Fertilizer from kitchen waste

How To Make Organic Fertilizer From Your Kitchen Waste

Courtney GreeneFollow May 17, 2017 · 3 min read

Nearly all food waste go directly to the trash can or garbage disposal; a practice that is essentially wasteful especially considering that these products can be turned into something really useful: fertilizer.

Food waste is composed of organic matter which can be used for composting to make fertilizer. It is an effective and eco-friendly way of disposing food waste in your kitchen. By using leftovers and other food waste, you can convert these smelly items from the kitchen waste into a highly organic product rich in nutrients that you can use to grow vegetables or flowers with it.

To make your own organic fertilizer from your kitchen waste, follow the steps below:

1. Go through your kitchen waste.

Vegetables and fruit peelings are the number one food remnants you should keep aside. Keep over-ripened fruits and vegetables, nuts, and egg shells. However, do not include grease, oils, fatty meats, and milk products in your composting materials since they will make your compost pile a wet mess and produce an annoying odor. Put these items on a well-drained, level, and open area and sprinkle some wood ash to boost the composting process.

2. Add other organic materials to the compost.

Aside from wood ash, you can also add sawdust to the compost to help speed up the composting process. If you have some livestock, you can add the excess manure to the compost. If you don’t have sawdust or manure readily at home, you can buy them from a gardening supplies store.

3. Collect some garden waste.

To come up with a nutrient-rich fertilizer, you will also need to add some natural waste to your compost. You can do this by collecting grass clippings and leaves from your lawn. When you mow your lawn, all the organic waste will be sucked and mixed inside the lawnmower bag. Remove all the contents from the lawnmower and place them into your compost bin.

4. Create the compost.

Add the prepared kitchen waste to the garden waste already in the compost bin. The compost bin should have a handle you can use to turn as you rotate the compost for thorough mixing and to incorporate oxygen into the mixture. Also, make sure the bin has some holes on the side to enable excess moisture to escape as you spin the compost. Lawn care experts recommend spinning the compost bin 2 to 3 times a day for best results.

5. Apply the fertilizer.

Wait for your compost to achieve a soil-like mixture that is dark in color. Once the compost reaches this appearance, it is ready to be spread. Use a garden fork to spread the compost on the garden fields you want to fertilize. Apply the right amount of compost and wait for the fertilizer to seep in and see some effect on the areas applied before you adding more.

Composting your kitchen waste offers several benefits which include getting rid of unwanted rubbish and having some fertilizer you can use on your lawn. Before throwing your leftovers and other food remnants, determine if they will work great as compost materials first.

A Method for Making Food Waste Organic Fertilizer

food waste Listen to article

Food waste is an important problem in the world. It produces odors, unaesthetic appearance and causes vermin. The present method for food waste can be divided into landfill, new energy production, organic fertilizer production, etc. However, discarding food waste to landfills is a unsustainable way because landfills will reduce gradually. To use a reasonable method to dispose the waste is necessary and indispensable for improving waste recycling rate and public health. Because of complex process, we do not make analysis of new energy production. Using food waste as organic fertilizer seems to be a reasonable method for food waste disposal.

Feasibility on Using Food Waste to Make Organic Fertilizer

Food waste contains high organic matters. From the chemical composition, there are carbohydrates, cellulose, protein, oil and inorganic salts, of which organic components is main parts. In the meantime, it contains a certain amount of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and other trace elements. The content of each component in the food waste (dry matter): crude protein accounted for 15% to 23%, fat 17% to 24%, ash 3% to 6%, Ca element 54%, P element 43% and NaCl 3% to 4%.

Food waste has high water content, proportion of organic matter and salt content. In addition, it contains less harmful substances and is easy to degrade. Its composition and nature is unstable and is subject to a variety of factors. Different factors have different effects on the composition, nature and production of food. The biodegradability of food waste is as high as 82% and is suitable for treatment with a variety of bio-transformation techniques.

Food Waste Organic Fertilizer Materials and Production Methods

Food Waste Type

Vegetables Onion / celery and other rhizomes, pepper / pepper head, onion / garlic / ginger / corn shell,nonstandard-selling vegetables in supermarket, leftovers in kitchen
Fruit Walnut / chestnut / peanut / pineapple and other hard shell, peach / apricot / persimmon nucleus
Seafood Shellfish / snail / abalone / oysters and other shellfish category, shrimp / crab and other crustacean fish bone
Meat Pig / cow / chicken and other livestock hair and bones
Eggs Eggs / duck eggs / quail eggs / ostrich eggs and other eggshell
Dairy products Milk,cheese and yogurt
Leftovers Noodles, rice, beans, cereals, bread
Other Gluten all kinds of tea residue, Chinese medicine slag,oil

From the table, we can see that it has many types of food waste. Yes, we can use them to make organic fertilizer pellets and granules. Before dealing with the food waste, we should be in pretreatment. That is to say, to separate and dehydrate food waste are the first steps for the whole food waste organic fertilizer production. Let’s make a detailed analysis on organic fertilizer production process one by one.

