Compost and Recycling Experiment
Matt Fisher, age 13
John Adams, Junior High, Charleston, West Virginia
What He Did
America faces a “garbage crisis;” we’re running out of places to dump our trash. We have to throw less away but how? One way is to compost at home—put organic materials like leaves and grass in a backyard bin instead of throwing them out—and let them decompose (rot) so they become part of the Earth again. Matt’s family had a big yard, and every time the grass was mowed, their 40 gallon trash can was filled. Matt considered this a waste and told his parents that he would do a science project to see how quickly can break down into compost.
Matt estimates he kept 30-40 trash cans full of yard waste from being thrown away that year. His science project won first place at his school and third in the county.
How He Did It
1. Matt and his father built a wooden compost bin.
2. His hypothesis was: Grass and leaves would decay faster than any other material.
3. He put a box in his room with the “control” materials all mixed together: grass, leaves, newspaper, glossy newsprint ads, a brown paper bag and a magazine.
4. He put identical items in the compost bin, then covered them with grass and leaves.
5. He checked the temperature of the compost pile to see if it was heating up (decaying material “cooks” itself) Sometimes it got as high as 120°
6. After 9 months, he analyzed a sample of compost from the middle of the pile. His hypothesis was right; the grass and leaves had decayed the most. Newspaper came in second. The glossy newspaper inserts and magazine had hardly changed at all.
Story was published in the California Riverside County Newsletter, June 2005