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Possible Problems and Solutions

1. Not Enough Nitrogen

Solution: Engage more residents and businesses as contributors. Please see Restaurant Composting for more tips on how to properly increase your nitrogen source. Coffee shops, with their huge daily supplies of spent coffee grounds, are a natural place to start.

2. Insufficient Brown Source

Solution: Start stockpiling brown source material right away. Leaves, shredded nonglossy paper, wood chips, hay, straw, and untreated sawdust. can be accumulated seasonally for free. Wood chips are usually the easiest to acquire any time of year. Often times, municipalities will drop off wood chips free of charge. Contact your local alderman to see who handles tree trimming or leaf collection in your area. Encourage residents to drop off their yard trimmings and leaves in your designated brown source area. This is best done in fall when people have more material to contribute.

3. Wood Chips Not Breaking Down

Solution: The problem with using wood chips as a brown source is that they contain lots of lignin and therefore take a long time to break down. You can either screen out the wood chips and continue to use them as a brown source or you can apply the resting wood chip-filled compost as a top dressing to gardens in the fall. The wood chips will act as a water retention agent on the top of the garden as healthy compost infiltrates the soil. Warning: too many wood chips will make the soil acidic and could tie up available nitrogen in active beds.

4. Too Much Nitrogen = Odor and Flies

Solution: Nitrogen helps create compost faster, but it can also cause issues if your compost pile is not properly covered with adequate carbon-rich material. Make sure your food contributions are adequately covered with enough brown source material. For every 5-gallon bucket of residuals you take in, please cover with two 5-gallon buckets of brown material (if leaves or straw) or one 5-gallon bucket of wood chips.

Flipping your bins more frequently will also help food residuals break down faster, create more room in your bin, and decrease the likelihood of anaerobic bacteria colonizing your piles. Also reconsider how many restaurants and residents are contributing. Contact your Kompost Kids representative if you feel your site is ill-equipped to handle the volume.

5. People Not Covering Contributions

Solution: People need constant reminders on how to compost properly. Signage will play a huge roll in this. Also, setting up a listserve so that people can chat with one another about site maintenance will also be helpful. This way, when someone sees something being inadequately covered, then a reminder can be sent to the group about proper composting and the importance of covering your contributions.

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