The benefits of compost!

I have been increasing my efforts in making compost over the last couple of months in our home patch.  My motivation for spending more time and effort in composting comes from seeing so much food and other green waste around me going to landfill, which then has a major impact on our air, water and land quality. 

Check out the following stats from the australian bureau fo statistics for waste in Australia(http://www.abs.gov.au)

total waste generated waste disposed to landfill waster per person

The majority of the above waste is not related to food, but current estimates are that 30% of this waste is from household kitchen scraps. 

Now for my soapbox moment…

From the above statistics, around 50% of our waste ends up in landfill and 30% of that waste is kitchen scraps.  If we all did our small part of composting our own kitchen scraps for the garden, we could reduce our household contribution to landfill by about 6.9 million tonnes!  Without too much extra effort, we can make a huge difference to green house gas emissions, land use and the general environment by turning our food scraps back into our own soil.

This leads to the other major benefit of making your own compost.  Not only are you playing your part in helping to improve our environment, you are also significantly improving your own garden soil life.

The past 3 months of hot and dry conditions has taken its toll on my garden, with some plants clearly struggling.  Despite my best efforts to improve the soil by adding 14 cubic meters of mulch and the addition of lots of manure, the bare patches of dry and hard ground around the base of some of the trees show me that more work is needed.  This is where the home made compost will really come in handy and reduce my need to constantly water and fertilise.

So here is what I am currently doing to compost as much as possible.

1.  My friend just gave me an Aerobin 400 compost bin – which seems to be a great way to make hot compost.  I have half filled this up with my neighbours dried leaves, some coffee grinds, kitchen scraps and left over cardbord from egg and coffee containers.  This will be my main compost bin that all the other waste feeds in to.  I checked the bin tonight and was surprised at the amount of heat already being generated, so the hot composting process has begun.

2.  My family gave me an in ground compost bin, which has a plastic grate that sits in the soil in the garden.  The theory behind this is that the worms move in and out of the bin into the garden and as you add more waste they continue to break it down.  I have filled this bin up with a good mix of dried leaves and kitchen scraps and it seems to be generating a good amount of heat.  I will leave this bin to “cook” for another 3-4 weeks before emptying the contents in that section of the garden.  I will then relocate it to another area of the garden and fill it up again.  Unlike the Aerobin, this bin requires constant turning and aeration.

3.  My bokashi bin is now half full and seems to be working well.  Once full, I will leave it for another couple of weeks to fully ferment, before adding it to the Aerobin – or directly into the garden.

4.  My worm farm gets the left over scraps and I use the worm tea generated from this directly back into the garden.  I also have an in ground worm farm in my wicking bed which is recovering from my overdose of fresh coffee grinds (the grinds heated up way too much for the worms liking – the recommendation here is to ho compost the grinds first prior to feeding them to the worms!)

My aim is to collect as much waste as possible from the local horse adjustments (horse poo), coffee shops (grinds), neighbours (leaves, garden clippings) and recycle this back into my own garden for the fruit trees and garden beds.

Here are some of the reasons why people may not compost their own waste, along with some suggested solutions:

Problem #1:  They don’t have a garden and would not know how to dispose of the compost

Solution:  Find family or friends who love their garden and give it to them.  Ask for some fresh produce in return!

Problem #2:  Concerns over the smell and attracting insects

Solution:  This is a legitimate concern, as composting can generate fowl odours and also attract fruit fly.  My standard compost bin had these issues and it was mainly because my C/N (carbon to nitrogen) mix was not great (too much nitrogen), resulting in rotting of the kitchen scraps.  The best solution for this is to start out by using the Bokashi method of composting the kitchen scraps, then adding this to the compost bin.  This way the scraps are already broken down and there is no smell.  I have no need to do this with the Aerobin as the system is well sealed.

Problem #3:  Concerns about attracting rodents

Solution:  Once again this was one of the main issues with our first compost bin.  The rats loved it!  We ended up with rats in the roof of our house and also a number of mice.  The only advice I can give here is to use the same solution to problem 2 which is to use the bokashi method of breaking down the scraps before adding to the bin.  The other option which I found quite helpful was to add a solid base to the bin and make sure it was sealed off.  This along with many mice and rat traps seemed to get rid of the rodents.

Problem #4:  Don’t have a compost bin and too expensive to buy one – the main issue for most people

Solution:  Check with your local council.  Many councils will offer these bins free of charge or with a partial rebate.

What is also great to see is that some councils both in Australia and around the globe have taken the initiative of reducing landfill and offering incentives to provide a smaller waste bin, while also offering to collect all your kitchen scraps.  I need to do some more research on this one to see why my local council does not offer a similar service.  See the links below.

http://www.victoria.ca/EN/main/departments/engineering/garbage-recycling/faqs.html

http://www.prospect.sa.gov.au/page.aspx?u=1386

Problem #5:  Can’t be bothered – its easier to just throw it in the bin

Solution:  The only thing I would mention here is that its worth the effort to improve the lives of those around you by creating a cleaner environment for all.

Next time you are about to throw a bowel full of food scraps in the bin – think again about where the waste goes and how you can contribute to the solution rather than the problem.

Happy composting!