What Is Composting?
Composting is a great way to reduce the amount of our leftover organic waste that ends up in landfill. You can take any organic matter that you cannot reuse any more like food waste, garden waste, paper and cardboard then rot it to create compost.
By doing this we replicate the rotting process that occurs naturally. Through it the organic matter from dead plants, leaves from trees and fruit that falls to the ground biodegrades to create fertiliser for new plants and trees so nothing gets wasted.
Benefits Of Composting
There are huge environmental benefits to composting and it has an important role to play in tackling the climate emergency. When we compost organic matter it produces less methane than when it is in landfill. Methane is around 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than Carbon Dioxide. So this makes a huge difference to emissions and climate change.
Composting also returns nutrients to soil making it more fertile and able hold more water. This makes the plants we eat more nutritious and lets us grow them using less resources and chemicals.
By growing more plants we can also remove more Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere which helps combat climate change. The American Environmental Protection Agency has also identified that compost can remove 99.6% of industrial volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air.
Composting also reduces the amount of waste collection and transportation required. This means less vehicle miles and less emissions. Less waste also means we need to turn over less land to landfills and incinerate less which also reduces greenhouse gases.
In fact, it has such potential to tackle climate change that Project Drawdown, the world’s leading resource for climate solutions, includes it in their list of 100 solutions to reverse global warming.
What Can Be Composted?
One of the great things about composting is that almost any organic material can be composted. You can easily compost things like leftover food or dinner scrapings, vegetable peelings, spoiled fruit, stale bread, herbs, spices, tea leaves, cereal, rice, cakes and pastries.
Some less obvious things you can also compost include coffee grounds and filters, pasta, egg shells and nut shells. If you have any cut flowers, grass or plant trimmings then you can simply add them to your compost too. You can even compost paper as long as it isn’t coloured or glossy paper as these can contain toxic heavy metals but things like your leftover newspapers are fine.
Eco-friendly products made from compostable materials are also becoming much more widely available too. Our reusable bamboo coffee cups are made from bamboo fibre, which biodegrades in just a couple of years in your compost. They are a great sustainable alternative to disposable coffee cups, which are rarely recycled and often end up in landfill.
There are a few things you shouldn’t compost as well though like meat, fish, butter, yoghurt, cheese, milk or animal fats. Whilst they will eventually decompose they will slow the process down, smell as well as attracting flies and maggots so you are best to avoid them. One other thing you need to look out for is tea bags which include polypropylene. This is a form of plastic so they will not fully decompose.
You also shouldn’t include your pet’s waste in your compost. It is organic certainly but it contains parasites and can introduce diseases which spoil your compost. So best to avoid it altogether.
Composting Food Waste
So there is a really wide range of things we can compost and it is a great way of disposing of organic waste. However, whilst food waste can be composted it is better to reuse it as much as possible before disposing of it. That means using leftover fruit to make smoothies or vegetables to create stock.
If possible, try and cook your food before it spoils then freeze it if you don’t plan on eating it straight away. Get imaginative with your freezer as well. You can freeze things like bread, rolls, cheese, nuts, fresh herbs, butter, milk and fruit then simply defrost them when you need them.
Planning is also a great way to reduce food waste too. Before going shopping carry out an audit of your fridge, freezer and cupboards to make sure you only purchase what you need. It is easy to pick up things we think we need but don’t! Spices have always been a particularly bad offender in our house. How much cumin and turmeric can you possibly need?!
We aren’t just helping to save the environment by reducing the resources required to grow, transport and consume our food. We are also helping save ourselves money as well. In the UK we waste 13% of edible food and drink purchases which costs us £540 per year for an average household. So it makes sense to minimise our food waste as much as possible.
You can find more tips on reducing food waste in my article on 9 Clever Ways To Reduce Food Waste.
What To Put In A Food Compost Bin
So once you’ve done everything you can to minimise your food waste simply add your leftovers to your food compost bin. There are conflicts of opinion about whether you should add cooked foods to your compost usually because they have been cooked with meat, dairy or animal fats. However, if you add them sparingly they should compost just fine.
If you live in area where food waste collection is available you can add your meat, fish and dairy products to it rather than binning them. Plus, if you really don’t want to add your cooked leftovers to your compost then you can easily dispose of them in it too.
Using both composting and food waste collection together is the most efficient way of minimising your organic waste.
How To Compost
So decided that composting is for you then? If you are just getting started and have a garden available then a compost bin is probably the best solution to begin with. These take various forms and here are a few of the most popular options.
Price: £29.99 | Size: 300l | Buy On Amazon
This compost bin comes with a stable hinged lid for easy filling from above and a hatch door for shoveling out. It includes ventilation openings for aeration and is provided in a dark colour for better heat development. The ideal basic garden composter for organic household and garden waste.
Price: £169.99 to £229.99 | Size: 65l to 133l | Buy On Amazon
This innovative, all-in-one, outdoor composting system combines a compost tumbler drum with a compost tea maker base. It is entirely made from food safe, BPA and rust free materials. The drum rotates on top of the base to create solid compost. The base allows you to collect the excess liquid from the drum as compost tea, a precious liquid fertiliser.
Price: £114.99 | Size: 190l | Buy On Amazon
This heavy duty tumbling composter is an easy and efficient way to create garden compost. Ideal for turning kitchen scraps and organic garden waste into beautiful, rich compost. This compost tumbler also has a horizontal rotating drum which makes it easy to turn when full. Once you have created your compost in the tumbler, it is as easy as wheeling your composter over to your desired area, unlocking the front panel, and emptying out the contents.
How To Use A Compost Bin
The first thing you want to do is find the right site for your compost bin. If it isn’t freestanding it is best located on bare soil. Try and site your compost bin in sunlight to increase the temperature. This helps to encourage the organic material to breakdown.
Ideally try to aim for a 50 / 50 split between green waste and brown waste for the best compost. If you aren’t sure what is green and brown then check this list.
Use a kitchen caddy or kitchen compost bin to store your food waste then take it and empty it into your compost bin when full. If you don’t have a kitchen caddy here are a couple of popular options.
Price: £14.99 | Size: 3l | Buy On Amazon
This classic kitchen caddy is perfectly sized to keep on the kitchen worktop. So it is perfect for storing your food waste until you are able to transfer it to an outdoor compost bin. Complete with an integral carbon filter to absorb odours, making sure that no unwanted smells escape into your kitchen.
Price: £15.49 | Size: 5l | Buy On Amazon
We like this kitchen caddy as it is manufactured with high quality stainless steel for optimal longevity and durability. It includes charcoal filters to trap and control odours naturally in the bin.
When Is Your Compost Ready?
It usually takes about nine to twelve months for your compost to breakdown and be ready for use. So just wait and keep topping it up with more food waste. You can aid and speed up the process of composting by aerating it regularly. You can easily do this by turning it with a shovel or tumbling your compost bin if it has this feature.
When it is ready for use your compost will be dark and crumbly. It should resemble thick, moist soil and have an earthy and fresh aroma. Then simply add it to your lawn, flowerbeds, vegetable patch or planters to give them a natural nutrient boost.