Composting Awareness Week

Marine Discovery Center has proudly participated in a community composting program for a number of years and hopes more local residents will become aware of our program during International Composting Awareness Week!

The goal of the national and international observance is designed to raise public awareness about composting organic materials and later using the compost for sustainable gardening and home yard care.

“Local citizens can drop off their personal compost from their residences into our compost bins at MDC,” said MDC Conservation Science Coordinator Tess Sailor-Tynes. “They can come back later and get finished compost from the system. This program just adds another segment of conservation for us at MDC.”

MDC’s compost area has a three-section bin, including a starting bin, mixing bin and a finishing bin. The center works with different community organizations and local restaurants that provide material for composting. Local residents also contribute organic items from home to the bins.

Volunteers and MDC staff turn the bin contents weekly to continuously mix the materials, enabling it to decompose more quickly.

In fact, volunteers have been crucial since our bins were built in 2017 and many have been involved specifically in our composting program, including Jim Walsh. Jim joined the volunteer program in 2021 and worked not only to continue our composting program but also to spread the word about its importance in our community. Jim wrote:

MDC is committed to providing the community a safe forum to participate in addressing the challenges facing the Indian River Lagoon and planet.  From shoreline restoration to composting food waste, community volunteers are integral to the success of the programs.

The composting project on MDC’s great south lawn highlights the use of food scraps from restaurants, homes and coffee roasteries to capture nutrient-rich waste. Waste that otherwise would make its way to landfills and ultimately producing green house gas (GHG) emissions.

MDC collects and receives over five hundred pounds of food scraps per week. Shout out to Lilly Rose Cafe, Healing Zone, and Island Roasters for providing the lion’s share of the green compost. The scraps are broken down naturally in a process that takes at least six weeks—the amount of time needed for microbes, insects, bugs (all sorts), lizards and toads to work the material into a fine state of decomposition. The compost typically generates 150 degrees Fahrenheit within two weeks and the pH ranges from 6.8 to 7.2.

The EPA estimates that as much as 35.3 million pounds of food waste, accounting for nearly a quarter of all municipal solid waste goes to land fills a year. Composting is just one component of addressing food waste issues and reducing emissions; which is a win-win for home owners looking to minimize their GHG footprint, benefit local gardens and actively provide a positive role model for their community. Compost is proven to help with water retention while maintaining soil nutrients that are beneficial for a variety of plants.

Finished Compost Bin at MDC

MDC is fortunate to have the support of the local community. The level of care the community composters put into ensuring that their food waste is free of food labels (think bananas), plastics, heavy paper and other difficult non biodegradables prior to dropping it off is another indication of the care of effort NSB brings to the project. Thinking globally, acting locally.

Here’s what you should know about MDC’s composting program:

What items can be composted?
Anything that was a plant, such as fruit and vegetable food scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags (in paper only), and paper towels shredded no longer than 2-3 inches long. Jim notes that those Austrian certified green waste bags may break down in a few years, however they aren’t biodegrading in our bins.

What items should not be placed in compost bins?
No food labels, animal waste, meat products, bones or inorganic materials.

Who actually works with the bins?
MDC’s conservation team turns the contents of the bins each week, but the center is always looking for volunteers to help. Sometimes organic material, such as leaves and wood chips, may be added to the bins. The finished bin is locked so the amount of compost that is removed can be controlled. Many compost contributors are allowed to use the finished composted material in their gardens.

Any new plans for MDC’s compost bins?
MDC hopes to increase the capacity of its compost bins and may adjust the location of the bins for easier public access in the near future. The center also hopes to access more home-use compost containers that can be distributed to the public to encourage greater participation in community composting efforts.

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