National Compost Week: A Beginners Guide

From Monday 14th March it is Compost Awareness Week in the UK. The week is there to encourage individuals to put their green fingers to work and recycle any food waste into nutrient-rich goodness for our earth, it’s a win-win for our planet.

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Food waste is, unfortunately, a big problem for sustainability, particularly in Western countries where we have become so futile with produce due to sell-by-dates and overproduction. With one-third of all food going to waste, this often means that it ends up in a landfill where it will rot and produce gas even more toxic than carbon dioxide – methane. Wasting food also means that the energy that is required to grow and move the produce also goes to waste.

One extremely efficient way to reduce the amount of food we each put to waste is by turning it into compost. As the majority of unwanted food can be decomposed into nutrient-rich compost, it makes it perfect for regenerating the lifecycle of the food. Therefore, making it ultimately better for the environment.

What are the types of Composting?

There are three main types of composting processes that can be done. However, we only recommend two of these three for environmental reasons. The three main types are aerobic, anaerobic, and vermicomposting.

Aerobic composting is the process in which oxygen is used to break down food and other kitchen waste such as old paper and other scraps into compost. There are a few requirements for this method. For aerobic composting to be successful the compost has to be turned every so often and also kept moist with a little bit of watering. Although this isn’t particularly difficult to maintain it is essential for the process to work. This is the form of composting that is most frequently used by councils for “food recycling”.

The second way is anaerobic composting which is simply put the opposite of aerobic composting, so it is breaking down waste matter without oxygen. This is essentially what happens when food waste goes to landfill, and so just like landfill waste, it produces high levels of methane gas. Although marginally easier, this method of composting can be pretty damaging to the planet so not one that we would recommend doing.

If you’re not too worried about bugs, then the final option may be just the one for you – Vermicomposting. Whilst oxygen and water are still quite important, this type of decomposition relies on worms to do the majority of the work for wastage breakdown. Whilst also being nutrient-rich, it is loaded with organisms that help create and maintain healthy soil.

Both aerobic composting and vermicomposting are relatively easy to achieve at home with minimal equipment but there are a few tips and tricks that you will need to get the ball rolling.

1. Kitchen Compost Bin –Or a compost caddy to put in all your waste as you go. Whether you are attempting composting at home or through local food-recycling facilities, a caddy or bin that can go in your kitchen is necessary to temporarily hold the waste till it goes to the compost heaps or external bins. At Wearth we offer a selection of fun and colourful compost caddies to choose from:

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To view more of our quirky compost caddies click here.

 

2. Don’t forget your greens- If you are composting at home, there are a couple more things to bear in mind. As well as adding in leftover food waste, there are also plenty of other elements that can be added to your compost heaps that help produce the fantastic, soil-loving goodness that you’re after. These are all your greens from the garden, such as lawnmowing clippings, fresh garden waste, tea leaf, etc. You can also add paper towels and other paper products so make sure to take a look over the full list of what can go into your compost bin if unsure.

3. Keep the right conditions- People are often worried when it comes to composting, that conditions must be extremely specific in order for the waste to be able to be broken down. In reality, there are just two essential elements that need to be topped up and that is water and air. As mentioned previously, oxygen is the most important factor in breaking down any of your waste aerobically. To keep oxygen flowing through your compost bin you can do a few different things – keep it turning, shred up any food waste so that it has a larger surface area to cover and place bulky materials at the bottom.

For keeping the compost pile moist enough, make sure to water it occasionally with a watering can. You don’t want the compost heap to get too dry in the process.

Why should we all be trying composting?

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As well as helping reduce food waste, compost is a great way to enrich the soil and suppress plant disease. This then also reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, which can be harmful to the environment and to our bodies if growing fruit and veg. The nutrients in compost help feed the soil to create luscious plants that will flourish.

Furthermore, the process of composting and using the compost to grow vegetables creates a much greater personal awareness of food consumption. By actively keeping track of food waste that goes into the compost bin you are able to notice where in particular the most excess food waste is coming from. Then by planting and growing your own food with the organic compost, this then furthers the food lifecycle.

So, with Compost Week beginning on the 14th of March why not give composting a go in any way you can?