1. Separation and dehydration
Food waste water content is more than 80%. When we make organic fertilizer, water content should be less than 60%. We can use solid-liquid separation machine to separate food waste. The non-clogged cutting pumps can send food waste to the separation machine. Through screw extrusion, the water in food waste can be squeezed. Separated liquid from the machine below the liquid discharge port can be directly transported to the biogas, vegetable greenhouses, orchards and other fields need fertilization. Separated dry matter can be used to produce organic fertilizer.

2. Composting and fermentation
You can add some animal manure, crop straw, or mushroom residue to food waste. And microbial agent is necessary for composting process. After making sure the organic materials for organic fertilizer production, you can put piles. The materials should be evenly stacked. The bottom of the pile is some dry materials, such as mushroom residue, straw, saw dust, etc. In the middle of the pile, you can put food waste or animal manure. And on the top of the pile, you can add some dry materials as well. The length of the pile is not limited. Its width is about 2 meters, height 1 meter.

After putting pile, you need to turn and mix the compost in time. Generally speaking, it takes several months for the whole fermentation. Apparently, it is not suitable for commercial organic fertilizer production. Compost turner machine may be the great choice. With the help of the machine, the whole food waste fermentation period is about 7-15 days. You can turn the pile once a day. In addition, there are several factors that affect your composting quality, such as water content, temperature, C/N ratio, oxygen and ventilation supplying, pH, etc. Every factors should be strictly controlled. When the compost is decomposting, it can be in the next step. The decomposting standard is that organic materials are nearly rotten and black.

3. Crushing
After composting, all organic materials need to be crushed. You can use high moisture crushing machine for fertilizer materials to crush your food waste materials. Because the organic materials water content is about 25-35% and the size is a little big for granulation, it needs to be crushed to smaller materials.

4. Mixing
After crushing food waste material, all organic matters should be mixed in horizontal fertilizer mixer. Using a new type of rotor structure, the horizontal fertilizer mixer makes food waste materials fully mix. The gap, between the rotor and the bright body, can be adjusted to close to zero, effectively reducing the amount of material residue.

5. Granulation
Granulation is one of important steps for organic fertilizer production. Food waste organic materials should be granulated to pellets or granules. The materials contains high water content, it is suitable for wet type organic fertilizer granulation. To choose a high granulation rate granulator is necessary. We suggest you use new type organic fertilizer granulator to make organic fertilizer granules.

6. Drying
After granulation, organic fertilizer granules can be sent to rotary drum dryer. The organic pellets need to reduce water content to be suitable for store. The water content in food waste organic fertilizer pellets can reduce to 13% and realizes deodorization function.

7. Cooling
This step should be working together with organic fertilizer drying. It is used to cool food waste organic fertilizer granules, which reduces water content further.

9. Screening
Organic fertilizer granules has different types and size, so they need to be screened. And then it can separate finished product and return product. Rotary drum fertilizer screener can be used in this step.

10. Packaging
The last step in organic fertilizer production is packing. Using automatic packaging machine to pack food waste organic fertilizer pellets.

Making Food Waste Organic Fertilizer Advantages

1. It solves environment pollution problem. Food waste contains high water an and organic matters. In addition, it contains a variety of unsaturated fatty acid. The matters are easy to decompose. Making organic fertilizer pellets can fully reuse these organic materials and reduce pollution.

2. It helps make benefit using waste. To make organic fertilizer granules and sell fertilizer can add some income. What’s more, it reduces treatment cost for landfill.

3. It removes health hazard. Food waste is easy to grow bacteria. Untreated food waste may contain foot-and-mouth disease pathogens, African swine fever and other harmful bacteria. Making organic fertilizer pellets can reduces health problems.

4. It fully uses organic materials and realizes materials recycling. Landfill treatment is not suitable for the current condition. To make food waste organic fertilizer is sustainable method for waste treatment.

Originating at organicfertilizermachine.com

Cause for Concern Over Organic Fertilizer Made from Food Waste?

By Stephen Meyer & Thomas Marrs

In December 2016, the National Organic Program (NOP) issued guidance 5034-1 that can be interpreted as approving of food waste for use in organic crop production (for example, as an input in fertilizer) without regard to whether such waste contains prohibited synthetics, posing potential risks to investments relying on this guidance as well as to the organic brand itself. Combine this with the absence of guidance, regulation, uniform definition, or oversight by the NOP of the rapidly expanding use of anaerobic digesters to process food waste, and the risks are further exacerbated.

The idea that organic crops may be produced with inputs containing synthetics recently made news for a different reason. In June 2016, in a decision that generated much interest in the organic industry, a court vacated NOP guidance that approved of green waste compost containing the synthetic Bifenthrin, a residential insecticide, for use in organic crop production.

In light of the NOP’s more recent guidance that affirmed the use of numerous substances, including food waste, the scrutiny of the inputs that are used to create organic crops deserves renewed attention. Several companies are investing significantly based on the assumption, or the hope, that fertilizer produced with food waste is or will be approved for use in organic crop production. In fact, several companies are already selling organic fertilizer made from food waste for use in organic crop production.

To the extent the NOP 5034-1 is interpreted as a blanket approval of food waste that fails to distinguish among the substances within the food waste, one could argue that it is inconsistent with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (the “OFPA”), which generally prohibits the use of synthetics in the production of organic crops. More clarity is needed regarding the use of food waste as an input in fertilizer used in organic crop production. In the interim, organic food producers should be cautious about using fertilizer created from food waste.

