Anyone that owns a garden or a small farm, orchard, or even a greenhouse at home needs fertilizers. The best such fertilizer you could use is compost.
In fact, compost is 100 per cent organic and hence doesn’t contaminate your garden or field with chemicals that can have long-term or permanent effects.
What is Compost?
Generally, compost is made of waste fruits and vegetables or their scrapings, leaves, weeds and other such material. These natural products are decomposed by bacteria either naturally or at composting plants. You can also make compost at home by getting a free composting bin from municipalities in certain states of the US.
There’s another type of compost made of certain other kinds of waste. Known as Dillo Dirt, this is also a fertilizer that helps enrich the soil and make it fertile. Opponents of Dillo Dirt, however, claim that this fertilizer contaminates soil and water.
And now, the shocker: Nowadays, you can also get what’s known as human compost. This means compost made of dead humans. As a matter of fact, human composting is fast becoming popular across the USA because it reduces the cost of a funeral of a loved one and is environment-friendly.
In the US, human composting is legal in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Vermont, California and New York states. It has become a new way of disposing of mortal remains instead of traditional burial and cremation.
Human bodies are placed in special composters to make this fertilizer. The resulting compost is usually given away to the family of the deceased or free to anyone if the family doesn’t claim it. However, I have no evidence to back this statement of getting it free from funeral homes and companies.
Composting Programs in the USA
In the US, the Department of Agriculture (DOA) and Environment Protection Agency (EPA) have superb programs that encourage composting among consumers, food producers, restaurants and other industries. The DOA and EPA also have grants for promoting composting that are given to various states.
There’re some benefits that consumers like us could get under these programs. These include free composting bins and, sometimes, free compost from the local government. I will talk about such places later in this article.
Reasons to Use Compost
Actually, there’re several reasons to use compost. The DEA states clearly that an average American household wastes about $1,500 worth of uneaten food every year.
While the DEA has educational programs for families to reduce and eliminate food wastage, it also has an excellent program to promote composting. As a matter of fact, the first reason you should use compost is to prevent food wastage and convert such uneaten food into something useful for your garden or agriculture.
Secondly, the world is now more conscious of issues such as environmental pollution. Using chemical-based fertilizers continues worldwide. However, such fertilizers are known to contaminate the soil and water to some extent.
Sometimes, toxins from these fertilizers are also absorbed by crops bearing foodgrains, vegetables and plants. Compost is a natural fertilizer and hence, generally free of chemicals. This ensures that toxic chemicals don’t seep into food grains and other produce.
Thirdly, and perhaps most important: using compost saves you a lot of money. Factory-made fertilizers cost a lot of money. But you can make compost for almost free, with food waste and kitchen waste. Using compost also increases the fertility of the soil, and whatever you grow usually is healthy.
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15 Places to Get Free Compost Near You
Since you’re now aware of some basic facts about compost, you may wish to use it for your garden or farm and greenhouse. If that’s your case, continue reading further. I will speak about 15 places where you can get free compost.
You can also search on Google with the keywords ‘Free compost near me’ and find locations where you might get some. However, in such cases, call the place and verify if they give compost free.
DSNY means New York City Department of Sanitation. This is the local admin of the city. They have a very comprehensive composting program for residents of NYC.
Citizens can drop their kitchen waste and other such material acceptable by DSNY for making compost. And you can get free compost in return. Visit the DSNY website for further details on this program.
2. Facebook Marketplace
As environmental awareness spreads, there’re several individuals, such as farm owners and orchard owners or even citizens, that’ve composting bins or composters at home and farm.
Since the quantity of compost produced is large, they give it away free to any takers. Often, you might find such posts on Facebook Marketplace.
Craigslist is the surest way to find some free compost nearby. You can check their local classifieds or post one for free and await a response. A lot of people that’ve surplus compost would be willing to give you some for free.
However, in all such cases, you would have to pack and transport the compost to your location.
4. DEP Montgomery County, MD
The Department of Environment Protection of Montgomery County in Maryland offers free composter bins. You have to email them and state your requirements for composter bins and containers to send compostable waste to recycling plants.
Refer to their website to find locations for collecting these free composter bins. If you’re living in that region, use these bins to make your own compost at home.
5. US Composting Council
The US Composting Council has a presence in most states of the US. They offer a variety of free resources for persons as well as organizations interested in composting and using compost.
Some of their programs include composting for industries and composting for school students. They also collect compostable material to make this fertilizer. Contact their local office to find out if you’re eligible to get free compost.
6. Nearby Farms and Orchards
If you live in an area with lots of farms or orchards around, ask for some free compost. In most cases, you will get some free compost here. Remember, nobody is obliged to give you free compost. Yet, some local farm and orchard owners might wish to give you some.
7. Nearby Restaurants
Usually, nearby restaurants will also have composter bins because they don’t usually throw away kitchen waste and other such products. They will happily give you some free compost for your garden.
Freecycle is a company that encourages recycling, as its name suggests. They have a large community of members who are willing to give away a lot of free stuff, including compost for free.
The freebies section at Offerup.com features a lot of stuff that people wish to give away for free. Check this website to find out if anyone is providing free compost in your area.
10. Local Schools
Thanks to EPA and DOA initiatives, a lot of local schools nowadays have composting programs as part of their environmental studies. They get composters for free from the government to reduce campus waste. Such schools often give away some free compost.
11. Colleges & Universities
Colleges and universities across the USA have large campuses and gardens. They require lots of compost and hence, produce it themselves. Approach them to ask for some free compost for your use.
12. Quick Service Restaurants
Quick Service Restaurants, or QSRs, are commonly known as ‘fast food restaurants. Usually, international chains of such QSR restaurants have a superb, in-house recycling program and turn their kitchen waste into compost. Call the nearby college or university to find out about such programs and free compost.
13. Soup Kitchens
Soup Kitchens, run by any organization or charity, have recycling programs to dispose of surplus food and kitchen waste. They have composters nearby. You can get some free compost from these places. However, offering a small donation would be better when taking the compost.
Large hotels will have a composting program for sure. That’s because a lot of food often goes to waste at such hotels. Ask a nearby hotel if they compost and find out whether they’re willing to give you some compost without cost.
15. Catering Companies
And finally, one of the best places to get free compost is catering companies. Since they prepare bulk food for catering, they also generate lots of kitchen waste and food waste. Such waste is usually composted. They would be willing to provide some free compost for you upon request.
Special Mention: Human Compost
Some states in the US- Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Vermont, California and New York- now allow composting bodies of dead persons. Usually, the cadaver is placed in a special type of composter and allowed to decompose in a controlled manner. This breaks it down into a soil-like compound. The process breaks down the body into natural elements faster than a traditional burial.
Usually, the compost created from such mortal remains is handed over to family members for use in their gardens and farms. Or, it’s used as fertilizer in public places such as gardens, depending on the family’s wishes. In some cases, you might be able to get such human compost free of cost for your garden.
Remember, there’s a lot of opposition from various religious organizations to human composting. However, with graveyard pace running out and families of deceased persons looking for environment-friendly yet inexpensive alternatives to burials and cremations, choose human composting.
Whether or not to use human compost is your choice and purely depends on your beliefs and religious inclinations.
In my opinion, the best way to get free compost is to make it yourself. A lot of states and environmental organizations have programs that give away free composters to households. Recycling kitchen waste and spoiled or even wasted food is the best way to save some money. You can also make a composter at home.