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Too Snowy to Compost? No, says Resource Recovery

Deep in your compost pile is a hotbed of biological activity, even when it's freezing outside.

A snowy compost bin. (Photo: Rhode Island Resource Recovery)
A snowy compost bin. (Photo: Rhode Island Resource Recovery)
It's cold, it's snowy and there's more snow on the way. That doesn't mean you should stop composing, according to Rhode Island Resource Recovery.

“There are plenty of days when the temperature rises enough to cause some breakdown in the bin,” said Krystal Noiseux, recycling program manager. “Simply add food scraps and cover with leaves. And don’t bother turning until warmer temperatures arrive in early spring. Then you can begin turning weekly once again.”

In fact, even in the severe cold, the center of the compost bin is biologically active and rather warm, depending on the size and composition of the pile.

And it's recommended to keep leaves nearby to cover food scraps throughout the winter. It helps speed up the breakdown of organic matter because a healthy compost pile has a 3-to-1 ratio of carbon rich materials like leaves to nitrogen rich materials like grass clippings, coffee grounds and food scraps.

It is also recommended that you cut food scraps into smaller pieces to speed up decomposition. Smaller pieces gives microbes more surface area to work with.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps account for the highest percent of what’s sent to landfills nationwide. R.I. Resource Recovery encourages composting because the diversion of organic material from the trash preserves space in the Central Landfill for non-organic matter. Landfill engineers estimate that the landfill has about 25 years of life left at the present filling rate of 750,000 tons per year.

It’s even possible to start a compost pile in mid-winter, said Noiseux. RIRR sells compost bins at its Johnston office for $40 from 8:30-4:00 Mondays through Fridays. If you like the RIRR Facebook page, you can print a coupon redeemable for one $25 bin. 

In some communities like Cranston, compost bins are blamed for attracting rats, which has been a particularly big problem in the city in recent years. But in reality, they tend to avoid compost piles that consist of mainly vegetable food scraps and yard waste and will usually feast only when dairy, meat and other non-vegetable food items are tossed in.

If you have questions about composting, visit rirrc.org/compost or call 942-1430 x109.

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