NOP’s Subsequently Vacated Guidance Regarding Green Waste

On June 20, 2016, a federal district court invalidated NOP Guidance 5016: The Allowance of Green Waste in Organic Production Systems. In that case, the court granted Western Growers amicus status in the lawsuit.

NOP 5016 was issued to address the problem that composters cannot always control their green waste feedstock and that synthetics can find their way into the composting. The pesticide Bifenthrin (a prohibited synthetic) was increasingly found in green waste compost sold for organic crop production, and a complete ban of synthetics was not seen by some as practical.

NOP 5016 was a compromise. It allowed pesticide residue so long as the green waste was not subject to direct application of prohibited substances during the composting process and that any residual pesticide levels do not contribute to the contamination of crops, soil or water. NOP 5016 defined “green waste” to include “domestic and commercial food waste.”

The federal court held that NOP 5016 violated the Administrative Procedures Act, and the court issued an order of vacatur effective August 22, 2016. This essentially put the composting industry in the same position that it was in prior to NOP 5016. The vacatur of NOP 5016 demonstrates the inherent risk in relying on NOP guidance that may be inconsistent with statutes.

The Food Waste Problem

“Food waste” is a general term for the unused portion of our food supply, including food from retailers and consumers. An estimated 40 percent of the U.S. food supply, or 133 billion pounds annually, is wasted. This discarded food waste constitutes the largest part of our landfills and its decomposition is the third largest source of methane emissions. Not surprisingly, converting food waste to energy in the form of methane and subsequently a fertilizer rather than letting it rot in landfills has generated considerable interest as a solution to the environmental food waste problem.

Anaerobic Digestion

Anaerobic digestion is one method of transforming food waste into fertilizer products. Anaerobic digestion is a collection of processes by which bacteria break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. The process can be used to manage waste and produce fuels. Feedstocks can include biodegradable waste materials such as waste paper, grass clippings, leftover food, sewage and animal waste. The primary products of anaerobic digestion are biogas, digestate and water.

Although the process of anaerobic digestion is not new, its use on an industrial scale has increased exponentially since 2000. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) recently noted that the rapid growth of the anaerobic digestion industry has resulted in a “sharp increase in applications submitted to OMRI for derived products.” OMRI also noted that most products derived from anaerobic digestion do not meet NOP’s criteria “for compost or processed manure, even if they are pathogen free.”

For industrial production, food waste is dumped into large, sealed tanks that look like silos. The digestion of food waste produces a biogas consisting of methane, carbon dioxide and traces of other gases that can be used as a fuel. For example, in Oakland, the East Bay Municipal Utility District uses anaerobic digestion to turn food waste into energy.

The anaerobic digestion of food waste also results in nutrient-rich liquid that can be used to make fertilizer. The remaining solids can be dried and used as a soil amendment but also has other applications such as bedding. This begs the question whether fertilizer created in this manner is suitable for use in organic crop production.

The Controversy Over Creating Organic Fertilizer From Food Waste

The organic industry is flourishing. The industry’s annual double-digit growth can be attributed, at least in part, to the public’s belief that chemicals and synthetics can be harmful to human health and the environment, and the public’s perception that organic foods are free of such substances.

Marketing fertilizer created from food waste for use in organic crop production can be very lucrative, as well as environmentally beneficial. Companies have therefore started using anaerobic digestion to generate organic fertilizer from food waste while enthusiastically claiming that they can earn a healthy profit doing so while helping the environment.

A February 2017 New York Times article focused on American Organic Energy (AOE), which boasts plans for the largest anaerobic digester east of the Mississippi, capable of processing over 180,000 tons of food waste annually. The article quoted AOE’s self-described process of breaking down the food waste using machinery that “would crush the cans and bottles that would inevitably ride in with the food; metals would be extracted and packages shredded, and with the addition of water, random plastic would float to the top of the tanks while glass and grit settled to the bottom. ‘We know we’re gonna get loads from supermarkets with unopened tuna cans and expired bacon packages…while residential food is going to be in a plastic bag with a soup can or broken glass in it—that’s the way Americans throw out their garbage.’” The article continued that AOE’s philosophy “was diametrically opposed to that of community composters, who insist that participants honor and defend the integrity of their organics, down to the removal of tiny stickers from lemons and limes.”

Anaerobic digestion is not the only way to convert food waste into fertilizer. Other companies are finding novel ways to convert food waste into fertilizer for use in organic crop production. California Safe Soil (CSS) recently opened a production facility in McClellan, California to recycle 32,000 tons of food waste per year and change that waste into fertilizer for 128,000 agricultural acres using its patented technology. CSS has also partnered with the Sacramento Kings to collect food waste (such as lettuce or pizza dough) from the restaurant and food operations after Kings games and other events at the Golden 1 Center, for use as a fertilizer input.

Other companies are following suit and using food waste to create fertilizer. WISErg Corporation (WISErg), located in the Seattle area, already sells an organic fertilizer made from food waste. Both OMRI and the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) have approved several of WISErg’s fertilizer products made from food waste for use in organic crop production.

