St. John’s has not yet instituted its proposed curbside composting program, so residents must take it upon themselves to responsibly dispose of organic waste.

Fortunately, composting is really, really easy.

It requires only carbon, nitrogen, air, water and a small army of organisms (which are found everywhere) known as decomposers – together forming the Voltron of backyard gardening.

Nitrogen is supplied by what is called Green Matter – scrap vegetables from the kitchen, lawn trimmings, or other ex-living plant matter. This is also known as “wet material” due to the high level of moisture found in cells after their useful life has ended.
Carbon is supplied by what is called Brown Matter. This is low moisture material like dry coffee grounds, cardboard, old fire ashes, twigs, and lawn detritus. This will provide the backbone for the final compost or Humus.


1) Get a large container. Keep it outside. This will hold the waste for 2-6 months while the microorganisms do their thang.

2) Layer the bottom of the large outdoor container with twigs and leaves. This will create room in the mixture for oxygen to circulate easily.

3) Get a smaller container (an old saucepan works great) to place scraps in from the kitchen. As the smaller container fills, empty it into the larger container.

4) Add collected Green Matter from the kitchen to the outside bin. Make sure there is enough to make a layer 2-4 inches thick. Always add a corresponding amount of Brown Matter (About 1.5 times as much). Too much green matter will create a mouldy, wet mess.

5) After 15-20 pounds of material, things are going to start getting quite steamy – that is good. The microbes are aerobically breaking the material down, using up oxygen and creating heat. This means that the compost must be turned with a shovel every week to ensure an excess of oxygen is present. It also means that the pile will be losing water at a next to constant rate. This water must be replenished – a cup every now and then will be fine.

6) Compost heaps without bottoms (placed on bare earth) are much more efficient as soil microbes and decomposers can enter into the pile from the earth and speed up the decomposition process.

7) DO NOT compost meats, fish, bones, diseased plants, cooking oils, or weeds. Meats will attracts rats and pests, diseased plants will spread throughout the new soil, and weeds will spawn seeds that will take root next growing season. Try to chop wastes into smaller pieces.

St John’s offers free composting workshops in the spring through the MMSB. They also offer $40 composting bins to participants. Register early – they are normally packed.

Alternatively, Island Compost is a business that offers a composting-at-your-door service for a fee. They provide the bucket and will pick up filled buckets twice per week. Completed compost will be tilled on their farm.

In a very short time your mind will be blown by how much organic material you would otherwise have thrown away. This inefficiency costs the average municipal government $65 per person in unnecessary garbage processing. Organic waste is also not suited to break down in a traditional dump, being broken down anaerobically, which produces excess methane – a potent greenhouse gas.

The benefits are many, the excuses are weak. Give it a shot.