Compost & Types Of Composting (13 Methods Explained)

What Is Composting?

Composting is the natural process of decomposition of organic matter (such as leaves and food scraps) by microorganisms under controlled conditions into a nutrient-rich soil amendment or mulch that plants can use as nutrients.

The microbes feed on this organic matter during the composting process, and use:

  • Nitrogen and carbon to grow and replicate
  • Oxygen to breathe, and
  • Water to digest materials

The end product is called compost, which is an earthy-smelling, crumbly, dark material.

What is Compost?

types-of-composting-compost
compost

Compost is decomposed organic material that can be added to soil to improve its physical, chemical, and biological properties. It is commonly prepared by decomposing shredded twigs, leaves, kitchen scraps from plants, and manure.

It is rich in plant nutrients and beneficial organisms, such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes. When added to soil, compost improves soil fertility in gardens, horticulture, lawns, landscaping, agriculture, and organic farming. It is can help improve plant health and growth.

Benefits of Compost

Compost:

  • Act as a soil conditioner
  • Provides nutrients to crops as fertilizer
  • Introduces beneficial microorganisms that help to suppress pathogens in the soil and reduce soil-borne diseases.
  • Increases the humus content of the soil

It is often referred to as “black gold” due to its many benefits. It is used as plant fertilizer and reduces dependency on commercial chemical fertilizers.

Whether you compost at home or on a large scale or in an industrial setting in your town, the end product is a highly useful material with several environmental, financial, and social advantages.

What Are The Types (Or Methods) of Composting?

Since composting requirements may be different from one person to another, one or more of these methods may at any one moment be appropriate for your present situation. As a result, you may modify your composting strategy at various points throughout your lifetime.

It’s a good idea to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each method since what you originally found beneficial could become outdated as your environment and requirements change. However, what may be advantageous to you may not be advantageous to someone else. Simply determine which method is best for you.

They all function to different degrees for various goals, some more effectively than others, and some are completely different from others.

Therefore, if you are choosing a new composter or if you previously picked a composter, I hope this information helps to clarify some points you may not have taken into account.

So, here is detailed information about different types of composting methods:

1. Onsite Composting

Small amounts of wasted food can be composted on-site by some organizations. Composting can help to cut down the amount of wasted food that is thrown away. On-site composting is possible for small amounts of food scraps and yard trimmings. Large amounts of food waste and animal products are unsuitable for onsite composting.

Some Noteworthy Points About Onsite Composting

  • On-site composting won’t be significantly impacted by climate and seasonal changes. With seasonal changes, such as when the rainy season approaches, small adjustments are required to be done.
  • Onsite Composting requires relatively lesser equipment or time.
  • Food leftovers must be disposed of appropriately to prevent odors or attracting unwanted insects.
  • You can “grasscycle” by leaving grass clippings to decompose on the lawn when mowing. These clippings will decompose naturally and replenish certain nutrients in the soil.
  • Leaves can be set aside and used as mulch around trees and bushes to preserve moisture in the soil.
  • Complete composting can take up to two years, but by manually turning the pile, the time can be reduced to three to six months.
  • Due to the presence of weeds and grass seeds, this compost should not be used as potting soil for indoor plants.

To entice property owners or commercial establishments to compost on their own premises, local communities may provide composting demonstrations and seminars.

2. Vermicomposting

vermicomposting
Vermicomposting

In Vermicomposting, compost is produced by red worms in bins as they feed on yard trimmings, food leftovers, and other organic matter. These materials are broken down by the worms into castings, a superior-quality of compost.

The worm bins are simple to build and can be bought online or offline as well. A mature worm population of one pound (or about 800 to 1,000 worms) can consume up to half a pound of organic matter every day. These bins can be adjusted in size to accommodate the quantity of food waste that will be used to make castings.

Usually, it takes about 3 to 4 months to produce useful castings. You can also use the castings as potting soil. Worm tea, another byproduct of vermicomposting, is a premium liquid fertilizer for gardens or indoor plants.

