News Flash

Environmental Advisory Council

Posted on: December 13, 2021

What is Composting?

Lansdowne EAC NEWS (1)

Composting is the natural way of recycling leaves, yard waste, and food scraps.

BLACK GOLD!?  What’s black gold?  Can I get some? 

Yep, if you get into composting.  Composting is the natural way of recycling leaves, yard waste, and food scraps. Anything that grows eventually falls apart; composting just speeds up the process by providing a great environment for the breakdown.  It’s actually tiny useful critters that do the breaking down: good bacteria, fungi, worms, and sow bugs. What’s left after the critters have done their work is a rich black soil we call “compost.” Compost is fantastic for feeding plants when used as fertilizer; it helps gardens grow really well. That makes it so valuable to farmers and gardeners that they call it “black gold.” (Garden plants probably just think of compost as the best dessert ever!) 

If you have a yard, consider creating your own “black gold” (sorry, you can’t make bracelets out of this kind of gold).  If you don’t have a yard, see if someone you  know with a yard would like to receive your plant-food kitchen scraps.  Why give someone gold jewelry for the holidays when you could give them all your valuable potato peels and coffee grounds?  Black gold is better than yellow gold!

Composting can be done in huge industrial facilities, or else in smaller-scale community systems—or wonderfully in your own garden using a composting barrel. 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and yard waste together make up MORE THAN A THIRD of what we Americans throw away!  That’s a lot.  But all this plant-based waste could be composted instead. 

If you live in an apartment building, you could use a small countertop composting pot, and you could join with other tenants to combine the finished compost from all the participating apartments for distribution.  You could also arrange with building management to have a single large barrel where tenants can put their finished compost.  Management could then let the community know how to access the compost. Win-win for everyone!

Making compost keeps these plant materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, which is a dangerous gas that ends up in our air.  Because composting in your yard or apartment is a different process from what happens in a landfill, your composting won’t make methane gas. End result: you get great fertilizer and the air is cleaner. And your garden plants are happy even without your having to sing to them. 

Your making compost also means that our town doesn’t have to pay the county to dispose of your plant matter. These things that used to be plants just go back into gardens instead.  So in the long run, if enough people compost, Lansdowne’s budget will be better.  Who doesn’t like to help their town save money?  

So what can be composted—that is, what kinds of plant matter are easy for the little critters to break down into “black gold”?  

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Eggshells

  • Coffee grounds and paper coffee filters

  • Paper tea bags

  • Nut shells

  • Shredded newspaper (you need to shred it so there can be air pockets in your compost)

  • Cardboard (in small pieces)

  • Paper (as long as it doesn’t have any wax or plastic coating and it isn’t glossy)

  • Yard trimmings (leaves and stems, plus twigs the width of a pencil or smaller, broken into pieces)

  • Grass clippings

  • Houseplants (but only if they’ve been wandering around the house being naughty)

  • Hay and straw

  • Leaves

  • Sawdust (if the wood wasn’t treated with chemicals)

  • Wood chips (if the wood wasn’t treated with chemicals)

  • 100% cotton or wool rags (but not other fabrics)

  • Hair and fur (but not synthetic hair extensions)

  • Fireplace ashes (but not other kinds of ashes)

Notice that eggshells, hair, and fur are the ONLY things on the list that didn’t come from plants.  Eggshells are included because they provide calcium to the compost, which is good for gardens. Hair and fur provide nitrogen, which is awesome for plants.  (And maybe before the fur is fully broken down, it’s cuddly for the plants.)

Bear in mind that it’s good to have a balance of the items above—a mix.  A huge amount of any one type of item (such as fireplace ashes) could make your compost less-than-ideal as a fertilizer.

Want to learn how to do your own composting?  It’s easy!  Stick to the items on the list above, and check out the simple details at  You’ll see a list there of the things you definitely do NOT want to put in your compost as well as simple steps to get you started.

Have fun with the process! Please also feel free to contact the Lansdowne Environmental Advisory Council if you have questions:

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