When living in Finland as a child, we always spent the warm summer months in our cottage. The cottage was quite basic with limited facilities. At the end of every summer, my parents had to take the garbage we accumulated from our cottage back into the city to be disposed of. In order to mitigate the waste buildup, my parents maintained a compost bin. The soil produced from the compost was then used for a small flower and vegetable garden we had in the parcel. For me, composting has always been an option for getting rid of organic waste in a way that benefits something else altogether.
What To Do With the Organic Waste in a City?
A year and a half ago, my husband Carlos and I started to think about what we could do with all the organic waste we created in our city apartment in Madrid, Spain. We’re big fruit and veggie eaters and a huge part of our landfill waste consisted of fruit skins and non-edible bits of vegetables. I just felt a bit guilty to throw that much trash into the landfill!
We have an urban terrace where we have planted various plants, vegetables, flowers, and we even have some pines growing there! So, after doing a bit of research we decided to try composting. Initially I had some doubts about it as I thought it would smell or attract flies as in Madrid summer months are very hot but anyway we wanted to give it a try.
Composting on our Terrace in Madrid
So, we bought a 1 m plastic compost bin and put it in the corner of our terrace. We started to fill it with food waste. We also added in some dry leaves and dry garden waste.
After a few months, we were pleasantly surprised to find some black, nice smelling, new soil in the bottom of the compost bin! (Side Note: Compost bins normally have an opening in the bottom part where you can remove the black nutrient-rich soil and use it for your garden or flowers while the rest of the waste is still converting to soil). We mix composted soil with soil we buy in bags because we have so many plants to feed, but I guess you could use only composted soil also. See for yourself the results of our composting on an urban terrace:
I recommend composting to everybody who has space on their own urban terrace or in their garden. It’s so easy, rewarding and inexpensive! And when composting your garden and kitchen waste, you throw less waste to landfill, which is good news for all of us who hate waste. 🙂
So You’re Saying that Compostables Don’t Smell?
No, compostables don’t smell at all – not even in the sweltering Madrid heat. Many people associate the compost smell with an extremely unpleasant odor, such as backyard dunghills. Let me tell you — there’s no comparison! Our friends like to spend time on our terrace, and normally they don’t notice we have a composting bin there. Just remember to turn the compost every once in a while so that the fresh air gets in to allow the material to degrade properly.
Doesn’t Composting Attract Bugs?
The compost of course has its own ecosystem with tiny cochineals and worms that help convert the waste into soil. But that’s really all it consists of. Compost that’s working well does not attract flies, cockroaches or other insects.
What Can I Compost on My Urban Terrace?
Anything you can compost anywhere! A compost bin should have about 50% greens (i.e., kitchen waste such as vegetables, fruits, coffee grounds, and grass clippings) and 50% browns (i.e., autumn leaves, paper bags, and dry plant waste). I have often read that animal products such as meat, bones, and dairy should not be composted because it creates unpleasant odors and attracts flies, vermin… and even your neighbors’ cats and dogs!
Composting For Me is a Way of Life
In my hometown Vaasa, Finland, for example, all households are now required to put their food waste in a separate bin to be transported to the municipal compost. The waste is then transformed into biogas and soil. The biogas is used for heating and electricity. A project in Finland is now looking into ways in which the biogas from the compost can be used as a future fuel source for public transportation. Can you imagine that? A world that runs on waste!
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