The Gillings Sustainable Agriculture Project: A Gillings Innovative Laboratory

Composting And The Benefits It Has On Our Environment

Composting and the benefits it has on our environment

Composting is the biological degradation of organic materials under controlled aerobic conditions1. The process is used to stabilize wastewater solids prior to their use as a soil amendment or mulch in landscaping, horticulture, and agriculture6. Compost enhances soil properties, such as water holding capacity, nutrient availability, and texture. During composting, microorganisms break down organic matter in wastewater solids into carbon dioxide, heat, water, and compost9.

Why is composting beneficial?

  • Destroys pathogens
  • Easier handling than manure and doesn’t have odor and fly problems
  • Reduces potential for soil erosion
  • Kills weed seeds
  • Enhances soil properties
  • Easier to transport and store                           4,7,8,10 
 Finished Product Of Compost

Ways to compost


In-vessel composting occurs within a contained vessel, enabling the operator to maintain closer control over the process in comparison with other composting methods1. Features of the site on which the in-vessel composting facility is to be located must be considered during design, including size, relative position to residential areas, availability of wastewater treatment, drainage, and access5. Examples of optimum locations for in-vessel composting include a large tract of land in an industrial area or a site near a municipal solid waste landfill1.



Organic waste is formed into rows of long piles called “windrows” and aerated by turning the pile periodically by either manual or mechanical means. This method is suited for large quantities, such as that generated by entire communities and collected by local governments, and high volume food-processing businesses. Windrow composting often requires large tracts of land, sturdy equipment, a continual supply of labor to maintain and operate the facility, and patience to experiment with various materials mixtures and turning frequencies2.

Aerated static pile

In aerated static pile composting, organic waste is mixed together in one large pile instead of rows. To aerate the pile, layers of loosely piled bulking agents are added so that air can pass from the bottom to the top of the pile3. The piles also can be placed over a network of pipes that deliver air into or draw air out of the pile. Air blowers might be activated by a timer or temperature sensors. This method produces compost relatively quickly within 3 to 6 months3.


1 United States Environmental Protection Agency- Biosolids

Technology Fact Sheet In-Vessel Composting of Biosolids. 2000

This source provided me with information on composting. In particular it explained about in-vessel composting. Explained how in-vessel composting works.

2 United States Environmental Protection Agency 2011

This source provided me with information on composting. In particular it explained windrow composting. Explained processes of how windrow composting works.

3 United States Environmental Protection Agency- 2011

This source provided me with information on the ingredients in compost. How aerated static pile composting works. And the aerated static diagram.

4 Government of Alberta agriculture and rural development-$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/eng4464. 2002

This source explained the benefits of composting. It also explained the negatives of composting. Made me aware of all the negatives which I never thought of.

5 U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service- Food residual composting in densely populated areas for energy production. 2008 (invessel diagram)

Provided me with my diagram.

6 North Carolina agricultural experiment station-The science of composting. 1997

This source provided me with in depth information on composting. Explained all of its uses. Also all the processes necessary to develop compost.

7 Department of environmental science-microbiology of municipal solid waste composting. 1975

This source provided me with information on what regions can gain from composting. What methods of composting are most suitable for each region. How to apply those methods.

8 Soil microbial ecology: applications in agricultural and environmental management- composting as a process based on the control of ecologically selective factors. 1992

This source provided me with information on effects environmental factors on composting. The effects that composting has on the environment.

9 Blackie Academic and Professional- Composting control: principles and practice. 1996

Provided me with information on the principals of composting. The different practices of composting. How composting came about.

10 Bioconversion of waste materials to industrial products-Composting processes. 1991

Provided me with diagram10

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