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Omaha Magazine

Compost It! Easy Compost Options for Omahans

Feb 26, 2021 01:33PM ● By Patrick McGee

Omaha homeowners with yard waste have options: compost or pay. The City’s solid waste program, Wasteline, offers yard waste pick-up at a cost. Omahans can also compost grass clippings, garden refuse, dead flowers, etc., at home to create nutrient-rich soil for landscapes and future gardens. Another option is to a pay waste-hauling company, such as Gretna-based
Hillside Solutions, to compost yard waste and other solid waste produced at home at their facility.

Brent Crampton, director of partnerships at Hillside Solutions, encourages Omahans
to compost their waste, whether it be on their own or by utilizing a service. Composting is good for the environment and, despite misconceptions, it’s quite easy in a residential setting, he said.

“People put too many barriers up,” Crampton said of would-be do-it-yourselfers. “[They] think they need a fancy thing—a charcoal filter on top, [etc.] All of these things become little barriers between people having the idea and people doing it,” he said. In fact, homeowners need not spend any money on containers, filters, or anything to get started.

Crampton said the process is quite simple. “Find a place in your backyard and dump [the waste] on the ground. Then put food scraps in it.” The right balance of food and yard waste is important, he said; however, the ratios don’t need to be exact. “One-third food waste to two-thirds yard waste” is best, he said. “If you do that, it won’t smell. No bugs, no critters. If you do have these problems, add more yard waste,” he said. “If you do that, the problems go away.”

Maintenance and upkeep are also easy. “Turning the pile every once in a while is a good idea. You can do it once or twice a week,” Crampton said. “You may see steam coming out,” which is simply gas escaping as the organic materials decompose, he explained.

When he’s watering his outdoor plants in summer, Crampton said he throws a little water on the pile to moisten it, as a pile that is too dry will take longer to break down. In the fall, he recommends covering the compost heap with leaves, leaving a hole on the side to add food waste throughout the winter. In winter, he suggests insulating the pile with cardboard or another cover to prevent kitchen waste from freezing, which essentially halts decomposition. He reiterated that these steps aren’t necessary, but can facilitate the break-down process. “The main message, though, is that you can’t really screw it up. At the end of the day, even if you don’t do much at all, bacteria will still be doing its job.” 

It becomes obvious when the compost is ready for use, Crampton said. “If it smells like dirt, it’s done. If it smells [bad], let it keep composting.”

Some compostable materials require an industrial composting facility and cannot be composted at home. These include compostable cups, straws, bags, and paper. Hillside Solutions can compost these in their industrial facility near Ashland, Nebraska. For a monthly fee, homeowners can join the Hillside Solutions’ Compost Club to receive access to a number of “secret” compost bins stationed around the Omaha metro, as well as 24-hour access to the downtown Omaha facility that can receive larger items. Club members also gain access to fully composted soil, which they can haul back home to use in their flowerbeds and gardens. 

While it’s true that there is a more complex process going on at Hillside’s facility, it shouldn’t deter do-it-yourselfers from giving basic home composting a try. “Don’t let the deeper knowledge restrict you from doing it,” Crampton said.   

For more information, visit hillside.solutions and wasteline.org.

This article first appeared in the March/April 2021 issue of Home Magazine. Click here to subscribe to the print edition.