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Why People Are Going Crazy For Compost

By Nicola Saltman, Senior Environment Officer, Waverley Council on September 19, 2014 in Other

From carrot stubs to coffee grounds, more people are turning their kitchen waste into useful soil instead of garbage. Dare I say it: it’s a compost revolution.

In the Waverley Council area alone, close to 9,000 people are either composting at home or as part of a local community or business scheme. And not all compost converts are from houses with large outdoor spaces and food gardens; 35 per cent of participants live in units.

Sarah van Erp, a Bondi Junction resident from a block of 12, recycles her food scraps to feed potted plants under the clothesline. Not only is the compost bin used by several of her block neighbours, others in the street bring their food waste to the bin on a regular basis.

Over 200 local businesses are getting into it, too. With 14 worm farms and compost bins at the back of Macpherson Street in Bronte, well-known Iggy’s Bakery composts their own bread off-cuts, as well as food scraps from other local cafés, schools and food stores, which they pick up daily. Owner Ludmilla Ivanovic uses the food waste to help to grow herbs and vegetables on the street outside her Bronte shop, with 50 extra buckets delivered to community gardens in Clovelly, Randwick and Paddington.

So why the composting craze?

It’s easy

Years ago, Ludmilla used to walk miles to a recycling centre in New York and embarrass her husband by taking food scraps and rubbish across borders on their overseas trips to recycle where she could. Luckily, things have gotten simpler. Under-the-counter bins are available for your kitchen, and you can get a heavily discounted compost bin or worm farm delivered free to your door from Council -– just order online at www.compostrevolution.com.au.

Compost bins can compost almost anything, including vegetable and fruit scraps, tea bags, newspapers, prunings, grass clippings, weeds and even hair. The bins only require 30 seconds of maintenance each time you add food scraps. Worm farms can only take small volumes of food waste, but can go on balconies or even indoors with very little ongoing care needed.

It’s good for your garden

Plants love compost, especially since local soils are notoriously sandy and nutrient poor. Making your own compost means free natural fertiliser for your garden forever. Once set up, compost in a backyard bin takes six months to mature. From then on, you can harvest a little at a time continually whenever you want, or you can harvest the whole bottom half of the bin every three to six months if you need large amounts at once.

The green angle

In Australia, over half of the household material that ends up at the tip is organic waste. When it’s buried in landfill, it can lead to groundwater contamination and the production of greenhouse gases. For Ludmilla, garbage is an issue, but can actually be a useful resource. Through the bakery, she tries to “contribute to the local village in a positive way” with her business and community composting efforts.

Are you a wannabe composter? Follow these three simple tips to get you started:

1. Learn the tools – Get started online – www.compostrevolution.com.au – with a simple tutorial on the ‘ins and outs’ and ‘dos and don’ts’. You can also get free troubleshooting advice at www.reduceyourfootprint.com.au. Researching the right solution for your circumstances is crucial to it working for you over the long term.

2. Start slow – “Don’t go nuts, as a compost can take time to mature and build up, and you could end up with a mushy soup,” Ms van Erp warns. Starting with a little bit (e.g. just vegetable and fruit scraps) will give you a chance to get a handle on it more quickly.

3. Get the mix right – With compost bins, you always need to add the same amount of dry materials (if not more) when adding wet food scraps. This is easy if you keep a stash of lawn clippings, leaves, woodchips, mulch, paper towels or newspaper next to your compost bin.

For more information about joining the Compost Revolution, visit www.compostrevolution.com.au.

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