Category Archives: Food waste

Composting food waste reduces greenhouse gas emissions

There is a relatively easy way for a council, municipal authority or government to do something effective for the environment, compost food waste. Why is it so important? Because if food waste waste were a country it would be the third highest emitter of green house gases next to China and the US.

In the UK; “Of the 10 million tonnes of food waste arising annually in the UK, only 1.8 million tonnes is currently recycled (either by composting or anaerobic digestion). Only 12% of household food waste collected by local authorities is recycled, with the remaining 88% ending up in the residual waste stream.” (WRAP)

In 2013 we got a HotBin.  See an article by Alys Fowler in The Guardian here. All of our food preparation waste goes into the bin, that is around around 200Kg a year. It has worked ever since, even in the coldest winters. All the compost it produced goes back onto the veg garden.

The usual disclaimer, we are not associated with the company that sells the bins, just a satisfied user!

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Just make compost to save the world

In metric measure that means every cubic metre of compost made sequesters 400kg of CO2. Think about that, just the simple task of composting kitchen and garden waste reduces the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. This is from a Facebook post by A1 Organics who are based in Colorado. Check out International Compost Awareness Week for more information.

Compost makes soil that can be used to grow food at home which eliminates food miles further reducing your carbon footprint. There are lots more benefits, homegrown food picked as it is needed is more nutritious and gardening improves general health.

My final plea is to grow your food without chemical pesticides and fertilisers. If you make good compost you don’t need them.

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
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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)

Food glorious food

It really is time that we ditch supermarkets for good. There is still panic buying, stores cannot replenish stokes quick enough and now there is a huge PR battle raging to see who can come out on top.

They did not respond the toilet roll panic a couple of weeks back and could have easily done something like Danish stores who changed prices for multiple items – 1 pack of toilet rolls £1.50,  2 packs £55. No, they did nothing but make bigger profits and argue for customer moderation.

“We must help to shield the most vulnerable in our communities from this virus.” – ASDA CEO Roger Burnley.

Sainsburys are saying they will prioritise home delivery slots for the over 70s and vulnerable people. It seems like just more PR as they are not accepting new home delivery registrations and their help line is unobtainable. The competition is sure to respond and try to out do each other.

In the end supermarkets can do what they want, they can battle to come out on top in the PR stakes, but nothing will change. We have become over reliant on them and they have failed.

We must see this a wake up call and actively change the way food is grown and sold. There must be much more diversity, more home grown produce and a greater appreciation and understanding of food, i.e. seeing eating as  more than just chucking something down you neck as you walk around clutching a polystyrene tray.

The Community Food Growers Network – https://www.cfgn.org.uk/about/

The changes, no, the revolution in food production and consumption will mean teaching people how to select produce and cook it to make a meal, something that has been lost over the last 30-40 years. This must include learning about nutrition and its links to the immune system. We need more local food projects centred on growing, cooking, eating and understanding food.

Only then will we be able to survive similar events in the future, and there will be more.

Can you compost egg shells?

Why of why is there a constant stream of advice to add egg shells to compost bins? They do not break down and neither do they add calcium to soil. It is an internet problem, somebody puts it on a web site or social media page and it becomes ‘the truth’. Nobody bothers to check, nobody challenges or tests it.

They last a very long time in a garden: “The study looked at a property in Virginia that was at one time owned by Thomas Jefferson. It was a tobacco plantation that contained a small community of slaves from 1840 to 1860. Excavation of the site found thousands of eggshell fragments from both chickens and ducks, which had been raised by the community.”

Click image for full article.

Food and climate change

“Food has not been the focus of climate change discussions as much as it should have been. (…)  We can still act and it won’t be too late”  

Barack Obama, 26 May 2017.[1]

If you have ever wondered why food is such an important part of climate change then read this article from Grain. It questions the belief that agriculture accounts for a third of greenhouse gas emission and say it is nearer 50%!

The changing climate is already having an impact on food supplies. We are all vulnerable, wherever we live, which is why we need more sustainable and resilient ways to grow food.

Food as medicine

As it should be at every hospital!

“You become diabetic because when you don’t have good food to eat, you eat whatever you can to survive,” Golden says. “Because of the healthy food I get from the pantry… I’ve learned how to eat.”

That is why growing food is the best single thing that you can do to improve health. Not only does it provide cheaper really fresh food, it educates and informs and changes lives.

I just do not understand why more of this kind of initiative is not happening in the UK. It is sad to think that people are being deprived of the experience of growing and eating their food.

You don’t need a lot of space, do it square metre beds!

 

Food too good to waste

“If we consider the fuel that it took on the farm and on the roads, the energy it takes to process our foods, and make our fertilizer, food is very valuable indeed!”

If you are a gardener then why throw out food waste? There are many ways to it, you can either add it to your normal compost bin or have a separate container.

There is a myth about not composting cooked food as it attracts rats. Rats are survivors and they do not spend time hunting out cooked food, they will eat anything they can find.

We have been using a HotBin to compost food waste for a few years now and find it works well. Like all composting the trick is to get the right mix of contents and the add material in batches and not a few bits at a time There is more here

If you want to compost food waste from a school then look at the Ridan composter. It is much easier to use especially where food waste is added on a daily basis. It is much more expensive.