Compost to save the planet

Seriously? Yep.

Last week, Time Magazine published an article that asked “What If the World’s Soil Runs Out?” The article highlighted the growing shortage of topsoil around the world due to unsustainable agricultural practices.

Topsoil is a living thing—it is the top 2 to 8 inches of soil where most of the microorganisms live and where plants put the majority of their roots. These microorganisms transform and recycle the topsoil material that they eat. We need them to make soil usable and livable for other organisms higher up on the food chain. They also are the tiny architects that structure soil so that it can retain moisture.

Photo of erroded soil. (Credit: iStockphoto via

The article suggests that we have only about 60 years-worth of topsoil left. The reason is that most agricultural practices, even the ones practiced in European countries, strip the soil of carbon and nutrients. Soil is primarily eroded in three ways:

1. We take more carbon than we put back. Some fields are burnt after a harvest to clear them. Others are stripped to feed animals. In both cases, carbon is moved out of the growing cycle.

2. We misuse fertilizers. They provide nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and because plants will grow when these nutrients are available, we think that is all they need.

3. We also over-work the land through over-ploughing and over-grazing.

Compost produced by Recology Grover Environmental Products

Through composting yard debris and food scraps, we add carbon and other key nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, back to the soil. Our efforts to return valuable nutrients and carbon to the soil are among the best examples of how to address the world’s soil nutrient shortage. You can learn more about the good things compost does for farmers, the environment and consumers in the WASTE ZERO section of

4 Responses to “Compost to save the planet

  • Claire Conlon
    3 years ago

    We’d love to start composting, but you don’t offer it as a service on the coast like the Recology customers on the Peninsula and in SF. When do you plan on including this as well?

    • Hi Claire,

      We would love to offer curbside food scraps and yard debris recycling in your area! Unfortunately, the way our contracts work, we can’t offer a service unless our customers formally ask their city council members for it… Every community wants something different. Please let us know how we can help you to get compost services going in your area.

      • Composting is fairly easy, right down to burying some scraps in the yard, as a raw-food advocate friend of mine does. I’m sure it would be nice and convenient to have it offered as a service, but I don’t see that as an excuse to not do it. Actually, this was the topic of my blog just the other day.

  • Lori Ulmer
    2 years ago

    I built a compost bin out of pallets. All topsoil has been eroded from our land due to practices in the dustbowl. My MIL insists on raking and burning the leaves. There are many sites online that offer tutorials on how to compost using large trash cans.

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