Every industry has it’s own language. Now that you are a buncha cool composting cats, I want to share with you some of the basic terms you may see when you start exploring this topic further.
BIODEGRADABLE — Complex compounds that can be broken into simpler chemical compounds by microorganisms or larger particles into smaller particles. Organic materials are biodegradable.
BROWNS —The term “browns” is used to denote organic materials high in carbon, more specifically, materials whose carbon to nitrogen ratio is higher than 30:1. (Materials high in nitrogen are referred to as “greens”). Achieving a carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of about 30:1 is one factor in creating favorable conditions for backyard pile composting.
CARBON-TO-NITROGEN RATIO (C:N) —The relative amount of carbon to nitrogen, e.g., a2:1 ratio means that there is twice as much carbon as nitrogen. Bacteria, like all living organisms, require quite a bit of carbon and comparatively less nitrogen. By providing them with materials that provide these elements in the correct proportion, they thrive, grow, and multiply. Therefore, they can decompose your compost pile at their highest speed. Achieving a carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of about 30:1 is one factor in creating favorable conditions for backyard pile composting.
COMPOST - mixture that consists largely of decayed organic matter and is used for fertilizing and conditioning land (noun). To convert (a material, such as plant debris) to compost (verb).
CONTAMINANT - unwanted material. Physical contaminants of compost include glass, plastic, and stones, and chemical contaminants include trace heavy metals and toxic compounds.
DECOMPOSE, DECOMPOSITION —Decay. Rot. The breaking down of organic materials into smaller particles until the original material is no longer recognizable.
FEEDSTOCK —Biologically decomposable organic material used for the production of compost; the materials to be decomposed through the composting process.
GREENS —The term “greens” is used to denote organic materials high in nitrogen, more specifically, materials whose carbon to nitrogen ratio is lower than 30:1. (Materials high in carbon are referred to as “browns”). Achieving a carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of about 30:1 is one factor in creating favorable conditions for backyard pile composting.
LANDFILL —Pleasant term for a garbage dump which is located in a cavity in the ground so that, when full, it may be covered up and look like part of the land.
METHANE GAS —Explosive (when highly concentrated) gas that is formed when organic materials decompose in anaerobic conditions which exist in landfills.
SOIL AMENDMENT — Matter than, when added to the land, will make the soil healthier by such means as balancing and adding nutrients, balancing the pH, and encouraging the presence of microorganisms.
SOURCE SEPARATION —In homes or commercial operations, waste is separated into categories for recycling, composting, or landfilling. This is a fancy name for separating your newspapers, glass, yard wastes, plastic bottles, etc. into separate containers or piles for waste processing.
SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE —An agricultural system which both produces crops profitably while progressively renewing or improving the soil’s fertility from year to year.
VERMICOMPOSTING — Using red worms to compost food scraps, newspapers, and cardboard, yielding nutrient-rich castings.
WINDROW SYSTEM — Rather than making a square or round compost pile, some people make a long row. This is especially true of commercial operations.The compost pile is about as tall as it is wide, but may be as long as space allows. This row of compost is called a windrow.
*Definitions provided by MidWest BioSystems