Composting food scraps and yard waste is a great way to minimize your carbon footprint and reduce solid waste. For many years, Boston Building Resources has been a source for low-cost New Age Composter and Earth Machine home compost bins.
Some local residents have expressed concern about the possibility of attracting undesirable critters when composting food scraps. We asked Ann McGovern, consumer waste reduction coordinator at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, for her recommendations.
To deter animals:
- Minimize odors by always burying food scraps under about six inches of leaves or other high-carbon material.
- Be sure not to add meat or dairy products, which can smell stronger than vegetative materials.
- Keep decomposition active by stirring the compost pile at least weekly and making sure the material in the bin is uniformly damp.
If these approaches don’t work, either of the two types of compost bins can be critter-proofed by surrounding them on all sides with half-inch mesh steel hardware cloth. The mesh needs to go on the ground under the bin to prevent access by burrowing, wrapped around the composter to prevent access by chewing through the plastic walls, and on top of the bin to prevent access from above. This approach takes some doing, but has proven to work.
Another option is to compost only yard waste outdoors while composting food scraps indoors using worm bins. Instructions on worm composting are available on the Mass.gov website.
An animal-proof composter can also be made out of a metal trash can with a lid. Drill holes in the sides for aeration, and layer the materials, as with other compost bins. Fasten the lid on with bungee cords or wire. Using two or more of these composters in sequence should provide sufficient capacity and decomposition time for a typical household. When the material has fully composted, dump the contents into the garden or around trees and shrubs, and start again.