Some Noteworthy Points About Vermicomposting

  • It is Ideal for small offices or apartment dwellers.
  • Set up the bedding, bury the garbage, and separate the castings from the worms.
  • The right environment and enough food must be provided in order to retain the worms alive and healthy.
  • Worms are sensitive to climatic changes.
  • The worm bin should be placed under the shade in hot, arid places.
  • Direct sunlight and extreme temperatures aren’t good for the worms.
  • Many of these issues can be avoided by indoor vermicomposting.

Schools can utilize vermiculture to teach kids about recycling and conservation.

3. Aerated Static Pile Composting

In aerated static pile composting, compost is produced within three to six months (comparatively quickly than other types of composting).

This method is ideal for a comparatively homogenous mixture of organic waste. It works well for larger producers of yard trimmings and biodegradable municipal solid waste (such as food scraps and paper goods), including local governments, farms, or landscapers.

However, using this approach doesn’t work effectively to compost grease from the food processing industries or animal waste.

Organic waste is blended together in a sizable pile during aerated static pile composting. Layers of loosely piled bulking agents, such as shredded newspaper or wood chips, are added to aerate the pile and allow air to travel from the bottom to the top of the pile.

The piles can also be positioned above a system of pipes that bring air into or remove air from the pile. A timer or temperature sensors may activate an air blower.

Some Noteworthy Points About Aerated Static Pile Composting

  • It might be essential to cover the pile or put it under a shelter in a hot and dry (arid) climate to stop water from evaporating.
  • The pile’s core will maintain its warm temperature in the winter. Because passive airflow is used rather than active turning, aeration may be more challenging. It is occasionally also possible to store the aerated static piles indoors with enough ventilation.
  • This approach involves proper monitoring to make sure that the outside of the pile heats up as much as the core because there is no physical turning.
  • Any smells or odors might possibly be reduced by covering the pile with a thick layer of finished compost. Filtering the air via a biofilter built from finished compost will also lessen any odors if the air blower removes air from the pile.
  • Equipment like fans, sensors, blowers, and pipes may be expensive to buy, install, and maintain for this approach and may also require expert support.
  • Large piles may be built by having a controlled air supply, which uses less space as compared to the windrow method.

4. In-vessel Composting

In-vessel composting can handle nearly any sort of organic waste (like animal manure, meat, wasted food, biosolids, etc.) and can process enormous amounts of waste without the requirement of as much space as the windrow method needs.

This method comprises feeding organic waste into a silo, drum, trench lined with concrete, or another similar piece of apparatus. This makes it possible to effectively control environmental conditions including ventilation, temperature, and moisture. The vessel’s size and carrying capacity can vary. To ensure that the material is aerated, it is mechanically mixed or turned.

By this method, compost is created in a matter of weeks. Due to the requirement for the microbial activity to balance and the pile to cool, it may take a few more weeks or months before it is ready to use.

Some Noteworthy Points About In-vessel Composting

  • This method can be used all year round because of careful control of the environmental conditions, which is mostly electronic.
  • Some of the In-vessel Composting vessels are small enough that can fit in a restaurant kitchen or a school.
  • Some of them are enormous (similar to the size of a bus) and are frequently used in large food processing plants.
  • Leachate or odor production is quite little.
  • With its indoor use or with insulation, its use in severely cold climates is conceivable.
  • Compared to windrow composting, this method requires very less land and labor.
  • The appropriate use of this method may need technical competence and is costly.

5. Aerated (Turned) Windrow Composting

Large quantities, such as those produced by entire communities and collected by local governments, as well as high-volume food processing enterprises (such as cafeterias, restaurants, and packing plants), are best served by aerated or turned windrow composting.

It will produce a lot of compost, and marketing the finished product may not be easy. Local governments might choose to offer the compost to citizens at a reduced or free price.

