By putting your kitchen and garden waste and scraps into a compost bin or a worm farm instead of putting it in the bin can reduce your household waste by as much as half. Keep reading this beginner’s guide to composting to find out how you can do your bit for the environment.
How to start composting
Setting up a compost bin
Passionate composters use set-ups that include multiple bins, but a designated compost heap in a corner of the backyard works just as well. Ideally, choose a nice sunny accessible area where you can easily put scraps in, and take compost out. You can purchase specially designed composting bins at your gardening supply store.
Put your scraps to work
Toss all the vegetables and fruit scraps into the compost, except for onion and citrus peels, which should be limited (especially if you plan on adding worms to your compost). Add eggshells, teabags, coffee grounds, clippings and prunings from the garden, and torn up newspaper. Generally a good mix for compost is 50% greens and 50% browns. Don’t add dairy foods, fats or meat though, because these will attract maggots and pests like cockroaches, rats and mice.
Add the compost to your garden
When you notice your compost is crumbly and earthy smelling, then it is ready for use. You shouldn’t be able to identify any bits of food. This usually takes nine to twelve months. To remove the compost, use a garden fork, spade or trowel to scoop it up. Dig it into the garden beds as an organic fertiliser, use it as a top dressing for lawn or mix it 1:1 with garden soil and use this mixture instead of potting mix for potted plants.
Other alternatives if you don’t want to compost
Find a local gardening club or other place that produces compost and offer them your food waste, or ask your local council to introduce a food waste recycling program. You could also try approaching local cafes and restaurants – some area already recycling food waste back to farms where the farmers can use it to replace oil-based and gas-based fertilisers, which cuts back on their costs and climate pollution too.
What if I don’t have a garden?
You will be surprised just how little space you need for a composting unit these days. Neatly designed worm farms can easily be tucked away on a balcony, and there are a number of super efficient, super-compact compost bins that can be kept on the kitchen bench top. If you have pot plants or window boxes, they’ll benefit from this rich compost. If you don’t, you could donate your compost to a gardening friend or a local school or community.
I can’t be bothered sorting through scraps
There are composting units available now that can compost not only just vegetable peelings but also all kinds of kitchen waste, including raw or cooked meat. Some go in the backyard like a traditional composting unit, but others are deigned to sit on a kitchen bench.