Organic Products Are Generally Presumed Free Of Synthetics

Organic agriculture is governed by the general rule that natural substances are allowed while synthetics are prohibited. However, organic products are not, and have never been, completely free of synthetic and artificial ingredients. To be labeled “organic,” a product need only comply with the legal framework, which allows synthetic and artificial products to be used in organic farming under certain, limited circumstances.

The OFPA required the establishment of an organic certification program, the NOP, for products that have been produced using organic methods. The OFPA also established standards an agricultural product must satisfy to be sold or labeled as organic. Among other things, the agricultural product must “have been produced and handled without the use of synthetic chemicals, except as otherwise provided in” the OFPA.

The OFPA defines “synthetic” as “a substance that is formulated or manufactured by a chemical process or by a process that chemically changes a substance extracted from naturally occurring plant, animal, or mineral sources, except that such term shall not apply to substances created by naturally occurring biological processes.”

The OFPA also directed the establishment of a National List of approved and prohibited substances for use in organic production (“National List”). The National List includes a small number of synthetic chemicals that are approved for some limited applications in organic production. In order to be included within the exceptions on the National List, a synthetic substance must go through a comprehensive and open review process and receive approval.

Consistent with the OFPA, USDA organic regulations specifically prohibit the use of any “ynthetic substances and ingredients” in organic crop production unless the synthetic substance is on the National List.

The distinction between synthetic and nonsynthetic (natural) substances is important. In contrast to synthetic substances, natural substances are generally approved for use in organic crop production unless specifically prohibited by the National List.

This basic framework also applies specifically to fertilizers allowed for use in organic crop production. NOP regulations governing fertilizers provide that the “producer must manage plant and animal materials to maintain or improve soil organic matter content in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water by plant nutrients, pathogenic organisms, heavy metals, or residues of prohibited substances.” Some have interpreted “plant and animal materials” as used in this regulation to include food waste. Importantly, however, this NOP regulation governing fertilizer also provides that a producer of organic crops must not use “ny fertilizer or composted plant and animal material that contains a synthetic substance not included on the National List.”

The only practical exception to the no synthetics rule as applied to fertilizers are the few items listed on the National List at 7 C.F.R. § 205.601(j). The National List does not include either “food waste” or the various prohibited synthetics that are commonly found in food waste. Some would therefore argue that before it issued its December 2016 guidance, the NOP regulations contemplated the use of food waste in fertilizer for organic crop production so long as the food waste did not contain prohibited synthetics.

In short, at least historically, to label their product as organic, fertilizer producers must have documented that all of their inputs are free from prohibited synthetic materials.

The NOP’s 2016 Guidance Generally Approving of Food Waste

On December 2, 2016, the NOP issued guidance document 5034-1 which lists “materials which are considered nonsynthetic (natural), and are not required to be included on the National List.” The list includes “Food Processing By-Products” and “food waste” as nonsynthetic materials. The relevant portion of the guidance states that “Food Processing By-Products includes food waste, cannery waste, and pomaces. Plant and animal materials chemically altered by a manufacturing process are not permitted unless resulting material is provided for under § 205.601” (i.e., the National List).

Some, relying in particular on the last sentence, may view this guidance as simply restating the existing law described above and providing that natural food waste (pure animal and plant materials) may be used in organic crop production but only if such waste were completely free of prohibited synthetics. This interpretation would appear to be consistent with the OFPA.

Others, however, may view this guidance as authorizing the use of food waste as an ingredient in fertilizer used in organic crop production without having to scrutinize the contents of the food waste for prohibited synthetics. Under this interpretation, the last sentence of the quoted guidance means that food waste is considered natural unless it is chemically altered by the fertilizer producer after the food waste is collected.

It is more difficult to reconcile this latter interpretation with the OFPA’s prohibition of all synthetics that are not on the National List. Based on a strict reading of the OFPA and regulations, it is relatively clear that all inputs in fertilizer approved for use in organic crop production should be scrutinized and found to be free of prohibited synthetics.

To obtain approval from OMRI for fertilizer used in organic crop production, an applicant must provide a complete written description of the manufacturing process. In addition, an applicant must submit a Total Ingredient List, which must provide the name, function, supplier, manufacturer and a detailed written description of how the ingredient is made, and the percentage of each ingredient, based on weight, in the product. A product must also be reviewed periodically to confirm that it continues to comply with OMRI Standards and Policies, which are based on the NOP regulations.

The OMRI Policy Manual states that in “order to conduct accurate and thorough reviews, OMRI must access all pertinent information regarding each product. This includes the identity and source of every ingredient and the manufacturing process for all ingredients and the final product.” In addition, the OMRI Policy Manual provides that “OMRI requires applicants to fully disclose all ingredients and their sources to OMRI in order for products to be reviewed for listing.”

In the wake of this guidance, it appears there are at least two views of the current regulatory landscape related to food waste. Organic certifying agencies as well as those who are in the organic fertilizer business, deserve more clarity.

The NOP Should Clarify Its Stance on Food Waste

It is generally understood that the NOP’s current position is that unaltered food waste is considered a nonsynthetic and therefore permissible, but food waste that has additional prohibited synthetics added during the post-harvest production process (for example, the fertilizer producer’s addition of a chemical to control odor) is not allowed. As long as additional synthetics are not added to the food waste during processing, food waste is therefore ostensibly permitted for use in organic crop production since NOP has deemed it a natural substance and it is not prohibited by the National List.

