By Chito Chavez

Environmental group EcoWaste Coalition on Saturday called on the public to practice home composting as millions heeded the government’s stay-at-home order in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Together with other zero waste groups, the Quezon City based organization issued the plea saying there is an increase of domestic food scraps with the current situation.

Buklod Tao and the EcoWaste Coalition urged the general public “to embrace easy on the pocket composting methods to recycle kitchen and garden waste into excellent soil conditioner and organic fertilizer during the quarantine period and beyond.’’

According to “Solid Waste Management Made Easy” published by the National Solid Waste Management Commission, “composting is an inexpensive way of reducing the volume of trash (that) makes use of the natural process of decay and breakdown of organic matter through the action of microorganisms in the soil.”

Noli Abinales, founder of Buklod Tao, trustee of the EcoWaste Coalition and an avid composter, explained: “Composting is the most practical way of halving our waste production since food waste and other organics make up 50 percent or more of the waste we generate and dispose of. You don’t need a fancy machine to do it at home; your 10 fingers will do! Without doubt, composting will drastically reduce the volume of waste materials requiring disposal during the global coronavirus public health emergency, while generating essential nutrients to enhance soil health.

“Composting is also an effective strategy in mitigating climate change, the other global emergency facing humanity.”

Abinales noted the easiest way of halting the formation of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, in mixed waste dumps and landfills” is through composting.

Te reduce household waste disposal during the COVID-19 outbreak, the EcoWaste Coalition and Buklod Tao encouraged households to try these 12 easy steps to home composting:

1. Separate biodegradable waste (fruit and vegetable peelings, egg and seafood shells, dry leaves, grass cuttings, twigs, etc.) from non-biodegradables or recyclables.

2. Choose the right size and type for your composter (pile, pit, pot, or any container) depending on how much compostable waste your household generates.

3. Select a convenient location for your composter, preferably one that is even, well-drained, and sun-drenched.

4. Chop biodegradable wastes into small pieces for easy decomposition. Paper that is not suitable for recycling such as heavily soiled or greasy paper or box can be composted (shred them, too).

5. Mix the chopped dry and wet biodegradables so that the mixture is not too wet or too dry. Place the mixture into the composter.

6. Start with a layer of coarse materials such as dry leaves and twigs to allow for aeration and drainage.

7. Add kitchen and garden waste as they accumulate, alternating green nitrogen-rich materials and brown carbon-rich materials.

8. Place a thin layer of soil on top of the materials and sprinkle it with a small amount of water.

9. Continue to add layers until the composter is full.

10. Maintain the composter; turn the materials once a week to aerate the pile to help the breakdown process and get rid of the smell.

11. When the interior of the pile is no longer hot and the materials have turned into dark and crumbly soil, composting is finished.

12. Harvest and use your compost as a soil conditioner or fertilizer.

“Using up all the compost and planting on all plantable containers such as empty cans, plastic bottles and others will further help in reducing the volume of trash that goes to the dump,” the groups concluded.

First published in Manila Bulletin’s News Section.