Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Aldin. Aldin Wonders, “How do you compost?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Aldin!

What do you think of when you think of trash? A smelly, yucky garbage bin? A weekly chore? Litter that ruins the beauty of the world around you?

All those things can be true. But did you know that trash can also be useful? It’s true! Some types of trash can be turned into something your garden will love. About 30% of all garbage in the United States is food and yard waste. Landfills are full of coffee grounds, orange peels, egg shells, and much more.  Much of this waste could be turned into something very useful. 

Composting is a great way to recycle these types of waste. It’s a process that relies on microscopic organisms to break down organic materials. They turn these materials into new soil called compost.

You can think of composting as an example of the natural life cycle of organic things. They grow, die, and decay. Then, they become new soil that helps other things grow. Tiny microorganisms and earthworms speed this process along by feeding on some of the organic materials.

Composting is a natural process. However, you can help it along by making compost piles in your yard. You can also build or buy compost bins to use. To create the ideal conditions for composting, you’ll need organic waste, soil, water, and air.

The soil provides the microorganisms that will eat the organic waste. The air provides oxygen and the water helps to speed the process along. Organic waste can take many forms. This includes many things, from fruits coffee grounds. You can even compost things like leaves and grass clippings. Vegetables and egg shells are two more great things to add.

To start a compost pile, you need a mixture of both carbon and nitrogen. Carbon is found in organic materials like leaves, straw, and woody materials. Nitrogen can come from fruit and vegetable waste, grass clippings and coffee grounds. Healthy compost contains about one-quarter nitrogen and three-quarters carbon.

As microorganisms break down these materials, they release carbon dioxide and heat. A good compost pile will get quite warm. The pile’s temperature may even be as high as 100-150° F! 

It's important to keep the process active. To do so, turn and water the pile frequently. This allows needed oxygen to be circulated throughout the pile.

You can compost many things. However, some things do not belong in a compost pile. Meat and dairy products contain a lot of fat. This can cause your compost pile to smell bad. You should also avoid human and animal waste, since they can contain diseases and parasites.

Are you ready to start your own compost pile? Ask a friend or family member to help you find the perfect spot. Then add all the organic waste you can find. Before you know it, you’ll have compost to help grow flowers, vegetables, and anything else you plant!

Standards: NGSS.LS1.C, NGSS.LS2.A, NGSS.LS2.B, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

Wonder What's Next?

Join us in Wonderopolis tomorrow for a look back at a dark time in world history!