As long as there have been humans, we have taken the parts of plants we don’t eat and thrown them back onto the soil again, knowing it would turn back into soil to create more plants. Until we modern people came along, that is.
Now we take our food and seal it away in plastic, so that the only bacteria that can work on them are anoxic bacteria that generate methane – a greenhouse gas about 35 times worse than carbon dioxide. The least we can do, obviously, is to throw compostables into the compost, let the proper critters munch away, and let it alchemically turn into soil again.
Ordinary composting, however, has some disadvantages that every gardener knows well. One can’t simply add bones or meat – and some gardeners even avoid eggshells – for fear of attracting vermin. Also, plants that have gone to seed cannot be added, or the resulting soil will be peppered with the beginning of next year’s weeds. You can’t add diseased plants, or the diseases might remain in the resulting soil, ready to infect next year’s crops. Also, it takes a long time, and one loses much of the kitchen waste volume in the process of rotting down.
Imagine, then, a new kind of composting, one that avoids all these problems at once – no more weed seeds, no more disease, no more vermin. Imagine being able to compost almost everything, and keep the majority of the biomass. Imagine, finally, that it only takes a few weeks.
What makes hot composting work is bacteria; instead of the usual variety of bacteria that breaks down over several months, hot composters find the right balance of materials – more on this in a moment — to attract aerobic, heat-generating bacteria. Then, they oxygenate the soil by turning the compost regularly, and making sure the compost has enough mass – at least 1.5 metres on each side — to retain the heat it generates.
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