Composting 101

Your food is natural and organic. You drive a hybrid car. So why is your garbage ending up in landfills, contributing to climate change? Perhaps you think composting is only for people who have yards large enough to grow veggies. Maybe your only plant is a cactus. Whatever your hesitation, we have tips on becoming part of Philly’s robust compost community and helping our City reach its zero waste goal.

The Basics

To start, you need a metal, plastic, or ceramic container to keep in your kitchen in which to collect organic waste. This includes eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, rice, pasta, bread, other grains, fruits, and vegetables without oil, butter, or salad dressing. It cannot contain meat, bones, grease, fats, oils, dairy products, ashes from charcoal barbeques or fireplaces, pet waste.

You will also need a compost bin system to keep outdoors. The City of Philadelphia provides a Backyard Composting Guide which explains the three types of bins available. They all work the same way, turning organic waste into compost through a chemical process. 

Composting is about layering “green” materials and “brown” materials. Green material includes Food scraps, fresh leaves, plant cuttings, weeds, grass clippings fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, and tea bags. Brown material includes Dead weeds, dry leaves, clipped brush, wood chips, eggshells, and paper products.  Each time you add new green material to your bin, cover it with a layer of fresh brown materials to avoid odors and pests

Compost needs airflow. If you’re using a two or three bin system, use a pitchfork to turn the compost every 3-5 days. Turn the pile frequently during the initial three to four weeks and once or twice during the remainder of the composting period. Once the compost is mostly broken down, it can be moved to your second bin and you can start over in the first. If using a tumbler, just turn it once every few days. 

A typical compost pile will take approximately three to four months to decompose. It’s “done” when it is no longer hot in the center, crumbles when squeezed, and smells like fresh dirt.

Community Garden Composting

Philadelphia has 400 community gardens, always looking for new members to get involved in composting. You don’t even need to live in the neighborhood. An affiliate of Neighborhood Gardens Trust, Old Tennis Court Farm, at 5407 Wissahickon Avenue in Germantown, has 63 members, several coming from as far away as Center City and South Philly. 

Margaret Lea at Old Tennis Court Farm. Photo: Rob Smith

“We do a lot of onsite composting and have constructed eleven composting stations,” said Mark Kearney who has been an active member since 2013. “Initially, we used household waste, but soon found it was attracting groundhogs, raccoons, and rats. We now only use material that is generated in the garden.”

With 49 gardening plots measuring 12 x 12 feet, managing the compost at this community garden takes a lot of manpower. “It’s a constant process of turning and moving the materials until they are ready to be mixed with the soil,” said Kearney. But it’s worth it. This one community garden yields abundant fresh vegetables to its members and those in need. “We take between 35 and 75 pounds of fresh organic vegetables per week to the Whosoever Gospel Mission in Germantown and to SHARE,” Kearney said.

Be a good neighbor

Philly residents without access to backyards or community gardens can have their compost recycled by Bennett Compost. They pick up compost from nearly 4,000 Philadelphia households and businesses every week, keeping over 70 tons of material out of the landfill every month. Once a year, they offer up to 10 gallons of free compost to customers. 

Bennett Compost provides five-gallon compost buckets with air-tight lids and picks them up on a weekly basis, leaving you with a fresh bucket.  In keeping with Solo Real Estate’s commitment to sustainability, we recently partnered with Bennett Compost to offer tenants and owners in over 400 properties a trial offer with two free months of compost pick-up service. Not a Solo tenant? You can still take advantage of Bennett’s free one month trial by signing up on their website.

Other residential compost services in Philly and nearby include Circle Compost (Philadelphia), Mother Compost (Main Line), and Kona Compost (Bucks County).

Additional Resources

Interested. in learning other ways you can help reduce your environmental footprint? Check out our article on Four Ways to Minimize your Waste Footprint in Philadelphia or our list on 5 Things Philly Renters can do for the Environment. If you’re a Solo tenant or owner and want to sign up for the trial offer from Bennett Compost, please e-mail us!

* indicates required
I'm interested in receiving information about
We’re committed to your privacy. Solo uses the information you provide to us to contact you about our relevant content, products, and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time. For more information, check out our privacy policy.