What is commercial composting? And how does it work?

What is commercial composting? And how does it work?

Commercial composting refers to the large-scale process of converting organic matter (i.e. food scraps, yard debris and manure) into nutrient-rich compost on a commercial level. It is an eco-friendly and sustainable solution for managing organic “waste” generated by various industries, municipalities, and agricultural practices. By diverting biodegradable materials from landfill disposal, commercial composting plays a crucial role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting a circular economy.

The process of commercial composting involves several stages that facilitate the breakdown of organic materials into compost. Initially, a diverse range of organic materials, such as food scraps, yard trimmings, and agricultural residues such as manure, are collected from various sources. “Brown” materials are anything woody in nature, such as mulch, and are high in carbon.  “Green” materials are soft materials rich in nitrogen and include manure and food.  These materials are then transported to a commercial composting facility, where they undergo a rigorous and controlled decomposition process.

How Commercial Composting Works

Composting Facility: Sorting, Shredding, and Mixing Organic Materials

At the composting facility, the organic materials are carefully sorted to remove contaminants, such as plastics, metals, and non-compostable materials. After sorting, the materials may be shredded into smaller pieces to increase its surface area, facilitating faster decomposition. The materials are combined together in a specific ratio of 3:1 (brown:green) and are then mixed well together and placed in long rows, known as windrows, or in enclosed vessels, depending on the composting method used. When the windrow method is used, the piles are covered in a layer of mulch 4”-6” thick which acts as a biofilter, thus preventing any potential odors and issues with vermin.

To initiate decomposition, commercial composting relies on the action of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and other decomposers. These microorganisms break down the organic matter through natural processes known as aerobic decomposition or composting. Sufficient oxygen and the correct moisture levels are essential for their growth and activity in this process.

In order to maintain optimal conditions for microbial activity, the compost piles or vessels are regularly turned or aerated to ensure adequate oxygen levels throughout. Moisture levels are also closely monitored and adjusted as needed to provide an ideal environment for microbial decomposition. During this phase, the temperatures of the piles will reach very high temperatures (typically 131° F – 160° F) which helps eliminate any pathogens or potential weed seeds.

Over time, as the organic materials break down, it undergoes a transformation into nutrient-rich and stable humus, known as compost. This compost is then subjected to a curing process, where it is allowed to mature and stabilize for several weeks or months. During this phase, the compost undergoes further microbial activity until temperatures drop to less than 80° F.

The resulting commercial compost is a highly beneficial soil amendment that improves soil health, fertility, and water retention. It can be used in landscaping, agriculture, gardening, and horticulture applications, providing essential nutrients to plants while reducing the need for chemical fertilizers.

Also Read: Vermin Composting : How To Start

In conclusion, commercial composting is a sustainable and environmentally responsible practice that converts organic matter into valuable compost. By following a carefully designed process of decomposition, microbial activity, and curing, commercial composting facilities help divert significant amounts of “waste” from landfills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to the creation of healthier soils and ecosystems.  And please remember, it isn’t “waste” until we “waste” it.