Category Archives: Composting kitcehn waste

Council compost bins

To encourage more home composting councils are offering discounted compost bins, you can check here to see if your council is part of the scheme. In Derbyshire we can get a 220-litre Blackwall compost convertor for £19 and the 330-litre size for £21 plus a delivery charge of £5.99. When you consider that our district council will be charging £50 a year for emptying the green bin it makes sense to start composting your garden waste.

I ordered the 330-litre bin which was delivered in a couple of days. I wanted to see how easy it was to use and how well it worked. The first fill was a mixture of grass cutting and shredded garden waste.

Measuring the temperature is a good was to check if the bin is working. A hole was drilled to allow the use of a standard compost thermometer. To reach and maintain 60c means that the bin is working well.

Day      Temp
1            23C
2            43C
3            61C
4            61C

If you want to know how to make hot compost go to this page.

We will be running a series of online composting workshops beginning in late September 2020
please email us for details

Compost bin water heater

Now this is an idea I really like especially as our local council say they are withdrawing green bins next year. Well, not actually taking them away but only emptying them if you pay.

From: Permaculture News, see link below

This is an ideal to make them into compost bins and get hot water. It’s not new idea but this looks interesting. I can see a row of them with isolating valves so that they can be switched on when hot and off as they cool down.

Not sure what the effect would be on the compost, first thoughts are that if you remove heat you slow down the process. I would guess that it depends on how much heat is taken.

It could be another crazy project for next year! Full text of the article is here. (You need to scroll down the page.)

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Compost bin modifications

The compost at the bottom of bin 2 has always been very wet. When it was emptied last week the reason became obvious, there was a very thin layer of soil on top of solid rock. It might be possible to break it up and remove it but instead a false floor was made. The holes in the bottom slot in board is a trial of controlling the air flow through the heap.

The timber false floor made from old pallets

The two layers of chicken wire was covered with a layer of dry twigs to prevent material falling through.

The bin was filled with a mixture of grass cuttings and shredded tree prunings. Within 24 hours the core temperature had risen to 55C and the next day was 73C which is too high. After making some air holes through the contents the temperature dropped to 69C and is still falling. The ideal is to hold it at around 65C for 3-4 days.

That is all four bins full and working which means we need extra composting space as there is already the start of a pile of general garden waste waiting for shredding. Happy days!

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Hotbin update

After clearing out then HotBin Mk1 food composter a few days back I made a modification to increase the airflow through the bin. It was clear that as the bin filled up the airflow became restricted. The answer was to add a perforated plastic pipe in the back right corner.

The pipe was an odd length of scrap plastic pipe from an old milking parlour. It had a right angle bend glued to one end which was cut off to leave a short length of pipe and then the stub of the bend. This allowed it to be pushed through a hole cut in the floor enough to reach the space below without falling through the hole. I also made another air inlet on the back of space between the removable floor and the base of the bin.

The bin is now standing on wood to allow any liquid to drain through holes in the base. I added dry twigs to the floor to enable air to come through and to try and prevent the ventilation hole being blocked.

Yesterday I added the first contents which was about a week of food prep scraps, tea bags and coffee grounds. There was also some shredded paper (mainly brown) and shredded dry garden waste as a bulking agent. Finally, the contents were mixed and watered a to get the wrung out sponge wetness.

Today, just 24 hours after starting the bin, the contents are at 45C. The air flow control valve was just open; when fully open it was easy to feel the how air coming through the bin. So far so good, it looks as if the modification has worked well. It will be interesting to see what happens as the bin fills up.

Update 31 May 2020
The modified HotBin has been in use for a few weeks now and is working very well. The latest batch of compost was added a couple of days ago and heated to 57C on the second day. It was the usual mix of about 4.8Kg of kitchen prep waste, a couple of hand fulls of my bulking agent, same again of grass cuttings and three hand fulls shredded brown paper. It was well mixed and watered.

I still need to replace the charcoal filter and block the extra hole cut in the bottom chamber as I think there is too much airflow.

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A step-by-step guide to composting garden waste

In many parts of the country local authorities are suspending the collection of garden waste due to staff shortages. As the situation could go on for several more weeks it is important to know what to do with your garden waste. The answer is simple – MAKE COMPOST!

It need not cost you anything as you can make a compost heap in your garden. If you already have a compost bin, then clean it out and start afresh. In many parts of the country local councils are sponsoring the purchase of compost bins so check before you buy one.

If you live in Derbyshire see this page for more information on offers of compost bins and water butts.

Other local authorities have similar schemes so check before you buy.

If you don’t have a bin you can still make compost by finding a convenient corner of the garden to make a heap with a waterproof cover to keep out the rain

Whether you are making a heap or bin the steps are the same.

  1. Find a site for your bin or pile on grass or soil. It’s better to be out of full sun as it will dry out the contents. The heat in hot composting comes for the action of the bacteria as they breakdown the contents and not from the sun.
  2. Gather together the stuff you want to compost; it’s best to have enough materials to make a complete batch or bin full, if not, you can start with around half that. Aim for at least half a cubic metre.
  3. Only add material in batches and do not just throw stuff in when you find it but save it until you have enough.
  4. Sort it into two groups – browns and greens:

    Browns
    • Autumn leaves
    • Pine needles
    • Twigs, chipped tree branches/bark
    • Straw or hay
    • Sawdust
    • Paper, brown paper is best like that used in packing from Amazon etc.
    • Plain cardboard, not printed, toilet roll inners, egg boxes tear up into small pieces and limit the amount you put in the bin. Use to balance the greens and browns and not as an alternative to recycling.

Greens

    • Grass clippings
    • Coffee grounds/tea bags (check the bags are fully compostable and do not include plastic)
    • Vegetable and fruit peelings
    • Trimmings from perennial and annual plants
    • Weeds but do not include any with seeds if your bin/heap does not get hot
    • Animal manures but not from dogs or cats

Not worth adding/be careful

    • Egg shells – they will never break down because they are made of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) crystals. They cannot add calcium to the compost or to the soil.
    • Food waste unless you know the bin will heat up. You can add it to the centre of a hot heap/pile but it is best composted in a separate container such as a HotBin.
  1. Getting the correct balance of greens and browns will help the compost to heat up. A good rule of thumb is to use two buckets of greens to one bucket of browns as you add material to your heap/bin.
  2. Be sure to mix the contents well as you add them especially grass clippings as they tend to stick together in lumps, break them up!
  3. The next step is to wet the mixture, not totally soaked, more like a wrung-out sponge.
  4. Cover an open pile with waterproof sheet or put the lid on you bin. After a few days the contents should heat up.
  5. After a while the contents will start to cool down and will have shrunk. You might see that material around the edges has not composted as well as that in the centre. Now is the time to turn the pile/contents of the bin. What this means is taking everything out and then putting it back in. It helps if you ‘fluff up the contents’ to add more air. You might also need to add some more water if it feels it is dry. Again, not a soaking but more like a wrung out sponge.
  6. After a few days the heap/bin should start to heat up again, but it may not get as hot as before. It will eventually start to cool down and you could try turning again or just leave it.
  7. Hot composting should be complete in 8-10 weeks and will take another couple of months to mature. It is ready to use on the garden when it looks like and smells like the forest floor.

If you would like more information about composting then please take a look at
our other pages.

If you need help with your composting please email us HERE

Please send us your photos, comments and short videos of your compost and we will share them here.

(Last update 08 Apr 2020)

Emptying the food composter

Today was the annual clean out of the HotBin composter we use for food waste. That is, food preparation waste not wasted food. We cook from fresh, no ready meals or ultra-processed food except for the occasional bag of frozen oven ready chips!

That means we generate around 5-7Kg of compostable material, never ‘waste’, a week or 260 -360Kg a year!  Teabags are included as we use Clipper which have 100% compostable bags or use leaf tea. We also include a small amount of discarded cooked food but there is not much.

Some myths about composting food ‘waste’:

1. You must not compost cooked food as it attracts rats. In over 30 years of composting I have only ever seen one rat which was asleep in the top of a bin used only for garden waste.
2. You cannot compost rice as it is full of bacteria. I think that has got around the internet because of warnings not to reheat cooked rice. Any active compost bin is full of bacteria, they do all the work and generate the heat.
3. Composting food stinks and attracts flies. Not in our experience if you do it right in a bin designed for the job.
4. It’s better to give it to the council. Never! It’s far too valuable to give away.  Home composting cuts costs and reduces CO2 emission from the large lorries use to cart it away. It also helps to grow bigger, more nutritious veg and completes the cycle from ground to food back to ground.
5. Add eggshells to the compost to provide calcium. More advice from the internet which is totally wrong. Eggshells dot not breakdown however long they are in the bin. The shell is not water soluble and cannot give calcium to soil.

Here is an egg shell I dropped in this time last year!

When we opened the bin there was a solid mass of completely composted material or should I say SOIL because that is what it is now. It amounted to two heavy wheelbarrows full which went straight onto a bed to be distributed later. It is rich and full of nutrients and well worth the minimal effort to make it!

We use a Mk1 HotBin,  we have had for a few years. It works well enough but it could work even better with increased airflow and a slight modification is planned before refilling starts. The latest Mk2 model has the changes incorporated. They are not cheap but have a number of features that makes them ideal for household use e.g. they have a tight fitting lid with a charcoal filter it take out any smell. Full details available here. If you are a member of Garden Organic buy from the organic gardening catalogue and get 10% discount.

There is also a new make on the UK market, the Aero Bin Hot Composter from Australia. The Centre for Alternative Technology use the large version for their food waste and last summer it was working very well. More information here.

Compost tumblers also work but can be hard to turn when they are full unless they have a geared handle.

The usual disclaimer, we have no connection to any product or company mentioned other than being a customer.

If you have any questions please email us