Ecological advantages and steps in the composting process

in ecoTrain2 months ago

Among the ecological advantages are the production of less leached water and contaminated gases, less land consumption for final disposal, less impact on the landscape, soil and groundwater (because the volume of waste going to the landfill is reduced), the production of humus that can serve as a stabilizer against erosion, compost is a natural fertilizer that does not produce chemical overload to the soil.

▶ Credits: Bioenergyconsult. – [Image of Public Domain]

▶ Credits: Canadasafetycouncil. – [Image of Public Domain]

▶ As for the stages of the composting process, the microbial transformation of organic matter in composting is an exothermic process, i.e. it generates heat. In the composting process, the temperature varies depending on the metabolic activity of the microorganisms. According to this parameter, the composting process can be divided into 4 stages: mesophilic, thermophilic, cooling and maturation.

The first stage is called phase I or mesophilic. At the beginning of the composting process, the waste is at room temperature and the mesophilic microorganisms present in the organic materials begin to develop using easily assimilated carbohydrates and proteins, in this way the microorganisms grow and multiply, decomposing the materials. As a consequence of the activity of these microorganisms the temperature rises reaching 40 °C in a few days. The duration of this stage is variable and depends on various factors such as oxygen, humidity, carbon/nitrogen ratio and type of waste used.

The second stage is called phase II or Thermophilic, here the temperature continues to rise until it reaches values close to 60 to 70°C and the mesophilic microorganisms are replaced by others resistant to these temperatures (thermophiles). Initially, thermophilic bacteria and fungi begin to degrade cellulose and partially lignin, whereupon the temperature rises. After 60 °C, the thermophilic fungi cease their activity and actinomycetes increase. For several days the temperature remains high and the biological activity decreases, the medium is pasteurized, i.e. the pathogenic bacteria are destroyed.

The third stage is called phase III or cooling phase, when practically all the organic matter has been transformed, the temperature begins to decrease, since the heat generated inside the pile is less than the heat lost. As a consequence of this decrease in temperature, bacteria and mesophilic fungi reinvigorate the compost and degrade the remaining cellulose and lignin. This phase is recognized when after turning the pile there is no further increase in temperature.

▶ Credits: Wikipedia. – [Image of Public Domain]

And finally the fourth stage is phase IV or maturation, a period that requires a period of time (months) at room temperature in which condensation reactions and humus polymerization take place. In this stage, some organic acids produced in the thermophilic phase, which are phytotoxic, are also degraded.

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