What Is Composting?
Composting is the simple process of recycling organic matter (such as leaves, food scraps, etc). This mixture of organic matter will break down to create a naturally fertile soil when given the right combination of time, moisture, and air.
Why Is Composting Important?
- Reduces food waste
- Reduces greenhouse gasses
- Protects the environment
- Increases water retention in soil
- Is a natural way to feed plants
- Reduces useable material sent to landfills
- Helps create stronger plants and soil
- Decreases soil erosion
- Creates jobs
Where & How to Start Composting
Composting does not need to be difficult or complicated. Here are a few resources to help you get started:
How to Start Composting At Home
- Choose a dry spot outdoors at least 3 x 3 feet for an open bin
- For an enclosed bin (garbage bin, tumbler, etc.), choose a spot with enough room to turn/rotate it
- For any type of composting set up, be sure that the location has access to moisture (rain, hose, etc.)
2. Indoor Compost Container (Collection)
- A container to collect your food scraps in before adding it to your compost bin.
- Food storage containers, such as a large empty yogurt, can be used.
- Containers can also be purchased online or in a store made from materials such as ceramic, plastic, or stainless steel.
3. Outdoor Compost Bin (Disposal)
- The container to put your items into (food scraps, leaves, etc.) to create compost.
- Bins can be built at home with common materials, purchased online, or found at a local retail or hardware store.
- Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension
- Ken Freestone, Master Composter, MSU Extension
4. "Brown" & "Green" Organic Materials
"Organic" does not mean it is certified organic from a store. "Organic" here means items such as most food scraps, coffee grounds, cardboard, leaves, twigs, grass clippings, etc. See chart below.
5. A Shovel or Pitchfork
These are helpful to turn the compost pile which adds air or to move piles of finished compost after they have turned into soil.
Ready to Compost!
1. Add the Correct Ingredients
- "Browns" and "Greens" - These terms do not refer to the color of
you are composting, but instead "brown" and "green" are used as
- "Browns" can include dead leaves, small branches and twigs, and shredded paper
- "Greens" can include grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and tea bags
- For a great compost, the ratio should be 3 brown to 1 green. Meaning, if you have 1 container full of "greens", you should cover it with 3 containers full of "browns".
- Layer the Ingredients - "Browns", then "greens", then "browns" covering all food scraps with at least 2-3" inches of "browns" to keep pests away
2. Check the Moisture
- Keep the compost damp enough so that a handful feels moist to touch, but dry enough that a hard squeeze produces no more than a drop or two of liquid (See Cornell University's information here).
3. Leave It Or Turn It
- Leave the compost and it will break down into soil in 6 months to a year
- Turning compost will add air and can help it break down much quicker. A shovel or pitchfork is helpful for this process.
- Rotate compost if you are using a bin that requires rotation (e.g. garbage bin or tumbler)
- Master Composter Ken Freestone shows the process for turning and storing ready compost
Common Composting Problems & Their Solutions
* Do not add meat or dairy products and be sure to cover food scraps with at least 2-3” of other materials or your compost pile could attract animals and other pests.
Additional Resources for Composting at Home
- MSU Extension: Composting: A smart gardening practice to recycle garden and yard waste
- "Home Composting" by Michigan Department of Great Lakes, Environment, and Energy
- PBS: Easy to read “How to Compost” infographic
- EPA Tips for Composting at Home
- Cornell Waste Management Institute Composting at Home
- Cornell University Home Composting Slide Show
- Michigan Recycling Coalition Composting Resources
Local Compost Drop-Off Program
Ottawa County Food Composting Program
Ottawa County now offers Residential and Small Business Composting Programs. Food waste drop-off locations are located at all Environmental Sustainability Centers.
Sign-Up for the Program
Composting Program Options
- 1 bag for $5
- 3 bags for $12
- Monthly bin exchange program for $40
- Up to 5 bins at a time
- Unlimited exchanges
- Liners included
All food waste accepted. No yard waste.
Composting Resources for
Why Should a Business Compost
- Reduce food waste
- Improve business sustainability
- Organic waste converted to compost
- Minimize landfill waste
- Creates jobs
- Protects the environment
Compost Services to Ottawa County
- Accepts all food waste, yard waste, and most paper products
- Cart sizes: 35, 65, or 95 gal
- Weekly collection
- Materials are taken to a facility that they manage
- Visit their website, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (616) 855-3377 to discuss options
- Accepts all food and yard waste (see list of accepted items), and most paper products
- Commercial dumpsters 2, 4, 6, or 8 cubic yards
- Pick-up schedule depends upon the demand of the area
- Materials are taken to Cocoa Corporation
- Visit their website, email email@example.com or call (616) 748-1955 to discuss options
- Accepts food waste
- Food waste collected in compactors / open tops
- Must be in a roll-off: Unable to pick up from restaurants, most customers are food product manufacturers
- Cost dependent upon location and weight (hauling and disposal costs)
- Materials are taken to Westhore in Holland, MI
- Visit their website or call (616) 494-0561 to discuss options
- Accepts all food waste and BPI Certified compostable products
- Cart sizes: 32 or 64 gallon - size can adjust to fit needs over time
- Pickup schedule dependent upon demand in the area (weekly or bi-weekly)
- Costs adjust based on number of carts and service area
- Primary customers: healthcare, schools, and corporate offices
- Visit their website, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (877)304-5810 to discuss options