The problem with the NOP’s current position is that not all food waste is created equal. One need only look at the waste bins in kitchens, restaurants and grocery stores to understand that food waste, almost by definition, is not pure but instead consists of many different substances, some nonsynthetic and others synthetic, which are prohibited for use in organic crop production.

The NOP’s recent guidance, which could be construed by some as labeling all food waste as a nonsynthetic, does not alter the reality that some of the components of food waste likely meet the OFPA’s definition of a “synthetic.” For example, if a producer were to include plastic bags with food waste as an input for fertilizer presumably most people in the industry would agree that the product should not, and currently would not, be approved for use in organic crop production.

It is generally understood that food waste derived from processed foods contains synthetic materials that normally would not be allowed in organic products. Preservatives such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxyttoluene (BHT) are found in food products such as butter, cereals, snack foods and beer. BHA and BHT are not naturally occurring substances and meet the OFPA’s definition of a synthetic. They therefore should be prohibited for use in organic crop production. Yet food waste that contains BHA or BHT can now possibly be accepted by Material Review Organizations (MRO) as a “nonsynthetic” and an authorized input for organic fertilizer by the NOP.

The New York Times’ account of potential food waste collection includes the glass, plastic bags and other synthetics that contain such waste, which includes preservatives, strongly suggests that any number of things that would otherwise be prohibited in organic crop production could arguably now be included based on this guidance, as long as they are characterized as “food waste.” This is a slippery slope, and it is not difficult to imagine how it could eventually damage the organic brand.

More Clarity Is Also Needed On Anaerobic Digestion

It may be argued that as long as food waste is processed using anaerobic digestion the resulting fertilizer should be approved for use in organic crop production. But the OFPA and the regulations do not recognize such a distinction.

A 2012 OMRI publication noted that some argued that “allowance of AD -derived products in organic production would boost the industry by providing an abundant source of low-cost fertilizers.” The OMRI publication also acknowledged, however, that the anaerobic digestion process “doesn’t really fit the current criteria for compost.”

The differences between anaerobic digestion and traditional composting may be material. The case has yet to be made that the process of anaerobic digestion mineralizes synthetics to the level of simple compounds that are usable by the plant. The scientific literature to date indicates that whether or not this level of decomposition occurs depends on the type of synthetic. For example, according to one article, “complete anaerobic mineralization has been demonstrated for phthalate, dimethyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate, dibutyl phthalate and butyl benzyl phthalate” whereas “no anaerobic degradation, or only partial conversion was established for dioctyl phthalate and bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate.”

There may be other significant differences between aerobic (traditional composting) versus anaerobic digestion. For example, another analysis has concluded that E. coli “survived significantly longer under anaerobic than under aerobic conditions. Survival ranged from approximately 2 weeks for aerobic manure and slurry to more than six months for anaerobic manure.”

The process of using anaerobic digestion to convert food waste into organic fertilizer remains in legal limbo. A petition was submitted to the NOP to include “anaerobic digestate—food waste” on the National List of approved synthetic substances. The petition is currently under submission and the requested Technical Review (TR) was just released. The Crops Subcommittee of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is scheduled to review this TR and the petition and make a recommendation for a formal vote at the October 2017 NOSB meeting. It is therefore also important that the NOP clarify its position on food waste prior to that vote.

Perhaps there is a way to use food waste as an input for fertilizers allowed in organic crop production without running afoul of the clear intent and meaning of the OFPA. For example, producers could ensure that they only use food waste that is free of prohibited synthetics as an input in fertilizer used in organic crop production.

The NOP should clarify its stance for the industry and confirm that food waste that contains any prohibited synthetics may not be used in organic crop production. After all, the OFPA represents a Congressional determination to prohibit all synthetics in organic crop production other than those contained on the National List. And federal agencies such as NOP, lack authority to issue rules or guidance that conflict with the intent of Congress.

Food Producers Should Use Caution Before Buying Organic Fertilizers Made From Food Waste

At least until further guidance is received from Congress, the NOP, or the courts, care must be taken in construing the NOP’s recent guidance as authorizing all food waste, regardless of its contents, for use in organic crop production. Producers—as well as growers, certifiers, and MROs—should be cautious as they navigate the uncertain regulatory landscape of organic fertilizer made from food waste. In sum, food producers should use considerable caution and await NOP clarification before buying organic fertilizers made from food waste that may contain prohibited synthetics.

Authors: Stephen Meyer ([email protected]) and Thomas Marrs ([email protected]), Downey Brand LLP

How to Make Fertilizer from Organic Waste

The majority of organic waste you have in your home can be made into a superb fertilizer which will be ideal for your garden and plants. Natural fertilizer is a great alternative to many artificial brands currently on the market. Creating compost is becoming more and more popular. The process is simple, quick, and allows you to create a large amount of fertilizer in a short space of time.

Step 1 – Collect Household Waste

Think carefully about the food products you are throwing away and whether they can be beneficial in making fertilizer. Avoid oils, grease, milk products, and fatty meats because these will only serve to make your compost a slushy mess. The things you should be on the lookout for are peelings from fruit and vegetables, nuts, eggshells, and over-ripened fruit. Also, make sure you can get your hands on some wood ash as this helps the composting process. This will be easy if you have an open fireplace.

