Around for thousands of years, the age old practice of composting has been a way for people to make use of the byproducts of harvest and unused food scraps, returning nutrients back to the earth for sustainable farming.
As we’ve moved into the 20th and 21st century, we’ve left composting behind, thinking of it as a smelly, difficult and unnecessary endeavor. In its place we’ve adopted a two bin ‘recycle’ and ‘general waste’ system; one for synthetic materials that we deem recyclable, and one for literally anything else.
But composting is up there as one of the best things any individual can do for the environment next to reducing the amount of single use plastics they use. The benefits are amazing:
● With approximately 30% of all waste being organic, composting stops this from ending up in landfill.
● Composting allows you to convert all the energy, water and time spent producing the food waste into nutrients that are returned to the earth.
● Using compost in your own soil significantly increases the soils water retention, reducing the amount of water needed for plants.
● When organics are buried and starved of oxygen (like in a landfill), they putrefy and produce nasty by-products that are harmful to the environment. Composting lets the organic material have steady access to oxygen, which instead produces CO2, water, and nutrient rich garden compost.
Despite this only 35% of Australians actively compost their organic waste - and we think we can do better. It might seem daunting to get started, but we’re here to help kick start you own composting project at home!
A solution for any situation
Thinking of composting, I always imagined large piles of organic waste in a farm or backyard garden (with a pitchfork sticking out of it for good measure). But these days composting can take many forms that can suit nearly anyone's individual needs. Below are four of our favourites (in no particular order) that can help get you composting today!
Using a compost bin or pile is the traditional way of composting your organic waste, and is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to start composting. You can either make your own bin, or buy one from your nearest Bunnings. After that, you’ll want to place it in a relatively sunny spot with easy access to the hose for the occasional watering.
Once set up, layer ‘green’ and ‘brown’ material inside the bin, with a scoop full of soil in the middle to encourage microbial growth. With brown material, we’re talking about leaves, hay, shredded newspaper or sawdust that are going to provide our composting microorganisms with carbon. But with green material, we’re talking food scraps, coffee, grass and plant clippings that will provide the pile with nitrogen.
For your compost pile to thrive there must be a god mix green and brown material. A common rule of thumb is a ratio of 2 (brown) : 1 (green) for the best results. With this type of composting you have limits on what can be placed inside - bones, meats or dairy can’t be composted, and will attract unwanted pests into your garden.
After about a week, your compost pile will need to be ‘turned’. This involves mixing the layers of compost around, encouraging even decomposition while aerating it for the bugs and microorganisms living in your pile. It also cools it down - it can get very hot in there with all the work that’s going on!
While this can be a lengthy process, it will be well worth the wait and your garden and environment will love you for it.
The Bokashi bins are an excellent solution for those tight on space that still want to take part in composting. The bins are airtight and highly versatile, breaking down pretty much all organics from cooked and uncooked meats to cheese and dairy products. However, larger bones and liquids are not recommended.
The secret is that the bin actually ferments the organic material inside using a sprinkle of Bokashi mix. As the bin fills up, liquid is removed via a tap on the bottom, and can be mixed into water to further fertilize your garden. When the bin is full, take it outside and bury the waste in your garden so it can finally decompose and provide nutrients back to your soil!
With this you’ll need Bokashi Mix ongoing, so there will be a recurring cost once set up. For more information, see their website here!
The Green Cone is for those of us that want a ‘set and forget’ composting solution that will take care of itself. After a simple install in a relatively sunny spot, the Green Cone is good to go, and can take any kitchen scraps you can throw at it.
Using solar powered, the Green Cone uses heat to speed up the decomposition process and leeches the nutrients into the surrounding soil. It can go through ~4 kgs of food waste a week, roughly the amount produced by a family of four. Did I mention you didn’t have to maintain it?
The only downside is that plant clippings and cut grass don’t mix well with this process, and it’s recommended to leave them out so the bucket doesn’t get clogged. For more info, check out Green Cone’s official site here!
Vermiculture, or worm farming, is for those who don’t mind looking after some wriggly critters while also composting organics in the process. There are a variety of bins available, and it’s recommended to buy one that suits your specific needs - some can even go inside! Just remember to put your worm farm in an area that gets solid shade (imagine if you had to stand all day in the hot Australian sun!)
Like with the standard compost bins, there are limits on what can go inside your worm bin. Worms despise large amounts of citrus or onion, and also don’t deal well with meat or diary. Being worms, cutting up organics into smaller pieces will make it easier for them to eat, and reduce the chance organics will begin rotting before they’re eaten.
But there’s no ongoing cost, unless you find you need to top up your worm numbers down the line. You can find worm bins starting at $69, and are available online and in-store at Bunnings.
Hopefully the above has given you some ideas on what type of composting method you want to pursue. If you’re seriously considering purchasing something to get your own composting started, head over to Composting Revolution. They’re an awesome organisation, and have already been able to divert over 10,000,000 kilos of organic waste from landfill, the equivalent of 88,000 bins! Working closely with councils, they’re able to get you some great deals on composting equipment (provided that your council supports the rebate program!).
If you’re a business owner in the foodservice industry and want to make the sustainable switch to composting, we’re here to help! Head over to Pac Trading to see how you can take your business to a whole new level of sustainability.