Here’s a simple little fact - food scraps and compostable items are not meant for landfill.
In Auckland, NZ (a city of 1.6 million) half of waste sent to landfill is compostable material. 40% of this compostable waste is food waste and this portion alone accounts for 90,000 tonnes of waste each year (ref: compostcollective.org.nz). This is 90,000 tonnes of waste that could be processed in our own backyards. Not only is composting a simple and easy way we can do our bit for climate change, but it also produces a nutrient rich compound that feeds our soil. Healthier soil results in healthier plants and is able to better absorb CO2. Composting really is such a big part of a greener future for this planet.
So ready to get started? Here are some simple and easy ways to compost:
Backyard compost (requires: earth & sun):
- Find a sunny spot in your yard. Place the compost bin directly on the earth so that worms etc can get in and make sure it has lots of air flow.
- Get twigs and layer these on the bottom.
- Start your green/brown sandwich - alternate layers of nitrogen rich green waste (food scraps and fresh plant matter) with carbon rich brown waste (paper, cardboard, dried plant matter, home compostable packaging or your Compostic favourites!)
- Keep it moist - healthy compost needs to be moist so soak dry materials (such as cardboard) in some water before adding these in.
- After 3-6 months the bottom ⅓ of your compost bin will be ready to use.
Worm farm (requires: any flat surface & shade)
- Find a cool shady spot where the worms won’t be exposed to the sun (they don’t like light).
- Use a base layer of damp ripped up cardboard or paper.
- Add worms - the more worms the more waste they will consume. 1000 - 2000 (250 - 500g) is a good starting point. Also a good rule of thumb is to only feed them as much as they can consume each day. So if you have 250g of worms, add 250g of waste each day.
- As with the compost bin, a mix of green and brown waste is key. For worm bins, you want to be aiming for 70% green and 30% brown waste.
- Because worms feed from the top, as they make their way up the farm, they will leave behind “castings” on the lower trays. You will be able to tell when this is ready, because there won’t be many worms in this tray (if any).
- Simply remove this tray, use it in your garden and then place the empty tray back on the top of the farm. Also don’t forget to regularly drain the nutrient rich liquid from the tap at the bottom. This can be diluted and added to your garden and pot plants.
Bokashi (requires: small warm indoor space & shade)
- Bokashi are a great option if you have small spaces. Unlike compost that needs a lot of air flow, Bokashi is a closed system (anaerobic), meaning that you keep air out.
- All green. Unlike the compost and worm bins, Bokashi is a fermenting process so only takes green waste.
- Like all fermentation processes, Bokashi requires healthy bacteria to help it break waste down. This is referred to as the “sprinkle” and is made up of things like sawdust and molasses.
- You start off with the Bokashi sprinkle on the bottom of the bucket before adding food waste. Be sure to push food waste down to get rid of the air. For every 6cm of food waste, you add 1-2 tablespoons of sprinkle.
- Every 2-3 days you want to drain the liquid from the tap on the bottom of your Bokashi. This can be diluted (3 tablespoons of liquid to 5 litres of water) with water and added to pot plants and your garden.
- When your bucket is full, seal with the lid and place in a warm spot for 10-14 days to ferment. Keep draining the liquid.
- At the end of this process - you will have a liquid (which you can dilute as mentioned above) and solid matter. The solid matter can be added to your compost as a “green” layer or it can be dug into your garden where it will compost over 3-4 weeks.
No matter if you live rurally or in an apartment, there are lots of different ways you can start composting at home, reducing the amount of waste you send to landfill and giving our environment a helping hand. There are also a growing number of cities around the world now offering commercial composting services as part of their weekly waste collection, as well as waste management companies coordinating the collection of compostables (We Compost in NZ is one of them for instance). If at home composting isn’t an option for you, be sure to get in touch with your local council or waste management facility to see what processes are available for you.
No matter how you compost, the key is that you start. So that together we can grow a greener future for all.
A special thanks to The Compost Collective for access to their amazing library of composting resources and information. Be sure to check out their detailed step by step guides to starting your home compost at compostcollective.org.nz.