Composting in the Caucasus

One of the things always took for granted when we were living in Oregon was how many recycling options there are. If you’re thoughtful about what you buy it’s possible to not have to throw away much of anything at all.

Not so in Azerbaijan. Here everything goes in the trash, and there’s a lot more of it since it’s customary to wrap everything in plastic bags, including plastic bags.

Out of everything that goes in the trash, nothing bothers me quite as much as the fruit and vegetable scraps. Whenever I toss a banana peel or watermelon rind into the trash, I’m locking away forever the water and nutrients it took to grow it. Baku only gets about ten inches of rain a year, and its soil is so barren it’s almost white. Water and soil nutrients aren’t something that should be wasted anywhere, let alone here.

The worst part about tossing fruit and vegetable scraps is how easy they are to recycle. Given some time and the right conditions, they’ll recycle themselves into dark brown hummus. With that in mind I’ve decided that living in an apartment isn’t a good enough excuse to not have a compost bin. I made it myself out of a small trash can and set in the corner of our tiny balcony.

There are a lot of unknowns: How fast will it fill up? Will it freeze solid in winter? Will it attract flies or other bugs? What will I do with the finished product, assuming there is a finished product? We’ll see. For now I’m reveling in the possibility of giving our broccoli stalks, tea leaves, and apple cores a second life.