• Gray Russell

Composting at Home in Montclair

Updated: Jul 19

Simply put: compost is made by controlling the natural process of decomposition. At-home composting can be done easily, by simply combining any plant-based kitchen scraps – including veggie and fruit peelings, stalks, cores, spoiled produce, coffee grounds, etc. – with leaves, grass clippings, and garden prunings from your backyard. The key elements to producing good compost are mixing “greens” (moist items like the kitchen scraps, or grass clippings) with “browns” (dry items like autumn leaves or twigs), piling them up in a backyard bin, and mixing (“turning”) them weekly to enable the healthy microorganisms and worms (your decomposers) to have enough air and water. Over a few months’ time, with the right blend and weekly turning, your compost heap will become a healthy, nutrient-rich, organic soil “conditioner” that can be added as a “nutrient booster” into cultivated garden soils, or as a mulch around trees and shrubs.

Home composting is one of the basic steps to simple, responsible yard care and sustainable gardening; at the same time, it is an important environmental action anyone can do in their own backyard.

The stuff is nicknamed “Black Gold” for a reason: it can be used as humus, a soil amendment which improves the structure, nutrient content, fertility, and the moisture-holding capability of garden soil; or, as mulch, a top dressing which prevents compaction, erosion and weeds. Both “homemade garden miracle” products are known by one name: compost!

Composting is also a climate change mitigation strategy. Decomposing food scraps with yard waste results in a rich, crumbly soil conditioner teeming with healthy microbial life. Using compost in your garden soil enhances its ability to draw down CO2 from the atmosphere – as a carbon “sink” – and return it into the earth for storage. Plus, keeping kitchen scraps out of landfills prevents huge emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

What is Montclair's Home Composting Program?

All of the leaves and grass clippings which Montclair residents bag and drag to the curb (in paper yard waste bags) are collected and hauled out of town to a large-scale, professional composting facility, where they are transformed into compost which is sold to landscapers.

However, as part of our comprehensive municipal waste prevention program, the Township encourages homeowners to “keep it off the curb” by providing a smart, beneficial yard care program at home that reduces yard waste, saves money, improves our properties, and even protects our climate.

Since 2001, Montclair has actively supported backyard composting through the township’s Home Composting Program. Our Environmental Affairs office provides both written as well as phone information to residents on how to successfully compost leaves, grass clippings, yard trimmings, garden prunings, and certain kitchen scraps.

Fruit and vegetable scraps from your kitchen may also be added to your compost bin: no animal products. So, no meat, chicken, nor fish; no bones, grease, fat, nor dairy. There is one popular exception to that rule: eggshells are fine.

Residents may purchase low-cost compost bins simply by calling Environmental Affairs at (973) 509-5721, to make an appointment for a pick-up. The compost bin we sell is the Earth Machine, the most commonly sold bin in the country. Retailing for over $100, Montclair residents can purchase the bin, made from recycled plastic, for $57, about half price; a helpful turning tool is also sold, at cost, for $15.

In addition, the Environmental Affairs office often hosts a “Compost GiveBack” event in the fall, enabling residents to pick up free, beautiful “black gold” made from their own leaves and grass clippings, donated back to them by the composting company with whom we contract for our yard waste collection. Residents can also buy those backyard compost bins at the event, and attend free composting demonstrations.

Composting is easy, fascinating, fulfilling, and fun!

For further information, call Montclair's Compost Info Hotline – “The Rotline – at (973) 509-5721.

Gray Russell

Sustainability Officer , Township of Montclair, Department of Health and Human Services until 2021