We all know how much food prices have soared recently, and as much as you can plan meals to reduce food cost and waste there are certain things you are not going to eat, like banana peels, orange rind, eggshells and tea bags which usually get thrown out in the general waste bin and disposed of in landfill.
Keeping food out of landfills can help fight climate change.
About 8% of greenhouse gas emissions come from food waste, and roughly half of all food waste occurs during the ‘consumption stage’, meaning food waste from households and food services.
It doesn’t matter if you live in a huge country manor or a one-bedroom flat you can compost your food waste to help fight climate change- we can all make a difference.
1. Select your food waste.
Start with fruits and vegetables— the skin of a sweet potato, the top of your strawberry. Also tea bags, coffee grounds, eggshells, old flowers — even human hair!
Avoid meat waste, bones, oils, butter and dairy products or you’re more likely to attract unwanted rodents to your pile!
When you’re composting, your kitchen scraps should be part of a deliberate layering process to speed up decomposition. There’s a method for adding them to the pile (but we will come to that later!), so you’ll need to store them in a container so you can add them bit by bit.
You don’t need to buy any expensive or fancy ceramic containers, you can just use an old milk carton. You can also store the food scraps in a bag in your freezer or the back of the fridge to avoid any unwanted odours and insects in your kitchen.
3. Choose a place to make your compost.
You have to think about the space you’re living in.
If you don’t have your own garden or yard and still want a traditional composting experience you could still take your food scraps to a compost pile that you share with neighbours or at a community allotment.
You can use this link to check Mansfield District council for local community allotments near you.https://www.mansfield.gov.uk/parks-open-spaces/allotments-1
You can also ask your local grocery stores, restaurants, or farmers markets to see if they have any outlets to take food scraps.
If you do have some outdoor space, your compost bin doesn’t have to be complicated – You can use an old waste bin, or an old wooden chest — just work with what you have available.
If you prefer you can just have a heap of compost in an area of your garden (if you have the space)— but don’t put it up against a wall as it could stain it.
4. Make the compost mix.
In the world of composting, you will hear about “greens and browns” — the two main ingredients for your mix.
“Greens” are typically food scraps, like fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, or, if you have a garden, grass clippings. These add nitrogen — a crucial element for microbial growth. Microorganisms are the true heroes of this process; they do the heavy lifting of decomposition.
“Browns” are more carbon rich — think egg cartons, newspapers, dried leaves, and pine needles. It helps to shred up the paper products before putting them in your pile. These are key because they allow water and air to flow, this is called aeration. Microorganisms need aeration so they can do their job. If there is no air flow or drainage you will end up with a smelly and soggy pile of waste!
A good thing to remember is that green materials are typically wet, and brown materials are typically dry. When you’re layering, you want the dry browns on the bottom with the wet greens on the top.
Think of tending to your compost like tending a fire. Just as in a fire you need to structure the wood to get the air going, in compost you must do a similar thing, adding spaces to give oxygen to those heroic microbes.
And it really is layering — browns then greens, browns then greens. The number of layers depends on your space and your amount of food scraps but try to keep the layers to an inch or two. You can also put a little bit of browns on the very top to keep away flies and odours.
Ultimately you always want more browns than greens — again, you must have the dry to sop up the wet.
5. Wait and Aerate
How long do you have to wait for decomposition?
During the summer in hot/warm conditions, your compost could be ready in as little as two months, but in the cold winter months it could take six months- but for every component to break down, it might be a year.”
You will want to turn or rotate (aerate) the pile using a stick or spade. Remember the fire analogy — you must ensure the air is flowing, that it’s wet but not too soggy.
As for how often you need to turn it, you’ll probably need to do this less if you have the right ratio of ‘greens’ to ‘browns’. Maybe start turning the compost once every seven to 10 days.
Typically, the more compost you have, the faster it will go.
Trust your nose- it will tell you when your compost is ready. “Bad compost smells, awful -basically, it smells like a landfill.”
If it smells bad, it probably means it’s not decomposing — maybe your pile might be too wet, and you might need to read adjust your ratios of greens and browns.
Good compost smells woody/earthy, but also a sweet or sour smell and the texture is light & fluffy!
When you’ve got that fluffy, earthy compost, you are ready to put it in your garden, or in a plant on your windowsill.
Of course, composting takes time and patience, but the result is definitely worth the wait!
More composting ideas and information can be found using the following links: