Does the idea of composting conjure up images of brown sticky muck and rotting food in your mind? If so, you have it all wrong (well partly). Read on and you’ll learn how to reduce the amount of organic waste going to landfill, produce nutrient rich food for your garden or veggie patch and as a result, impress your friends with all of your newfound compost knowledge.
Why is composting important?
The average Australian family throws out $3.5k worth of food every year which equates to approx. 1 in 5 shopping bags full of food according to ABC’s War on Waste. When food rots in landfill, it lets off methane which is 25 times more potent than CO2 produced by cars.
It sounds dire right? Well the good news is that by setting up a composting system at home you can be part of the solution. It’s not hard and there are composting systems available irrespective of whether you live in apartment or on a sprawling farm.
But hold up! It’s best if you reduce the amount of food waste to start with. A good way to do this is to plan your meals in advance and only buy those ingredients you need. Click here to access my weekly meal planner to help you do this.
But let’s face it, this isn’t always possible and if I had a dollar for every time my kids come home with a half-eaten lunch box…..You get the drift, you will have food waste.
What can be composted?
Any vegetable or food scrap can be composted as well as stale bread, cereal and pasta. You can also include coffee grounds and filters, tea leaves, herbs, spices nuts and egg shells.
It is advisable not to include any animal products (fish, meat, milk, yogurt, cheese, butter or animal fat) unless you are also using as Bokashi bin (more on that below).
What are the different types of composting options?
1. Indoors or small spaces: options include a Bokashi bin or worm farm:
If you have no outdoor space could look at purchasing as Bokashi bin. You place the bin in your kitchen and layer your household organic waste with beneficial bacteria (in the form of a Bokashi mix) until the bin is full. This process ferments the food in 2 – 4 weeks and is virtually odourless. Because the Bokashi system isn’t traditional aerobic composting; it’s microbial fermentation, the best thing about it is that along with your fruit, vegetable and grain waste, you can also include meat, dairy, fish, bones etc! You can virtually run a zero-waste kitchen.
It is recommended that you use two bins so that you can rotate them. One for filling up with new scraps and one for leaving to ferment.
The Bokashi bin includes a tap which you use to drain off nutrient rich Bokashi juice each week. This can be diluted to use as a fertiliser for your garden or poured down your drains to give them a good clean.
Once your waste has fermented in the Bokashi bin for a couple of weeks, you have a couple of options:
- Dig a hole in your yard and bury the waste (never to be seen again). If you live in an apartment, you may like to check with your Body Corporate to see if you can use common areas for this. Alternatively, check out the ShareWaste app to see who in your local area is collecting scraps.
- Add this to your outdoor compost if you have one and continue to create nutrient rich soil.
If you have limited space, another alternative you could consider is a worm farm. This is a unit designed to house live worms. You just put your scraps in and then let the worms break them down to create a worm tea (liquid fertiliser). If you go down this path though, it’s worth noting though that you should avoid feeding worms large quantities of meat, citrus, onions and dairy foods.
2. For larger spaces:
For larger spaces you could consider the options above and also traditional open compost piles or tumblers. Tumblers are a barrel on a stand which can be spun or ‘tumbled’ using a handle to ensure the compost is mixed evenly so that it breaks down faster. Another benefit of a tumbler is that they are generally odour and rodent free!
Managing a compost pile or tumbler is easy. Here’s how:
- Collect your organic waste. Remember, no animal products at all, unless you are using a Bokashi bin to ferment waste first. I like to collect my household waste for a few days in a container which goes in the fridge until I’m ready to add it to my Bokashi bin or compost tumbler.
- As you add items to your compost, aim for a mix of nitrogen- rich ‘green’ material and carbon rich ‘brown’ material. Compostintructions.com suggest that by weight, your green and brown materials should be equal. For example, 1 kg of brown materials to 1 kg of green materials.
- Nitrogen rich ‘green’ materials include: kitchen waste, grass clippings, coffee grounds. Having too much nitrogen material will make your compost smell.
- Carbon rich ‘brown’ materials include: dead leaves, straw, newspaper or cardboard. Having too much carbon materials will slow down the composting process.
- The other two key ingredients include oxygen and moisture. Microorganisms work in an aerobic way and need oxygen to keep producing. You can ensure adequate oxygen by regularly turning your tumbler or if you have an open pile, rotating the heap. The amount of moisture in a compost pile will impact the amount of time it takes to break down. Having too much water drowns the microorganisms by reducing the oxygen supply and not enough moisture will leave the pile dry instead of moist and rich.
- Your compost will take anywhere from 3 months to 1 year to break down depending on your composting conditions. But once it looks, feels and smells like rich, dark earth than you can start sprinkling it on to your garden and vegetable patch and watch everything bloom!
What’s my preferred composting option?
You really can’t go wrong with any of the composting options above. My preferred options include use of a Bokashi bin which then gets transferred into my Compost Tumbler. The best part about it is that I now have a very empty bin come our weekly bin night and my kids get involved too.
Feel free to leave any comments or questions below or share some of your composting stories.
Purchase your composting solution to get started and come and join me!