Going Zero Waste: A Guide to Composting
Composting is turning organic matter into nutrient-rich soil conditioner through decomposition. It can be done all year round and is the best way to get rid of organic waste like cooked and uncooked food scraps, as well as paper towels, compostable packaging, cotton wool pads and most cardboard.
Composting is less effort than you think
It isn’t as green-fingered and labour intensive as it seems. In fact, if you pick the right composting style for you it can be almost as easy as throwing your organic waste straight into your main bin. There are lots of different types of composting tools available that have made it really accessible, even if you live in an apartment in the middle of a city.
Composting is an important tool for reducing your footprint
Not only does composting provide you with an effective natural fertilizer for your plants, it is also an important way to reduce waste, and help cut down on pollution. Many people throw biodegradable and organic waste straight into their bins without a second thought. This seems harmless, however, because the waste actually goes straight to landfill, the tightly packed conditions mean the waste doesn’t come into contact with oxygen and therefore breaks down anaerobically. The process produces methane gas, a greenhouse gas 21 times more harmful than CO2. According to EDF 16% of all methane emissions, are from organics that can't decompose in landfills.
The same can be said for biodegradable and compostable packaging like our biodegradable cellulose seals and boxes, and items like the straws and coffee cups that have been adopted by lots of companies who are trying to reduce their footprint. If you don’t compost them, they aren’t zero-waste and you are still contributing to landfill.
How to compost
If you have a garden, great, you can make a compost heap or use a composting container such as a Pallet Bin or a Tumbler. Tumblers are great because they make turning the compost easier. If you don’t want to use the compost in the garden and want a minimal effort composter, you can also get a Green Cone. This works by putting your compost straight back into the earth it’s sitting on leaving water, carbon dioxide, and a little organic residue behind it.
If you don’t have a garden or have limited space then don’t worry, there are alternatives such as a Compost Tower which is a great urban vegetable growing tool that fits neatly into any outdoor space. Or you can also get a Worm Box or Bokashi Box which are suited for use indoors. Some councils also do compost collections and lots of areas have a local community compost, which means you can keep a small bin in your kitchen that can be emptied when full.
Although each type of composter has their own specific tips and tricks, for the most part, it’s as easy as throwing in your scraps and letting them decompose. However, there are a few do’s and don’ts to make your composting more effective.
Composting Do's and Don'ts
Don’t let one material dominate the heap. You need a nice cocktail of different wet and dry materials for it to decompose most effectively. Aim for up to 50 percent grass clippings, annual weeds, vegetable kitchen waste, or manure to feed the micro-organisms and then make up the remainder with woody materials such as wood chippings, paper, and cardboard.
Do pick an area that has a consistent temperature. The bacteria and fungi that convert your food waste into compost work best in consistent conditions. What temperature is most effective is dependent on the composting system you choose to use. For example, Worm Boxes work best in warm conditions which is why they are most suited to being inside the house.
Don’t neglect your compost. You’ll need to turn it periodically to add air which is vital for composting to occur. If it gets too wet or too compacted then the process will take a lot longer. RHS recommend adding a lot of composting materials onto the heap in one go and then turn it every month or so.
Do be wary of animal-based products as they can cause bad smells. It may be best to avoid composting them, especially if you’re doing so in a small space or indoors. However, lots of people who have used the Bokoshi Box claim that meat and dairy don’t make it smell.
Good luck with your composting! Remember, our bamboo spatulas, toothbrush handles, paper packaging and biodegradable product seals can all be added to your compost heaps. We’d love to see some pictures and hear more about how you incorporate composting into your zero waste lifestyle. Tweet us @georganicsuk or tag us in your pictures on instagram @georganicsuk.