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Columbia Missourian

Compost workshop encourages attendees to repurpose waste materials

By Meredith Hood
June 25, 2011 | 7:11 p.m. CDT
Steve Callis points out a style of compost pile during a compost workshop held by Columbia Public Works Department on Saturday morning.

COLUMBIA — More Columbia residents are beginning to notice the benefits of composting.

Fifty-three people attended a composting workshop held Saturday morning at the Capen Park Mulch Site,

The do's and don'ts of composting

A Time Frame

Steve Callis has been maintaining compost piles of his own for 20 years.

Callis said the most common mistake in creating compost is that people rush to complete the process. With aggressive maintenance, a pile can be ready in as few as two months. The average pile with moderate maintenance will be ready in six months to a year.

Managing your pile

  • Location is key. Decent shade and drainage are needed.
  • Air, water and food are important.
  • Monitor the moisture and temperature. Too much wetness can cause odor.

What to compost

  • Browns: leaves, sawdust (from non-treated wood), paper products, eggshells, baked goods.
  • Greens: fruit and vegetable scraps, grass and garden trimmings, coffee grounds and filters.

What not to compost

  • Dog and cat manure
  • Meat and dairy products
  • Bones, especially from chicken and fish. They can be dangerous to pets and children.

Compost uses

  • Mulch
  • Soil additive
  • Potting soil

Callis recommends using compost as a soil additive because it adds structure and organic material to the mostly clay based dirt in the area.

Source: Public Works Department, Solid Waste Division Compost Workshop handout

 said Andrea Shelton, volunteer program coordinator for the city's Public Works Department.

"A big crowd for us is fifteen," Shelton said.

Steve Callis, a volunteer for the Public Works Department's Solid Waste Division, led the discussion about the process of composting, took questions from the attendees and displayed various materials that can be used to create compost bins.

Landscape timber, fencing material, cattle panels, pallets and cinder blocks can all be used to create a compost bin. The ideal size for a compost pile is 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet.

Mary Frantz, one of the attendees at Saturday's workshop, tried to compost before but had never been successful. Franzt said she definitely learned new things to help her get going and said it was valuable to see the different options for building a compost pile.

Attendees at Saturday's workshop had other incentives to attend as well. They were given free bags of city compost and had the option to purchase a compost bin.

The plastic compost bins are made of completely recycled material and are valued at $80, but they were sold at the workshop for just $20.

This is the first time bags of compost were given away at a workshop. They normally retail at HyVee and Menards for about $1.50. Bags can also be purchased in bulk at the city landfill. Shelton said she isn't sure if the Public Works Department will give away the free bags at future workshops.

Shelton said all 25 bags of compost and all 45 bins at the workshop went home with attendees.

The advantages of composting are plentiful. People who have their own compost piles create less waste and save landfill space and money.

Callis said he suspects there are several reasons for the increased interest in home composting, including that people have an increased social awareness.

"They want to reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle," he said.

He also said the economy has made people more aware of self sufficiency.

Shelton said because of Saturday's attendance, the Public Works Department could add another summer class. The next scheduled workshop will not be held until September. Check the city's online calendar for more details.