Even the most ardent waste warrior will generate some food waste. Food scraps are the unavoidable vegetable peels, eggshells and coffee grounds that we all generate. And while they are unavoidable, sending them to landfill doesn’t have to be. With International Compost Awareness Week coming up (3-9 May) we’re feeling inspired to give new life to kitchen scraps and turn them into nutritious compost that our gardens and house plants will love.
Believe it or not, your humble banana peels and pesky piles of leaves are valuable resources that, through composting, can easily be converted to nutrient-rich compost. This means you can convert your kitchen scraps into magic stuff that improves soil quality in your backyard and works as potting mix for your indoor plant babies.
Composting can help you feel great about looking after our planet too! About half of the average household rubbish bin in Brisbane is made up of food and garden waste that could have been recycled through composting. When this organic material is sent to landfill it decomposes slowly underground creating methane, which is about 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
What type of composter are you?
Believe it or not, once home composting is established in your household, it will become second nature for everyone, just like taking out your wheelie bins on bin day is now.
Watching your food scraps come to life with tiny composting creatures is not just fascinating to watch, but kind of addictive. As you watch your compost transform, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start composting sooner. But it’s important to find the right organic recycling method that best suits your needs. From worm farms to steaming heaps to keeping chickens, there’s a type of composting for everyone. Whether you rent, live in an apartment or have a backyard, we’ve got a composting system to suit you.
There’s sometimes a misconception that compost bins are permanent fixtures to a property. The fact is, most compost systems are portable and can go with you when you move. From traditional composting, to worm farming, you may even be allowed a chook or two. Speak to your landlord or real estate for details.
A bokashi system or worm farm could be perfect for you! Worm farms are very portable and don’t need a lot of space, while bokashi systems can hide away in your pantry, sit proudly on your kitchen bench or live in the corner of your balcony.
Have a backyard or love gardening
There’s a reason the traditional compost bin (a large bin with a lid and an open base) has remained so popular, it’s easy to set up and works well for many homes. Requiring a little bit of backyard space, this system can accept a lot of food scraps and in-turn, will reward you with a lot of compost for your garden. A worm farm is also great for the green thumb. Worm tea is a brilliant by-product of a worm farm that your garden will love. Think of it as happy juice for your plants.
A traditional compost and worm farming system is not suitable for meat or bones. If you can’t say no to a T-bone and find your food waste is often meaty, a bokashi system, which can even break down bones, may suit you best.
How to cook up compost?
Okay, it’s time for the fun bit! With a dash of patience and generous helping of nitrogen (food scraps), you can cook up compost in your own backyard, balcony or even kitchen bench.
And just like cooking in your kitchen, you’ll need a recipe to help you find the right balance of ingredients to get nutritious and crumbly soil you can work with.
The below recipe can be used for setting up a traditional compost bin, and you can watch our quick video before getting started.
- Air – compost needs to be turned about once a week to add air to speed up the decomposition process. This is known as aerobic breakdown (with oxygen) and reduces greenhouse gases and odour
- Water – keep it damp
- Nitrogen or ‘green’ materials - your food scraps and fresh garden waste
- Carbon or ‘brown’ materials - your dry leaves, shredded paper, small twigs and sticks
- Place a five to 10-centimetre layer of small twigs at the bottom of the compost bin for aeration and drainage
- Add a layer of soil or finished compost to add microorganisms and kick-start the decomposition process. Other activating materials include comfrey leaves, manure, coffee grounds
- Add carbon (browns) and nitrogen (greens) materials in alternating five to 10-centimetre layers
- Sprinkle layers with water to ensure all materials are damp
- Continue to add kitchen and garden scraps daily or on a regular basis. Ensure there is a mix of carbon (browns) and nitrogen (greens) materials
- Stir regularly and keep damp as it cooks
Your compost is ready when the finished product resembles a rich, dark, soil-like material.