Science and Engineering

A Note to Casual Composters

Composting can be pursued at many different levels, from the gardener who likes to produce "black gold" to the operator of a multi-acre commercial composting facility. Gardeners who compost their own landscaping and food scraps can follow a few simple rules of thumb and needn't worry about complex formulas, chemical equations, or studies of microorganisms. These are, however, important considerations for municipal and commercial composting operations because of the need to ensure that the composting proceeds rapidly, doesn't cause odor or pest problems, and achieves temperatures high enough to kill pathogens.

Some of the topics in the Science and Engineering section may be far too technical to be relevant to casual composters. On the other hand, some may be intriguing. You might, for example, wish to learn more about the invertebrates or the microorganisms that create compost. You might be curious about the temperature curve produced by compost as it goes through its cycle of heating and cooling. Or you might like to learn how to measure the pH or moisture content of your compost. You might even want to try calculating desirable proportions for the materials you wish to compost.

We invite you to explore these pages to whatever level your curiosity takes you, realizing that compost is a rich topic for scientific research and discovery as well as a practical method of recycling organic matter and reducing solid waste.


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Cornell Waste Management Institute © 1996
Dept of Crop and Soil Sciences
Bradfield Hall, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853