What Can You Do With Your Food Scraps?

By Jennifer Dembinski

With the 2017 Superbowl coming up this weekend, many of us are hosting gatherings and preparing a Superbowl-sized feast for friend. After the parties end, there will no doubt be some leftover food that goes uneaten. Here’s a helpful article by Sustainable Woodstock Board Member Jennifer Dembinski that offers tips and tricks for managing our food scraps and starting home-composting systems.

By July 1, 2017, The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation assures that waste haulers and drop-off centers must provide food scrap collection. If you are interested in managing your food scraps at home, it is simple and low-cost, and you have the potential to make compost, which is like black gold for your garden.

Benefits of compost:
Compost will be a great soil amendment for your garden. It returns nutrients to the soil such as phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, iron and boron. When added to the soil, compost helps promote root development, enhances retention of water and nutrients and makes the soil easier to cultivate. When used on the surface of the soil as mulch, compost reduces rainfall runoff, decreases water evaporation from the soil and helps to control weeds.

How to make compost:
Use the bin method:
compost bins are made of recycled plastic can be purchased locally at Woodstock Home and Hardware, Welch’s Woodstock True Value, or from the Greater Upper Valley Solid Waste Management District (GUVSWD). These are good at keeping raccoons at bay and keeping things neat, thus neighbor approved. Other successful designs that are generally a cubic yard (3ft wide, 3ft deep, 3ft high) and work to frame your site are: Four shipping pallets tied together upright; a circle of chicken wire; chicken wire on a wooden frame, concrete blocks, or hay bales.

Once the snow has melted, find a suitable site that’s convenient, yet out-of the-way. The area for your bin should be shaded and shielded from the wind. Line the bottom with branches, cornstalks, straw or wooden slats

scrapsCollect your materials: shred them if possible to speed up the decomposing process. Layer using equal or 1:3 ratio amounts of green (nitrogen) to brown (carbon) material.

  • Green material = food scraps, manure, freshly cut grass, coffee grounds with filters, vegetable and fruit scraps
  • Brown material = dry leaves, sawdust, shredded egg cartons, paper and cardboard, ground up egg shells, hair, wood ash

Do NOT add meat scraps, dairy products, oils, bones as they will attract pests; nor florist bouquets, grass treated with pesticides, or pet manure. The preservatives/pesticides and pathogens will harm the beneficial insects, bacteria and fungi in the compost and you do not want these in your soil if you use your compost in your vegetable garden.

After you have added your initial layers, sprinkle a couple of shovels full of good soil, compost or horse manure to give the pile a boost of composting organisms.

Continue to build the pile: repeat brown, green, soil layers until it reaches the top. Keep a hose handy as you build the pile and spray after every few layers to ensure pile is uniformly moist. Material should be wet enough to hold together slightly, like a damp sponge. This method is called Mesophilic or cold composting: No turning is necessary and the pile will be ready next season.

Tips for avoiding pests:
If bears are present, you may have to erect an electric fence around the bin. If it’s ground hogs or skunks, you will need to either place your food scraps in a paper bag and make sure they are well inside the pile or place deterrents around the bins, such as a fence, scarecrow or whirligig.

Another method to produce compost year round is by Worm Composting (Vermicomposting): Go to the following website to find out more: franklincountywastedistrict.org.

For year-round food scrap collection you may be interested in the Green Cone Soar Compost Digester. It will not make compost, but your scraps will disappear. See the following website: abundantearth.com.

The bottom line:
Composting is EASY. The worst that can happen is that your yard waste and scraps will take years to decompose. At least they won’t be in the landfill. The best that can happen is that you will have a constant supply of dark, crumbly hummus that will enhance your gardens! Until the snow melts and the ground warms up, you will have time to discover the solution that is best for you. Right NOW, I encourage you to practice diverting those scraps (no stickers, meat or bones) from the trash by putting them in a plastic bag and store them in your freezer-ready for proper disposal.

Additional help is available at the following websites:

Do Just One Thing: If you don’t already have a home composting system, spend a little time this winter preparing by finding a system that works for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *