Recycling: Composting for Dummies – Part 1

In saying “Dummies” I am referring to myself and if I can compost, anyone can!

You see it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. Let’s take the example of eating a banana:

1) Eat banana

2) Put banana skin into kitchen compost bin (instead of regular household waste bin)

3) When full, transfer contents of kitchen compost bin into larger composter in the garden and hey presto!

Alternatively, skip step 2) and put banana skin straight into the garden composter (as my daughter is showing you here!)

I can’t profess to know the whole science behind composting – people have written entire books on the subject so there isn’t the space to go into it all now – but what I do know is that with the amount of fruit and vegetables we go through as a family in a week it would be rude NOT to compost.

So how did I get into composting? Well, I used to think that it was okay to throw banana peels, etc. into the household waste as surely they would just decompose naturally and go back to the earth, etc. However, I came across an article one day which basically said that when left to rot on landfill (instead of in a composter) that fruit and vegetable waste would give off harmful greenhouse gases which in turn harm our much-needed ozone layer! In a nutshell, with heaps of other junk on top of it, the fruit/vegetable waste does not have enough oxygen to decompose in a “good” way, the good organisms then die and a different set of organisms take over instead which give off harmful by-products which include carbon dioxide and methane. As carbon dioxide and methane are greenhouse gases they are thus very bad for the environment and subsequently “us”. As science isn’t my strong point this is admittedly a VERY basic “composting for dummies” guide – but I do know that I don’t want to contribute to the build-up of greenhouse gases if this is easily avoidable.

If this has inspired you at all to get composting then all you need is:

– A small compost bin for the kitchen (optional to avoid having to constantly traipse to the garden!)

– A larger compost bin for the garden

– Lots of peel/skin from yummy fruit and vegetables to put in it

You can get some really stylish compost bins these days to complement all types of internal decor/gardens and there are also bins to suit all budgets and spaces. You could even try making your own- (if you paid attention in woodwork class :-)) but I’ll save that for another post!

I personally invested in a kitchen compost crock from Lakeland (pictured) which was just under £20 (you can get these anywhere) and a wooden beehive type composter (also pictured) for the garden as we only have a small space and a big “obvious” composter wouldn’t have suited. As it happens no-one even knows it is a composter- it is a lovely feature in itself and very discrete tucked away in the corner of our garden (that’s not my garden in the pic unfortunately!!). I’m pretty sure I got mine for about £80 from an ebay seller (but this was a few years back and I don’t recall exact details). I know you can get these from various retailers and a simple google search should come up with a composter that will suit your taste and budget.

At present I don’t do very much with the compost we generate – I just regularly add fresh loads of old fruit and vegetable waste and miraculously there is always enough space in the garden compost bin – how clever Mother Nature is!!

A tip to aid the composting process would be to remember to add amounts of “brown” to the mix- i.e. crumpled up cardboard, shredded paper, screwed up newspaper, etc. as this helps encourage the “good” decomposition with oxygen. Mixing or turning the heap every so often will also help to speed up the process – but to be honest I hardly ever do this – it seems the worms who have moved into the composter are doing this for us! There are so many benefits to composting that I hope I have inspired someone out there with this initial introduction to give it a go. More information will follow in a “part 2” at some point.

Happy composting!!

6 thoughts on “Recycling: Composting for Dummies – Part 1

  1. Ha, very timely article… I have an ugly compost heap in the garden, and have been looking at getting a small wooden composter for my ridiculously tiny garden. If you have a seven acres park though, you could just hide your disgracious heap behind a stylish hedge of course. ;)
    I’m also looking into getting a water butt… But I guess this may be for a later post?

  2. Well the composter I have is pretty small – as you can probably just about make out from the picture – as we only have a small garden but it’s amazing how quickly the compost decomposes and makes room for lots more lovely peelings :-). Glad you’re into composting- seems such a horrible waste to throw it out with the other rubbish when it can be turned into something worthwhile. I’m really no expert but the worms seem to love it (eeek!!) Apparently you can put tissues in the compost too- I spoke to an organic gardener at the weekend and he told me this (though you may have known this already if you’ve been composting for a while)- along with teabags and eggshells…The “brown” element – paper, tissues, cardboard, etc. is very important it seems. I will look into the water butt for sure- thanks for the idea- I’ll try and find something suitable for us folk with “pint-sized” outdoor spaces :-) with all this rain we’ve been having here in the UK it would really have come in handy!!

  3. Lovely stuff – we have a kitchen composter bin and our local council collects this waste weekly. this goes into a huge compost pile (the bags used compost down too) and is turned into a wonderful replacement for peat. You may not know but where we are taking peat out of the peat bogs it is seriously affecting some landscapes and the ancient ability of these areas to process carbon monoxide (or something like that). We also have a compost bin in the garden although have been increasingly wary about what goes in it as we have had experiences of it being raided by wild animals and vermin – egg shells are a big no no if you don’t want to attract them.

    Our local council (and also good garden shops) do slimline water butts – we also have one of those – and a very small garden!

  4. Thanks for your comment Anna- that’s very interesting about the peat – I had read sth about it in an article this week as apparently it’s International Compost Awareness Week but haven’t delved into it much deeper- all v interesting stuff- no information “comes” to us though does it!- we always have to seek it out- which is why I’m doing this blog- to offer a bit of info that I come across “out” and also to learn about things myself…Our composter is quite solid so we have been lucky enough not to attract any unwanted visitors as yet- but it is heaving with worms, etc. so I think that’s a good thing! You have a great local council! Ours is great for recycling paper, tins, glass, etc. and collects garden waste but not kitchen waste (yet!). Will definitely look into these water butts. My parents have one but it’s huge so not suitable for my garden but a slimline one would do the trick :-)

  5. […] Unfortunately my local council is yet to recycle Tetra Paks which is a real shame as this is the material used for a lot of drinks and soup cartons so I try to avoid buying these where possible. Despite my council not recycling these there are some councils/areas that do – for further information please check out the website on Tetra Pak Sustainability which will also tell you whether your area recycles these (UK only). In addition my council does not yet collect green food waste for compost, however there is a monthly green garden waste collection but as we only have a small garden any green matter we generate just goes into our little composter. […]

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