This method of composting entails arranging organic waste into windrows, which are rows of long piles that are turned frequently to allow air to enter the piles. With a width of 14 to 16 feet, the appropriate pile height is between 4 and 8 feet. This size of pile is large enough to produce adequate heat to keep temperatures steady and is small enough to let oxygen reach the core of the windrow.

By this method, composting of significant amounts of various wastes, including grease, yard trimmings, liquids, and animal byproducts (like waste from fish and poultry) can be done.

Some Noteworthy Points About Aerated (Turned) Windrow Composting

  • Strong and durable equipment, a large area of land, a steady stream of labor to maintain and run the facility, and the patience to test with different material combinations and turning frequencies are generally needed for windrow composting.
  • In rainy seasons, the piles’ shapes may be changed so that water flows off the top rather than being getting absorbed into the pile.
  • In order to prevent water from evaporating in a hot and arid climate, windrows are occasionally covered or placed below a shelter.
  • Window composting can also work well in cold climates; the outer side of the pile may freeze, while the windrow’s core can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Leachate is the liquid that is released during the composting process. This may pollute nearby surface and groundwater sources. It has to be gathered and treated properly.
  • Additionally, odors must be managed. The procedure should be made known to the public, and there should be a way for handling any animal or odor-related complaints.
  • As a large-scale procedure, windrow composting may be impacted by zoning, location requirements, and regulatory enforcement. A laboratory test should be done on compost to check for bacterial and heavy metal content.

Some More Types (Methods) of Composting:

13-types-of-composting-methods
Open-air-composting

6. Open Air Composting

Usually, open-air composting consisted of a backyard mound of green and brown organic waste.

The majority of the time, it is a cheap, quickly constructed bay made out of whatever is available.

The Gedye bin, which you can get at a store, or a couple of bins flipped upside down sitting on the ground are other options.

To hold water and absorb heat, wire cages inlaid with piping around the edges can also be used. Then, this may be utilized in hot water systems in sustainability situations. 

Generally, open-air composting is regarded as a Hot Composting method.

7. Tumbler Composting

You may make your own tumbler composting units at home or buy them in a variety of forms and sizes from single to double units at your neighborhood hardware shop.

For people who are quite strong and motivated to turn it in every day or every few days, this is a wonderful method.

Others may find it challenging, particularly if they are older. However, certain mechanized ones are also available in the market which makes turning easier.

You may require two of these systems in order to let one of them rest for a few months to properly decompose, before emptying it. Meanwhile, you fill the second one up.

If you have a lot of green and brown waste to get rid of and have space for this system, it can be an excellent option. However, just like the bay system, a lot of waste is required to create a little amount of soil.

8. Direct Composting

Digging a hole or a trench in the ground and burying your waste in the hole or trench is all that is required for direct composting.

Although it is most likely the oldest and most efficient way of composting, it has limits much like every other method. The primary one is that unless you cut everything up, it requires a long time for everything to decompose.

Fruit and vegetables must be buried or you run the risk of them being dug up by a variety of garden critters, including birds and rodents. Also, in this method, more holes will be required to be dug.

However, it produces an abundance of worms that are helpful in nourishing your garden and enhancing your soil.

9. EMO Composting

Effective Microorganisms Composting or EMO Composting is a method that is mostly used for indoor composting. However, anyone who prefers this composting method or maybe lives in a unit can use it.

The Bokashi is the most common product that uses EMO composting, although other indoor systems can also make use of it. Additionally, some systems include a carbon filter in the lid to further reduce smells.

In general, you require two of them, so while one is being filled, the other is resting.

Juice may be collected and used in the garden.

Here you should note one important thing, you cannot put everything from your kitchen in the Bokashi system.

There are several websites that sell the Bokashi System where you may purchase the EMO.

If you want to speed up the composting process, you can employ the EMOs in other systems.

