Guidance for home composting, how to exchange your brown bin for a composter or buy a composter to help you recycle garden and kitchen waste.
What are the benefits of home composting?
Composting is a natural form of recycling garden and kitchen waste (for example, vegetable peelings), plants and leaves into a quality compost at virtually no cost to you. If you have a garden, you could turn this waste into compost rather than throwing it away.
- Composting at home for just one year can save global warming gases equivalent to all the CO2 a kettle produces in a year or that which a washing machine produces in three months.
- It saves you money as you do not need to buy soil improvers for your garden
- It protects the environment by reducing waste going to landfill, and replaces peat products which are dug from important wildlife sites
- Composting provides an excellent soil conditioner, adding organic matter and nutrients to improve poor soils
- It improves soil structure and water retention in both clay and sandy soils
- It helps maintain healthy plant growth, preventing some plant diseases and pests, and encouraging micro organisms and worms into the soil.
Free home composter exchange scheme
This scheme gives you the option of exchanging your brown bin with a new free home composter, focussing your efforts on recycling a greater range of household waste rather than throwing food waste away.
Free home composters on offer are either 220 litres or 330 litres, so you can choose what the best option for your garden. A ten litre bag of compost can cost between £3 and £4 so you could save up to £115 on average by making your own using one of the 330 litre bins.
Read more about what you can and cannot include in your composter below and sign up now for the exchange.
Buying a home composter
North Lincolnshire Council have teamed up with Get Composting to offer cut price compost bins to North Lincolnshire residents. 220L compost bins are available from £22.50 and you can buy one and get one half price.
There are various ways you can purchase a composter:
- By Post – Get Composting, 4 Carrwood Park, Swillington Common Farm, Selby Road, Leeds, LS15 4LG
- By Phone: 0800 316 4454 (Freephone)
- By Email: email@example.com
Ways to compost at home
Compost is best made in a homemade or shop bought composter. This should be placed in the garden on bare soil, ideally in a warm place to speed up the composting process.
A composter can easily be made at home
A simple composter can be made of chicken wire. Measure a section of wire to meet the size of container you want. Wrap the wire around to make a cylinder and fasten with twist ties. To anchor the bin, staple to wood poles. Cover with an old carpet (preferably a natural pile), cardboard or plastic to keep the compost warm and prevent over soaking from rain.
Another simple compost bin is made of an old rubbish bin with a lid, with about 12 holes (around 12mm apart) drilled randomly in the bin for drainage. This is a very inexpensive and simple compost bin to make. Materials can be mixed by securing the lid and rolling the bin.
A third method is to use wooden pallets made of untreated timber, secured at the corners with wire or nails, covered as above with carpet, card or plastic.
- sawdust and wood ash (untreated wood only)
- shredded paper and torn cardboard, (for example, egg boxes)
- dead flowers
- fallen leaves
- soiled pet bedding (but not cat or dog faeces)
- egg shells
- hedge prunings
- raw fruit and vegetables
- used tea bags (plastic free), leaves and coffee grounds
- grass cuttings
- stable manure and bedding
- weeds (avoid persistent weeds and weeds in seed)
Try equal amounts of browns and greens and avoid woody stems.
Do not use
• treated wood
• diseased plants
• meat, fish, bread and cheese
• cooked leftovers
• coal ash
• cat and dog faeces
• metals, glass or plastic
Air and water
Remember to turn the pile regularly through spring and summer and ensure your compost is moist but not wet. Add water if it appears too dry, cover, and add dry material if too wet.
Watch it rot!
Most compost piles built with a half and half ratio of greens and browns (be careful on the quantity of grass cuttings added), with enough water and air, will shrink down to half the original volume in a few days. To speed up the composting process, add soil, finished compost or a compost accelerator. Young nettles are an excellent natural accelerator!
Your compost is ready when it is dark in colour and has an earthy smell. This can take from six to 18 months, depending on the material used and the time of year.
Finished compost will appear at the bottom of the heap; remove this to use on your garden. Return any materials that haven’t finished composting to the composter and keep adding new materials to keep the process going.
Finished compost can be used almost anywhere on the garden (acid-loving plants don’t like compost), using a fork simply dig it into the top six inches of soils, or spread it to cover the soil. You can also use your compost to feed your lawn or to top up tubs, planters and baskets.
Bagging grass clippings produces waste that needs to be dealt with and is heavy to haul. Grasscycling can help reduce the mess and strain, and actually improves your lawn. Essentially, it is “mow and go,” where finely cut grass clippings are left on the lawn after mowing. This helps grass to naturally break down returning valuable nutrients and moisture to the soil. It also discourages weeds growing. According to research half an acre of lawn can generate as much as four and a half tons of grass cuttings a year – which can create nitrogen, potash and potassium – all great fertilising agents for grass.
To grass cycle your mower blades should be sharp, and mowing should be frequent.
One of the more important grasscycling tips is to remove no more than one third of each blade. The best length is two to two and a half inches (five to six centimetres.). Grasscycling information recommends mowing every five to seven days to produce clippings that compost into the lawn quickly.
Try to mow when grass blades are dry. This enhances your mower’s ability to chop the leaves, causes less stress to the grass, and prevents clumps. If it has been too wet to mow frequently, run over the long clippings an extra time and rake them into the root zone of the lawn.
The UK has the perfect climatic conditions for grass-cycling, and as a nation of keen gardeners it could be used far more widely than is currently the case.
If you have too many leaves for your compost bin you can put the excess into a bin bag, make a few holes in it and leave in a secluded spot to rot down. It will be a great soil conditioner in a few months time.
Currently we do not collect food waste from the kerbside. You cannot place cooked food, meat or fish in a home composter. If you want to recycle all food waste you can purchase a specialised composter.
Green Cone Waste Digester
The Green Cone Waste Digester is a revolutionary product which allows you to compost all your food waste in one place, using a completely natural process.
There is no need to turn your waste over. Just pick a sunny, well drained area of your garden and allow the Green Cone to get going.
All of your food waste, including bones, is consumed by naturally occurring micro-organisms, leaving a small amount of water and carbon dioxide.
The Green Cone Waste Digester only needs tending to about once a year, simply empty your compost and start again. Please note that this item cannot be used on clay surfaces.
Green Johanna Compost Bin
The Green Johanna compost bin is the natural waste composter with a difference.
It is a hot-composter, that recycles garden and food waste, even cooked food, bones, meat and fish into natural, organic compost.
The Green Johanna compost bin produces excellent quality compost, fully broken down into a moist, nutrient rich soil.
Simply fill the compost bin with two layers of food waste to every one layer of garden waste. By using the Green Johanna Compost Bin you’ll be able to dispose of food waste immediately. If you love recycling and would like a greener garden, the Green Johanna is for you.
HotBin Compost Bin
The HotBin Compost Bin “hot composts” all year round to recycle your food and garden waste faster. It works well in the sun or shade but should be sited on an even surface and you can expect a rich compost every 90 days with no need to turn the waste.
Bacteria decomposing the waste generates heat within the HotBin, which provides effective aeration through the bottom air inlet plate and the air outlet rotating valve. It also removes excess water through the valve as steam and allows you to control the rate of heat loss.
The HotBin can achieve hot composting between 40-60 degrees, which means it can produce a rich compost faster. As hotter temperatures can be achieved you can recycle more types of household waste including food waste and grass cuttings.
A ‘wormery’ usually consists of at least two compartments; a lower collection sump for the liquid and an upper composting area where the kitchen waste goes in and the worms actively work.
Worms enjoy a varied diet eating any decaying organic matter. You can put in:
- any raw vegetables (except for onions, shallots, leeks and garlic that are best used in small amounts or cooked first)
- any cooked vegetables
- all fruit (except citrus peel, which needs to be limited or preferably cooked before adding).
- tea bags, eggshells, coffee grounds and small amounts of bread
- limited amounts of newspaper, shredded paper and cardboard (but not glossy magazines).
- small amounts of garden waste such as annual weeds, leaves and other soft green material.
do not give the worms fat, grease, meat, fish and bones or any dairy products.
What the worms need:
- worms are most active in warm moist conditions, ideally between 18-25ºC (64-77ºF)
- a wormery should be kept in a shed or a sheltered area of the garden where it gets neither too cold in the winter nor too hot in the summer
- composting worms prefer a pH of between 6.5-7.0, and well-ventilated conditions to live in
- they will not tolerate extreme acidity and dislike being waterlogged because this restricts their supply of air
How to use the worm compost and liquid
- the worm compost can be used as a general soil conditioner or as a constituent of homemade growing media.
- the liquid drained from wormeries can be used as a liquid fertilizer on garden plants after diluting with water at a rate of 1 part liquid to 10 parts water.
As part of the Love Food Hate Waste campaign we are showing you how you can save money on food and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill by creating a small African vegetable garden in your own backyard.
This simple organic gardening technique called ‘keyhole gardening’ is used in Africa to help people to produce enough vegetables to nourish their families without having to invest in costly technology, fuel, fertilizer or pesticides.
A keyhole garden, or small vegetable patch can provide plenty of vegetables for all the family and any peelings or vegetables not used can be added straight to the compost in the centre of the garden to help grown more, therefore there is no waste.
What is a keyhole garden?
This type of garden is a raised bed shaped like a keyhole and walled in by stone. In the centre, a basket made from sticks and straw holds manure and later, vegetable scraps and garden waste for compost. The garden is watered primarily through the basket in the centre, which distributes the nutrients from the compost to the plants.
The garden has several advantages:
- It is compact;
- Easy to care for;
- Incredibly productive.
The gardens are approximately two metres across, so it’s easy to get to the plants, and the raised beds mean that once they are established, you don’t need to bend down to tend them.
Keyhole gardens give African families the chance to be more self-sufficient and can do the same for families in North Lincolnshire. They are also a fun way for schools to inspire pupils about green living, healthy eating and global issues.
How to build a keyhole garden (by charity Send a Cow)
- Clear the ground of weeds and dig it over
- Mark out a circle on the soil using a piece of string and two sticks
- Hammer long sticks in a square in the centre of the circle
- Place large stones around the perimeter, and make a short pathway into the middle
- Add more sticks to the middle and wrap wire around them to form a “basket”
- Lay down broken pots to form a drainage layer
- Fill the basket with layers of cow manure and wood ash – compacting the manure at the sides of the basket as you fill it up. Place a lid on the basket to help keep the heat in – in Malawi some gardeners lay an old piece of carpet across the top
- Pile layers of manure, a little ash and soil onto the garden
- Add layers of soil from the centre outwards to create a slope and start planting
- Remember to top up the central basket with your fruit and vegetable peelings and, even better, green waste that has already been composted.