I’m pretty excited to talk compost – for it was the act of composting that was a major contributor to us reducing our weekly waste by 3/4 over the past 6 years. I’ve written about food waste and the strategies I’ve employed over the years on our journey HERE and HERE. Getting those scraps OUT of the landfill bin is not hard but it is a habit you need to build. It becomes a little action part of your day and it’s BRILLIANT for home gardeners to get the best stuff to feed your plants with. I’ve invited my friend Justin Bonsey from the compost revolution to write for us about composting. Justin and I met at Transition Bondi a wonderful sustainability meet up group, about 4 years ago. We have stood in the local council chambers together presenting a case for banning plastic bags on Bondi Beach before and even if we failed that day, it felt darn good to TRY. He inspiringly started a collective called Responsible Runners of people who get together on local beaches to run or walk and clean the beach together and he got more cafes around Bondi encouraging reusable cups. We speak the same language. He’s a rockstar. He’s now working to empower people to compost with the COMPOST REVOLUTION. And so, he’s here today to do exactly that. How lucky are we? I’d love for you to share your motivations and love of composting and some hot tips of your own in the comments, so that we can really get more of us doing this. It just makes sense, don’t you think?
Take it away Justin… a compelling and not too lengthy read this is! xx
Worms vs Elephants – Join the Compost Revolution
There’s an elephant in your rubbish bin. Actually, 900,000 of them. Marching to landfill year after year. And the only hungry heroes in their way? Worms. Lots of them. And they’ve started a revolution.
Dig this. Every year we empty our rubbish bins we send 4.5 million tonnes of food waste to landfill – weighing the equivalent of 900,000 adult elephants a year! Once there, it breaks down very slowly over time, leaching toxic chemicals into the ground and producing 16.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases annually, including methane, which is 25 times more potent than CO2. Food waste alone accounts for an eye-popping 3% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions – nearly on par with the entire civil aviation industry. Talk about the elephant in the room!
The numbers may be staggering but the solution is extraordinarily simple. With nearly half the average household rubbish bin consisting of food scraps, home composting and worm farming are a magic bullet to cut our rubbish in half and turn scraps into 100% organic soil and fertiliser. Far beyond waste, our scraps are a tremendous resource waiting to be tapped. The beauty of composting is that worms, fungi, bacteria and other friendly critters are more than happy to do all the work for us, recombining 4 basic elements – nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, and water – into valuable resources that are like rocket fuel for plants and veggies, often doubling yield within the first few months.
Not only does composting create all the building blocks of life, giving back to the Earth that gives so much to us, but it’s also the best possible way to get rid of those pesky plastic bag bin liners at home by relocating the sticky bits to where it belongs. From the home to farms to industry, we’re finding more and more that compost has an astounding range of applications. So much so that gardening guru Costa Georgiadis has semi-seriously called for the establishment of a Ministry of Compost to which all other ministries report. All projects, budgets and decision must go through the Minister of Compost. And he’s right. Healthy compost means healthy soil; healthy soil means healthy food; healthy food means healthy people and animals. It all starts with compost, the very stuff of life itself.
Ok, now you’ve got the moxie, it’s time to sort out the means. Here are the options
Set up your bin outdoors in a spot with good drainage and lots of sun and feed it a 50/50 mix of food scraps and gardens scraps. Help it breathe with a quick stir every couple days, add dry materials or water as needed to keep your compost moist, and within a few months you’ve got rich, healthy soil teeming with macronutrients and good bacteria.
Great for shaded and sheltered outdoor, patio, or even indoor spaces, worms are the the pets that just keep giving back. Give them a steady diet of food scraps (except citrus, ginger, and the like), hair, and newspaper and they’ll be crawling all over each other to chow down on your waste. As they move through it, they poo and wee as all animals do, creating castings and worm wee. Siphon off wee from a tap on the bottom of the worm farm, dilute 10 to 1 with water, and you’ve got some of the best natural liquid fertiliser on Earth. Then, mix their castings into your soil every couple months for an added boost of fertility.
Meaning ‘fermented matter’ in Japanese, bokashi is odourless anaerobic composting that you can do right from your kitchen, fermenting veggie and even meat scraps into nourishing liquid fertiliser and compost in weeks. Every time you add scraps, just mash them down below the water line, give it a spray of enzymatic accelerator spray, and off you go. A great option for apartments with no outdoor space for a composting bin or worm farm.
If you recycle your paper, aluminium and glass, then doing the same with food scraps is a no-brainer. Just by throwing your food scraps into one of these instead of the rubbish bin, each and every one of us can divert 120kgs of waste from landfill and 192kgs of greenhouse gas emissions every year while turbo boosting our gardens and pot plants. What’s not to love?
Now here’s where it gets really exciting. If you’re not already at it, getting started is easier than ever with initiatives like Compost Revolution, which partners with over 40 councils across Australia to hook residents up with heavily subsidised composting gear to kickstart a food scrap recycling revolution right at home. Skill up with fun online tutorials, test your knowledge with a quick quiz, then bob’s your uncle with 30-100% off your gear delivered to your door from council (seriously!). In the last 4 years, Compost Revolution has introduced composting to over 12,500 homes, diverting a whopping 2.9 million kgs of waste from landfill, avoiding 4.6 million kgs of greenhouse gas emissions, and saving councils over $720,000 in waste collection costs. Worms vs elephants indeed!
Now imagine if just 500 people who read this begin composting. Collectively they will save 4.6 tonnes of waste from going to landfill and cut 7.4 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in the first month, let alone 552 tonnes of waste and 883 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) over the next 10 years! How’s that for impact?
Nothing better exemplifies that death feeds life than worms and compost, and it’s a phenomenal way to teach the next generation about responsibility and sustainability. Celebrate International Composting Awareness Week 2016 by committing to compost. It’s time to tame the elephants in our bins.
by Justin Bonsey.
Thanks Justin. Brilliant – If you’re motivated to get started I’d love to point you towards the Compost Revolution site. Check this out for how much waste they’ve calculated they’ve saved and literally brought back to life so far.
I’m completely inspired by companies who work to raise awareness but do it in a cool way! I hope you’ve found this to perhaps be the little kick up the bottom to get going with your composting project!
Less waste. Happy Planet.