10. Worm Farm Composting

As worm farm composting can grow worms, produce compost and compost tea, as well as keep rats out of your compost, this is the most popular and favorite method of composting.

In contrast to other composting methods, the worms produce castings that are concentrated with nutrients and lower in nitrogen content.

Even if you don’t have a garden, you can still use this method.

I believe that everyone has attempted to create their own worm farm at some point, with varying degrees of success, using whatever they could find that was inexpensive.

Never house your worms in metal containers as the copper that leaches out is toxic to your worms.

If you use foam containers, the worm juice will eat out the foam, causing them to escape everywhere. You end up with a tremendous mess unless you have them somewhere on the ground so the nutrients can flow right into the soil.

And if you use plastic containers, you can collect the juice, but you’ll need to install a tap to drain it off or find a way to rotate the containers to gather the worm tea.

These worms must be kept in an area that is not too hot or cold, and away from rain, sun, and frost.

Always ensure that the containers are in the right conditions in which the worms are kept. 

Worms are unpredictable tiny critters, and if the conditions are unfavorable, they will attempt to escape from their containers.

11. Combination Composting

Combination composting, also known as compot composting, is a method that combines open-air composting, EMO composting, vermicomposting, and direct composting.

Here, all the components of composting are utilized, and it is suitable for most domestic settings. It presents difficulties for certain individuals as well. However, for most people, the difficulties are fewer and the benefits are greater.

Not just some but all of your kitchen waste can be composted by this method.

Compared to most other composters, it works less and composts faster. By this method, you can nurture your soil with all of your own waste.

12. Commercial Composting

commercial-composting
Commercial composting

As compared to backyard composting, commercial composting is different and employs different resources.

In this method, long rows of materials like pine bark, sawdust, sand, ferrous sulfate, etc. all mixed together are used to make the compost. It is typically flipped every three to four days and is normally ready for bagging in six weeks. Cheap commercial compost does not have much nutrient value.

However, there are smaller, independent companies that generate commercial compost of a higher quality than the bigger commercial compost companies. However, this compost is more costly.

The cheaper commercial compost works well to backfill compost in sandy or clay soil or serves as a good filler for raised garden beds. Or you can also use it after mixing it with composted soil to fill a pot plant.

It is recommended to get a high-quality propagation mix if you are purchasing commercial-grade compost to grow things.

13. Mechanical Composting

Mechanical composting produces semi-composted waste within 24 hours, it uses electricity to provide the required heat and rotate the contents.

This method works well in restaurants, hospitals, schools, motels, hotels, kindergartens, or any other large institution that creates large amounts of waste from many people. Instead of delivering your waste to council landfills, you may employ this manageable in-house system.

However, there is a need to further compost the waste so, you’ll need someone to gather the leftover contents for further composting in a garden bed or a bay composting system.

There are also other smaller systems that some people find suitable for their homes, but these may be rather pricey and will, no doubt, continue to cost you money in the form of electricity. Although these have certain advantages and disadvantages, like all other composters, they do create fast-composted soil.

Final Word

Some of these composting techniques are comparable, some work better as a combination, some are the same, and some are simply different. Composting is still the finest thing you can do for your garden, your company, and the environment in any case.

The methane released in large council tips is majorly responsible for the negative consequences on the environment. Methane is more harmful to the environment than CO2.

Avoiding the council landfills for your waste minimizes methane gas production, which eventually benefits the environment. And if you have enough time to grow your own vegetables, then you can use this compost, which is an additional benefit.



References:

1) Making and Using Compost

https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/g6956

2) Types of Composting and Understanding the Process

https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/types-composting-and-understanding-process

3) Composting At Home

https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home

4) Composting

https://www.usda.gov/peoples-garden/food-access-food-waste/composting

5) Home Composting

https://calrecycle.ca.gov/organics/homecompost/


Recommended Articles:

1) Vermicomposting (Worm Composting): Types, & Benefits


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