Composting is a process that breaks down organic material into its basic components and then uses those, combined with natural additives, to produce a material that improves soil.
In general, things that are man-made tend not to be compostable, but things that are natural or made from a combination of natural materials can. For example, plant material and food waste (including liquids) can be composted. Chewing gum and tobacco are also compostable, but not cigarette butts and wrappers. Most yard waste, such as grass clippings, cut branches and old soils can be composted too.
Technology is advancing what we can do with composting. More and more items, even those that are man-made can now be composted. Food manufacturers in particular are interested in producing compostable packaging, as food waste contaminates even recyclable material. We now see compostable napkins, sandwich wrappers and chip bags, just to name a few, made from materials like corn sugar that break down with heat.
The City of Fort Lauderdale is beginning to investigate and experiment with composting. Currently, we compost the seaweed collected on our beaches, as well as hay, straw and and by-products at our Mounted Police barn. We also encourage composting at Urban Farms and Community Gardens. Fort Lauderdale's business community, especially the hospitality and restaurant industries, are beginning to compost too. Check our Green Your Routine In Action map for complete information on all of these success stories.
While we do not offer composting as part of our Solid Waste services, we encourage our neighbors to try composting on a small scale. Here are some resources to guide you.
Keep America Beautiful offers many educational materials directed at helping communities and individuals to reduce waste and litter. This link provides detailed information on composting, its benefits and how to. Downloadable webinars are also available, including a Composting 101 for beginners and Vermiposting (using earthworms to jump start the process!).
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a host of useful information for consumers. This page on Composting includes a helpful fact sheet, as well as guidelines for backyard and even indoor composting. There are even instructions for making your own small indoor composting bin.
The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) is a professional association of individuals and groups from government, industry and academia, which promotes the use and recycling of biodegradable polymeric materials by composting. Polymerics expand beyond pure organics, like food and plants, what can be composted. Their catalog Is a listing of thousands of products that are certified to break down in commercial composting facilities. Products include everything from utensils to packaging to bin liners, and can help you to determine what you can and cannot compost besides organic materials.