenhouses for over 2,000 years. Through either strategic bin placement or trench composting (burying scraps directly in soil) between row plantings, you can cut down the hefty costs associated with heating a greenhouse. If you want to warm up people, not plants, compost can also be used in the same way to create heated floors or a methane fuel source.
7. COMPOST CAN ALSO GET TOO HOT
While extremely rare, compost heaps can reach dangerously high temperatures that may cause spontaneous combustion. To mitigate this rare risk, keep the pile uniform in shape and moisture, turn it regularly, monitor the temperature daily, and avoid methane-producing anaerobic (oxygenless) conditions.
8. COMPOSTING REMOVES MILLIONS OF CARS FROM THE ROAD
If everyone in the US were to compost just their food waste, it would be like taking 7.8 million cars off the road. Composting is an effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. Having said that, if you’re buying compost, opt for peat-free compost.
9. DRUNK COMPOSTING, ANYONE?
Composting is not just for food scraps and yard waste. Beer can also be used to speed up the decay process. Plan yourself a composting party and use any leftover beer to turn the decomposition time from several months to a couple of weeks.
10. STOP CHASING AWAY COCKROACHES
Cockroaches can actually be beneficial to the composting process. Known as “blatticomposting,” this technique makes use of cockroaches to convert food waste into compost. While seeing something scurry across your kitchen floor is undoubtedly unnerving, the majority of cockroach species feed on fruit, leaf litter, and other