Step 2 – Collect Garden Waste

Save all leaves and clippings from any gardening work you do. Nothing will make the fertilizer more productive than a healthy amount of natural waste. Consider laying the leaves and garden waste around your lawn before you cut the grass. As your lawnmower goes over the top, it will suck in the waste and mix it with grass cuttings. You can then empty the lawnmower onto your compost heap. Nearly all excess garden clippings can be put into the compost mix although it should ideally be added over a period of days for the ideal effect.

Step 3 – Other Materials to Include

Another organic material you can include is sawdust. Piles of sawdust can accumulate if you have been sawing wood or you can purchase large bags of it from any good gardening store. If you have your own livestock, add some of the manure to the compost pile. You can buy this in small amounts from nearby farms or from other locations that keep animals.

Step 4 – Create Compost

Place all of your compost materials into a compost barrel. This barrel should be slightly raised from the floor and should have a handle which you can turn to rotate the barrel and the compost. Spin the barrel at least two times per day. This will make all of the compost materials mix together and combine natural benefits to make a very effective fertilizer. Make sure the barrel has a couple of slits down the side to allow moisture to escape as the barrel is turned.

Step 5 – Spread

Once your compost has turned into a dark and soil-like mixture, it is ready to be spread. Use a large garden fork to pick the compost up and throw it over areas you would like to fertilize. Do not be afraid to be generous but remember that the compost is only a growing aid. Allow the compost layer to seep in and take effect before you fork on another load.

Turning Food Waste into Organic Fertilizer

With the improvement of living condition, people face more and more municipal household refuse. A lots accumulated waste takes large land and pollutes ground water, these badly damage environment and human health. Now, as the structure change of living, food waste has taken a important position of waste.

What Is Food Waste?
Food waste is one of the least recovered materials in the municipal solid waste stream and is one of the most important materials to divert from landfills. Food wastes are commonly generated in homes, institutions (e.g.schools, prisons, sport camps, religious camps, industries e.t.c), restaurants,etc. and these wastes must be removed to provide a clean and healthy environment.
Food waste that is disposed of in landfills decomposes to create methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. It could be regarded as pure streams of waste and they constitute a major burden to the environment such as odor emanation, vermin attraction, toxic gas emission and groundwater contamination.

Main Harm Caused By Food Waste
The main harm caused by food waste are as follows:
First, pollute the air. In the process of transport and piled up, organic matter of food waste will decompose and produce odor and release large amounts of ammonia, sulfide and other pollutants to the atmosphere.
Second, pollute the water. Harmful components of food waste are easily go into the surface water. The direct discharge of food waste into rivers, lakes or oceans can lead to more serious pollution.
Third, the lair of pests. Food waste not only contain pathogenic microorganisms, but also can provide shelter for mice, birds and mosquitoes to rest and breed. Moreover, it is also the source of infectious diseases.

As food waste produces odors, unaesthetic surroundings and attract vermin especially rodents, thereby causing health hazards through transmission of sanitation related infections. Therefore, a sound scientific approach in the management of food waste for improved environmental and public health status is highly required.
As the saying goes, garbage is misplaced resources. Food waste contains abundant organic materials, so we should turn trash(food waste) into treasure(organic fertilizer). This can minimize the disposal cost and regain the values of wastes by transforming waste into organic fertilizer.

How to Turn Food Waste into Organic Fertilizer
On a home scale, turning your food waste into fertilizer is fairly straightforward, as long as you follow the basic principles of composting.

How to compost food waste?

1.Find or buy a compost bin and then place it in your yard and make sure it will get plenty pf sunlight throughout the day as heat is essential for the decomposing process.
2.Add your food waste such as vegetables, fruits, breads, coffee grounds and filters,etc. to your compost bin.
3.Add water to your compost bin. Compost should always be moist but not soaking wet. If you use water from tap, let it set for 24 hours to get rid of chlorine and other chemicals that will kill beneficial microbes in your compost.
4.Use a pitch fork or other long-handled garden tool to turn compost at least once a month. If you have a tumbling compost bin, you should turn once a week to speed up process of decomposition.
5.When compost is ready for use, it will be a dark,rich-looking soil with a clean, earthy smell. Composting can take from 2 weeks to 6 months, it depends on the type of compost bin you have.

What home food waste can you compost?

Not all food waste is created equal. You should know this or else you may have problems popping up in your compost bin or pile. BIG PROBLEMS! Actually, once you look at the pic below, commonsense will be your guide.

The above we discussed is only suitable for individuals, we can do it at our own home. It has many limitations, also, the process is long. If you want to turn food waste into valuable organic fertilizer quickly to make profits, we will recommend you the next following organic fertilizer production process by using food waste.
The whole process mainly consists of steps, including mixing & crushing, composting, granulation, drying & cooling, screening and packaging.

1.Food Waste composting
The first step is composting, it is the basic process. Food waste fermentation process plays the preliminary but indispensable role in the whole organic fertilizer production process. Composting can convert food waste into hygienic, humus-rich,relatively stable product that conditions soils and nourishes plants. It also leads to reduction in odor and the removal of pathogens.
The hydraulic compost turner can accelerate fermentation speed and prevents generation of poisonous and smelly gas.

