Common Myths About Composting—Debunked!

Heard confusing things about composting and need answers? We hear you. This page will put an end to mind-boggling questions you may have. Read on.


Myth 1: A compost bin is a compost bin; just go with the cheapest

Well, not all compost bins are the same.

If you’re planning to compost cooked food scraps such as chicken bones or that last piece of half-eaten dim sum, you may wish to consider Bokashi composting. It’s a completely airtight method that prevents smells and pests. It’s no surprise why it’s perfect for indoors too.

Living in a tiny apartment and barely have space to compost? Besides Bokashi composting, vermicomposting (worm composting bin) also does the trick. Just remember not to overfeed your worms because flies would come a-flying.

Thinking of composting larger amounts of horticulture wastes from your backyard? Or perhaps you live in a midst of natural greenery and see great composting potential in fallen leaves, twigs, dead plants, wilted flowers… You name it. Well, look no further beyond the compost tumbler. It can hold a considerable volume of horticulture wastes, performs well under various weather conditions (come rain or shine) and requires nothing more than a few spins a week.

Do note that the material of your bin matters. Avoid metal bins as they are likely to rust over time.

Check out how we created our own compost bin for cheap. We’re happy to say that our DIY compost bin was set up within minutes and it costs less than $20! It works perfectly swell just outside our high-rise apartment too.

For a step-by-step guide on creating a compost bin just like ours, click here.


Myth 2: Form layers in the bin

We believe there’s no issue with forming layers of ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ in your compost bin. In fact, layering helps to mix the materials in your bin… somewhat.

But there’s a better way. Why not mix up all the ‘greens’ and the ‘browns’ in your bin, instead of layering them?

By mixing them up, you allow pockets of air (afforded by the ‘browns‘) to be well distributed throughout your compost pile.

Also, the ‘greens‘ won’t be mushed up together because the ‘browns‘ help to separate them more evenly and balance out the moisture in your bin.

Point to note: A compost pile that is overly wet or lacking in oxygen will lead to pests and smells. We can avoid that by mixing in sufficient ‘browns‘. Aim for an equal portion of ‘greens’ and ‘browns’.

We also recommend mixing and turning over your compost pile once every few weeks to keep it aerated. Don’t do this too often though—find out why here.


Myth 3: Add garden soil as compost starters

The idea behind adding compost starters is to inoculate the pile with a healthy culture of microbes. These invisible-to-the-eye friends colonize the pile and help to “jump start” the active, hotcomposting process.

Truth be told, old compost is a better inoculant than garden soil. The former has a larger population of microbes that makes it an effective compost starter. Soil, on the other hand, is mostly made up minerals that add little other than weight to your compost pile, making it more difficult to turn and use.

The trick is to save some old compost from previous batches to mix in with the new material in your compost bin.

If this is your first compost pile and you don’t have any old compost on hand, try using old leaf mold from under trees. Used coffee grounds are a wonderful alternative too.


Myth 4: Build your bin on soil so microbes can enter the pile

The number of microbes that enter a compost pile from soil beneath is insignificant. Composting works fine even on concrete surfaces. (Say hello to our world of composting in high-rise apartments!)

On the other hand, larger types of organisms (such as snails, ants, composting worms etc) are helpful in breaking down large compost piles that contain cooked food, animal carcasses, animals wastes etc… but that’s another thing altogether. 😉

To introduce microbes to your compost pile, simply add old compost or used coffee grounds. (See “Myth 3” above.)


Myth 5: Add earthworms from the garden to the compost pile

Did you know there are over 1,800 species of earthworms around the world? Only few of them are used to help the composting process.

These special worm species are called “composting worms” or “vermicomposting worms”. They have a much larger appetite than regular earthworms, thereby breaking down wastes a lot faster.

What about regular earthworms? Well, they do little to assist the composting process. They have a small appetite, work a lot slower, possibly taking eons to convert your wastes.

Fun fact: Did you know that vermicomposting worms consume about half their weight of waste material each day? So if you have 1kg of vermicomposting worms, you may expect to convert up to 500g of wastes into fertilizer each day.

Composting worms that are native to Singapore and other tropical climates are called the “Malaysian Blue Worms”. They exhibit a blue tint when brought under light. (Pretty amazing!) “Red worms” or “Tiger Worms” are more commonly found in and suited to temperate climates.

Note: If your compost pile is just getting started with fresh ‘greens’ and ‘browns’, the heat from your pile may force your worms to flee to cooler pastures. Introduce your worms only after the pile has settled and cooled down sufficiently (i.e. after a week or so).

Alternatively, you could compost your fresh pile of wastes separately from your worm bin. Add them to your worm bin only when they have composted for a week or so.

Remember to keep the inside of your worm bin sufficiently moist (not too wet or dry) by using a spray bottled filled with aged water. Place your worm bin in a well-shaded, well-ventilated environment.

Fun fact : Vermicomposting is a low-cost, easy, effective and super fun way to turn wastes into high-grade fertilizer. It’s also suitable for small, indoor spaces such as under your kitchen sink.


Myth 6: Composting is nature’s way of managing dead organic material

Not exactly. Nature does not build piles, but mulches in layers.

On the other hand, composting is a “pile-making” behavior that converts organic materials into dark crumbly stuff (humus)—thereby returning organic wastes back into the earth as nature intended.

So, composting is perfectly natural—no special machinery, electricity, power, or automation needed. But creating compost piles is an ingenious human response that speeds up the natural decomposition process.

That’s why we wholeheartedly believe that composting is one of the easiest ways to close the carbon loop. It recycles organic wastes back into earth, improves the soil, and reduces the need for (and the harmful effects) of incinerators and landfills. What’s there not to love? 🙂

Keen to start your very own composting bin for cheap? Head on here.


Myth 7: Don’t add paper, it contains toxic metals and inks

There’s been quite a debate about this online. As a general rule, we avoid adding glossy paper (i.e. magazine paper, greeting cards) and soiled paper (i.e. used tissue paper) to our compost bins.

Curious about the types of paper in our compost bin right now? They are: newspapers, non-glossy mails, printer paper, bills, and office paper.

If you’re still feeling concerned, you may limit the use of your compost to non-edible (horticulture) plants only.

We hope this page answers questions or doubts you may have on composting. If you’ve got any comments or further enquiry, do drop us a comment below or chat us up on Facebook.

Happy composting!

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