To understand why composting is important, you must first understand the nutrient cycle. In nature, all nutrients are recycled through the food chain over and over again. This process has taken place for the past 4 billion years that life has existed on the planet. Left to itself, nature “wastes” nothing. In fact, the concept of “waste” is a human invention.
In the Industrial Food System that is dominant in the world, fertilizers are mined from deep in the ground and applied onto fields to produce massive monocrops of commodity crops, and are shipped many thousands of miles to your local supermarket. This food is turned into several varieties of “waste”, including kitchen scraps, used packaging and “human manure.” It is important we take seriously the fact that this system is not sustainable. By definition, the unsustainable cannot be sustained!
In a sustainable system, nutrients are recycled from the top of the food chain back into the bottom. Composting is a system whereby vegetable matter is placed into a large enough mass, with a ratio of the essential elements of life: carbon, potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen. The large mass is important to facilitate a large population of heat-producing micro-organisms, which greatly increase the speed of decomposition. The nutrient balance is important to ensure the micro-organisms a friendly environment to prosper in, and to give the finished soil the proper ingredients to support new plants.