2.Food Waste Crushing
There are various kinds of food waste, such as fruits, vegetables, leftovers,etc, after composting completed, they should be shredded into small particles. High moisture raw material crusher machine is commonly applied machine here. All food waste is put into the crushing chamber and be crushed. It can handle a huge variety of food waste in a short period of time and rip apart a food waste into smaller pieces. Moreover, it can grind all kinds food waste efficiently and quickly.
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3.Granulation Process
After the fermentation process is finished, the compost can be sent to granulator for further production organic fertilizer. Granulating process is the vital important part in the whole process, so choose a suitable fertilizer granulator is very important.
Here we suggest you new type organic fertilizer granulator. By using the mechanical stirring force of high speed rotation and the resultant aerodynamic force, the organic materials can realize continuous mixing, granulation, spheroidization and densification in the machine, so as to achieve the granulating purpose.

4.Organic Fertilizer Drying & Cooling Procedure
The next is drying and cooling process, organic fertilizer drying and cooling usually can be combined together. After granulating, the organic granules are often with high moisture and heat, for making better quality organic fertilizer, the content of them should be reduced to a certain percentage.
Rotary drum fertilizer dryer is used to dry organic fertilizer granules and after drying, the moisture content can be decreased to 10%. And about organic fertilizer granules cooling, fertilizer rotary drum cooler will help remove the heat for granules. Granules enter from the inlet and cooling air enter from outlet join adversely. The fertilizers of low temperature will be discharged through outlet after transferring the heat to the cooling air. It can greatly improve cooling rate.

5.Organic Fertilizer Screening and Packaging
After drying and cooling, there are some granules that do not meet the quality requirements, so they need to be reprocessed before packaging to ensure the uniformity of the finished product. Rotary drum screening machine can separate the finished product and returning materials. It can also be used for classifying the finished product.
After all these completed, the last procedure is packaging. Full automatic packaging machine is used for automatic quantitative packaging of organic fertilizer granular. It will save labor force and complete packaging with high efficiency.

How Can We Reduce Our Food Waste?
Although we can turn food waste into useful products by some ways, we still should reduce the amount of food waste by starting from ourselves. Speaking of this, some people may ask: how can I reduce my food waste?

There are many ways to reduce the amount of food waste that is sent to landfills. Here are a couple of ways that individuals can reduce their own food waste impact:
Eat your leftovers! Reduce the amount of food waste created!
Start a backyard compost bin or a worm composting bin.
If your city offers food waste collection, ensure that the food waste is placed in the proper bin.
Encourage restaurants and supermarkets to start composting programs.

Notice: The collection of food waste from domestic households requires a very sophisticated system and yet it is very difficult to ensure the collected food waste is not contaminated from other wastes, such as batteries, chemicals, glass,etc. If food waste is contaminated, the quality of the fertilizer will be seriously affected. As a start, it is worthwhile to collect and handle the food waste that is generated from commercial and industrial sectors as it is simpler to collect food waste from these sectors and the chance of food waste contamination is much lower.

As many of you know, growing my own fruit and vegetables is a priority, and so is self-reliance and managing my waste in a closed loop system. So I want to share with you nine ways I turn different sources of ‘waste’ from around my home into valuable garden fertiliser with very little effort. There is no point buying fertilisers or sourcing different ingredients to make other fertilisers when I already have everything I need at home to manage the fertility of my gardens.

What are the benefits of homemade fertiliser?

  • 100% organic
  • No cost
  • No packaging
  • No environmental impacts from manufacturing chemicals and fertilisers
  • No environmental impacts from the distribution of products and ingredients
  • It’s an easy and satisfying way to create a more self sufficient garden and home
  • They contain large amounts of beneficial soil organisms that commercial fertilisers lose during processing
  • Nutrients are provided for your plants both directly and through improved microbial activity in the soil
  • They help prevent soil and plant diseases.

How to make homemade fertiliser from waste

Let’s start with the most well known method of turning waste into fertiliser.

1. Compost

Compost is simply decayed organic matter like food scraps, clothing, paper, and some personal care products. It’s a great way to improve garden soil and provide nutrients for plants, and it might be all you need to fertilise your garden. Here are two posts about my composting methods, the first is how I compost at my new home, the second is how I composted at our previous home.

Why ‘Dig And Drop’ Composting And Free Range Worms Are For Me (And How To Do It)

Extreme Composting: for people who don’t like waste (and lists of don’ts)

2. Aquarium water

Aquarium water is filled with nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, ammonia) and micro-organisms from fish waste that plants can use. Our fish tank is filled with rainwater and only has two fish, so the nutrients are diluted enough to go straight on my plants or soil. This is a great option for watering indoor pot plants.

You won’t be able to use your aquarium water if you have a salt-water tank because the amount of salt may harm the plants. Also, if you’ve added any chemicals to the water, it’s advised not to apply the water to plants being grown for consumption.

