Anyone Can Compost (A short story)
What comes to your mind when you see a banana peel? Trash, right? Mr Hamid thought so too until he discovered that he could actually make use of the materials he had always considered trashy. He had always known that his neighbor gathers food scraps and yard waste in a pile but he thought it was a dirty act. I mean, why keep waste? In fact, he once had a fight with his neighbor, Dotun after he saw him packing his vegetable waste into a pot. He would always ask himself why Dotun, a young teacher, would prefer to live with his dirt. Wasn’t he scared of diseases and pests and other bad things that could result from that terrible act? Yes, Dotun has a little green garden with different kinds of flowers and small crops. He even has tomatoes and he rarely water his plants compared to him; whose little garden should probably be referred to as a desert as almost all the plants are dead. So, what was Dotun doing right and he wrong? Was it the ‘pile of dirt’ like egg shells, fruit wastes, shrugs and others that Dotun lives with?
He would come to know, through Dotun, that the process of gathering these materials and piling them up is called Composting. And that compost can be added to soil to help plants grow. That it serves as soil conditioner and can be used for several other purposes. He had asked Dotun the reason why composting is so important and he had told him that Composting is a key factor for sustainability and that it is eco-friendly since through composting, large amount of materials that would otherwise be treated as trash can be reused instead. He also stressed that it reduces landfill waste and incineration, and importantly emissions since landfill material releases greenhouse gases. Also, that composting reduces dependence on fossil fuels.
Later, Mr Hamid would gather his waste such as dead leaves, branches, twigs, fruits and vegetable waste, egg shells, tea bags, cardboards, hay, cotton, nut shells amongst others. Dotun had told him to avoid piling dairy products (like butter, milk, yogurt and eggs), coal, diseased plants (because they might survive and be transferred back to other plants), fats or oils, meat or fish bones and scraps. This is to avoid attracting pests or rodents and of course, odor problems. He would select a dry spot near a water source for his compost bin and pile up his compost, moisten dry materials as he adds them and cover the top of the compost with cardboards, papers, barks or anything strong to keep it moist. Like a good neighbor, Dotun had warned him to ensure that his compose pile has an equal amount of brown materials (dead leaves, twigs) to greens (vegetable waste, grass clippings) and even though he hated that Dotun was right, he would follow the instructions. Few weeks or months later, Mr Hamid would have to himself a dark and rich in color compost ready to be used to revive a dead little farm.
Mr Hamid would discover that Compost improves the soil quality and structure. That there are several advantages of composting to the environment and they include the fact that it enriches soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests. That it reduces the need for harmful chemical fertilizers and it encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material. And that it is a fully organic fertilizer and that reduces the amount of waste in the environment. He would also discover that it is easy to produce, it is a rather cheap soil conditioner that is readily available and can lead to significantly higher crop yields.
Mr Hamid’s greatest fear would be the health and safety concerns that comes with composting. Dotun had told him that there are some concerns that can arise if some rules are not followed. He gave him instances like unpleasant smell and rodent attraction which can be avoided by not piling diary products or meat scraps, fish, cheese, whole eggs. He would also state that efficiency depends on the amount of organic waste, that it needs monitoring and most importantly, that composting takes time. However, the pros outweigh the cons and Mr Hamid would embark on a journey he once criticized. Few weeks or months later, he would stand in his once brown and dead vg1garden, with newly picked spinach in his hands, hovering over growing vegetable and he would remember the day he called his neighbor, Dotun a ‘super dirty man’ because of his ‘trash-keeping’ habit. Never would he have thought that he would imbibe it and transform his rather dry garden to a green lovely one with his new hobby, Composting.
Composting is for everyone as it is eco-friendly and the materials are readily available. It can be done outdoor or indoor. If there isn’t enough space for an outdoor compost pile, you can pile your compost indoors with different types of bin. It is however important to monitor and tend to your pile. A properly managed compost should be ready in a few weeks and then you are ready to go, just like Mr Hamid!
Let’s save our planet and manage our resources, let’s compost!