Food Waste Dos and Don'ts

Updated: Apr 27

...please keep meat and plastics out for everyone's safety

We'll admit it, we're fastidious about what goes into our compost buckets. It's important to note that our compostable waste guidelines are not arbitrary; they are the product of careful safety precautions and practical experience. Read on to learn why we exclude certain items from our curbside compost collection program.


Meat and Seafood

If you're a meat eater, it may seem wasteful to put your meat waste into the garbage can while the rest goes into the compost bucket. While meat is acceptable for large volume commercial facilities that use closed chambers, computerized technology and high heat to process waste, we're a small, hands-on farm that manually processes all food waste inputs.


When waste is introduced to the composting process on our farm, the first stop is a dedicated composting station for chickens. This area consists of twelve individual bays with specialized on/off ramps and removable covers for chicken access or exclusion. Waste is introduced, processed by chickens, and then rotated into the next bay. Once the waste has traveled through the bays, it is covered to age further before its next stop: the Wormery.


Chickens are meat eaters; they eat bugs, snakes and rodents they encounter as they roam freely on our acreage. However, chickens cannot tolerate rotting meat. Rotting and rotten meat produces a toxin called clostridium botulinum, which causes sometimes-fatal (and always unpleasant) botulism in domestic chickens. We take great care to keep rotting meat, as well as other potential toxins, out of their diet.


Additionally, clostridium botulinum can endure in compost that is not properly maintained. We follow the rigorous standards of PFRP (Process to Further Reduce Pathogens), including closely monitoring compost piles and logging a minimum of three heat cycles at 135+ degrees (Farenheit) during the thermophilic phase. Detailed records of inputs, heat cycles, moisture levels and aeration are recorded in compost logs throughout the process to ensure the highest standards. That said, we prefer to keep even the risk of certain pathogens out of our piles, and thereby out of our finished compost.


Eggs

Our guidelines for meat apply to eggs - while shells are accepted, please exclude whole eggs or cooked eggs from the compost bucket.


Bones

Bones are compostable under certain circumstances; multiple high-heat cycles are typically required, far exceeding what our plant-based compost requires. (Aside: if bones were easily composted, serial murderers would be taking composting classes.) Because they compost at such a vastly different and much slower rate, we ask that bones please be excluded from the compost bucket.


'Certified Compostable' Plastics

Save certified compostable plastics for certified compost facilities. Even 'home compost system compatible' plastics (typically made from cornstarch or other plant fibers) is the bane of a small composter's existence! These items will break down at a much slower rate, requiring special screening and repeating, and typically they become burdensome to the process.


If It Grows, It Goes!

It's easy to remember what you can put into your compost bucket if you remember this simple saying: if it grows, it goes. Aside from things that grow from the earth, refer to our handy refrigerator compostables list for a complete list of accepted compostable items. Remember that waste should be food-focused, but items such as unbleached paper towels, coffee filters, paper egg cartons, and paper to-go cartons are also accepted.


I'm OK, You're OK

We may not be a good fit for your needs, and that's OK! Our service is ideal for the plant-based household. If you're looking for a Richmond-based food scrap collection company that accepts items we don't, you're in luck! There are several new companies in the area that accept these items! Some local companies haul waste to out-of-town facilities that can properly and safely compost them. We encourage everyone to compost their waste, using the means that work best for them!



Ready to Grow Something?

There's a reason we're called Terra Firma Compost Company - compost is our focus! We've been making compost for over two decades, over time perfecting our recipe and process. We also value local - our compost is made from locally sourced waste streams and is sold locally in RVA.


Our hand-crafted plant-based compost is available by the cubic foot. Aged 8-12 months, it is screened and bagged to order in biodegradable burlap packaging (return bags for refilling and a bag credit). Plan to use 1" - 3" for your garden areas, gently incorporating compost into the top few inches of your soil. Contact us if you need help calculating the amount of compost needed for bed areas.


Our indoor worm facility is home to hundreds of thousands of worms who produce an impeccable soil amendment. We offer plant-based vermicast (worm castings) in several sizes: 4 qt, 12 qt and 1/2 cu ft. Remember, worm castings go a long way! Packed with microbes, our castings improve water retention, encourage root growth, and naturally help ward off pests and disease. Sprinkle a handful into your planting hole or gently mix vermicast into the top few inches around the drip line of existing plants. See our vermicast product page for instructions on making worm tea, an effective tool for drenching soil and misting foliage, maximizing the myriad benefits of castings.


We deliver locally - contact us today if you are planting or growing in Richmond, VA! Don't settle for compost trapped in air-tight plastic that sets outside season after season. Our compost and vermicast is teeming with life, bagged to order, and typically scheduled for delivery within a week or so (depending on seasonal demand), ready to add life to your garden.


Until next time...happy composting!