3. Cooking water

Nutrients are released from food when it is cooked in water; this applies to all sorts of food including eggs, vegetables and pasta. Make sure you cool it before using as a fertiliser. Alternatively, you can do what I sometimes do, which is to pour the boiling hot water on weeds. The hot water will kill them and the nutrients will be available for other plants nearby.

4. Egg shells

We get about 7 eggs a day from our chickens so the egg shells quickly accumulate. Eggshells are about 95% calcium carbonate which is the same ingredient as lime, a popular soil amendment used to reduce soil acidity and improve fertility.

You can make a slow release calcium fertiliser simply by rinsing out the egg shells with water and drying them on a window sill to stop them growing mould. Once dry, grind the egg shells up in a blender or with a mortar and pestle. Store in a glass jar.

Read this next: Clean bottles with crushed egg shell

5. Wood ash

Wood ash straight from your fireplace, fire pit or wood fired oven is a good source of calcium (good for root growth), potassium (improves disease resistance and flower, seed and fruit quality) and magnesium (important in photosynthesis), as well as other trace elements. However, the key elements nitrogen and sulphur are lost as gases during burning so it’s not a complete fertiliser.

Being 25% – 45% calcium carbonate, wood ash can be used instead of lime to reduce the acidity of the soil, so make sure you don’t use it around acid loving plants. Most vegetables like to be in the neutral pH zone so wood ash can help if your soils are slightly acidic which is most soils in Australia. You can also sprinkle wood ash in your compost from time to time as compost tends to be slightly acidic. Managing the pH levels of soils helps make nutrients available to plants.

The presence of potassium (5% – 7%) makes it ideal for top dressing fruiting plants and sprinkling throughout the vegetable garden when preparing beds.

If you are going to use wood ash, make sure you are only burning hard wood (best) or soft wood because treated pine, briquettes with chemicals added, and lighter fluid are not good for you or your plants.

6. Rabbit manure

My kids were given two rabbits to care for (one is a rescued rabbit) so we need to deal with their waste. Rabbit manure is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus and contains more nutrients than cow, horse and chicken manure, but it is a cold manure because the rabbit’s herbivorous diet means it contains an ideal ratio of nitrogen to carbon. This means it can be added directly to garden beds without it burning the plants. You can add the manure by top dressing or by work it through the top soil. Rabbit manure is great because the little bunny berries are dry, easy to handle, and odourless. They break down quickly and can be applied any time of the year, and of course you can add it to your compost too.

This Winter I have prepared my garden beds by working the rabbit manure and hay bedding through the soil. The bedding will contain rabbit urine which is high in ammonia, so letting that sit for a week to allow the ammonia to evaporate will stop plants from being burnt.

7. Chicken manure

Our chickens are free range but they still do 50% of their pooping while roosting at night in the hen house, so this needs to be regularly cleaned out. Chicken manure is considered ‘hot’ because it is high in nitrogen. It will burn plants if it is not aged or composted before being applied to the soil. As I use the dig and drop composting method and I want to avoid double handling, I age the straw and manure from the hen house on the garden bed I wish to plant in later on. After aging, I dig it through more thoroughly and continue with planting.

* I also have easy access to horse and cow manure from the neighbours which are excellent manures to use in the garden. If I ever find myself in a position of needing more fertiliser, this is a locally abundant resource I can tap into.

8. Weed tea

Making weed tea is a great way to deal with difficult weeds that you don’t want to put in your compost (so that they aren’t accidently spread around your garden). By making weed tea, you kill the weeds by drowning them in water and recycle the nutrients that have seeped out of the weeds back into the garden.

At the end of a day of weeding I stuff a bucket full of weeds, then submerge them completely in rainwater. If you only have access to mains water, it might be best to allow it to stand for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to disappear. The removal of chlorine makes it easier for microorganisms to multiply. Finally, I pop a lid on and leave the bucket in the garden shed.

After six weeks of fermenting, the weeds are completely dead and can be strained out of the solution. Beware, this stuff smells vile and will stick around for a day if you get it on you. The dead weeds can now be safely added to your compost to continue breaking down. Use the liquid, which will be rich in nutrients and beneficial microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes, as a fertiliser by mixing one litre with five litres of water.

Liquid fertilizer in the form of a “tea” is thought to give plants, especially vegetables and fruit trees, a boost that is quicker than applying the manure, worm castings or compost.

*Seaweed fertiliser

Although it’s not waste, if you live by the beach, a locally abundant resource for you to create a liquid fertiliser could be seaweed washed up on the shore. But, you must ensure you know the laws about collecting seaweed from beaches in your area. To make the fertiliser, use it in place of or in addition to weeds. As well as calcium, seaweed contains mannitol which is a compound that increases a plant’s ability to absorb nutrients in the soil.

9. Manure / compost tea or extract

Liquid fertilisers can be made by soaking any nutrient rich material like compost or manure in water. Often these are called ‘teas’, which they are if they have been brewed for a long time like the weed tea above. But according to Sustainable Gardening Australia an extract is a much quicker way of making a nutrient rich fertiliser but without the same level of microorganisms.

To make an extract, simply put a shovel full of manure or compost in a 20 litre bucket, mix and leave for a few hours to 3 days. Strain off the liquid and use as fertiliser.

I’d love to hear if you have been able to turn other waste material from around your home into fertiliser for your garden. Please share in the comments.

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