Everyday Australians, on average, create 180kg of food and garden waste every year. This means that a quarter of all landfill is consisting of organic food and plant materials. Once these materials begin to rot, they produce 15.3kg of greenhouse gases and methane omissions that in turn destroy the atmosphere and contribute to global warming, at a rate of 21 times that of carbon dioxide… That’s a pretty confronting number!
Starting your own home compost is a relatively simple and easy way to eliminate the methane produced by rotting plant materials, significantly reducing your carbon footprint in return. Composting is the natural decomposition of food and plant materials like kitchen scraps, fruits, vegetables, lawn clippings, plant off-cuts, and can even be used to dispose of other household materials like hair, coffee grounds and vacuum cleaner dust. After decaying in a controlled environment, the organic materials turn into a source of nutrients for your soil. Plants benefit from home-made compost as it enriches the soil, retains moisture and reduces disease and pests and the need for chemical fertilisers.
Unfortunately, composting in Australia has dropped from 54 to 46 per cent in the last decade, with most people falsely believing that composting is difficult and time-consuming.
Composting requires three basic things: dry brown material (dead leaves, twigs, nutshells, shredded newspaper, cardboard, hay, straw, sawdust), wet green material (fruit, vegetables, lawn clippings, coffee grounds, eggshells, tea bags, house plants), and water. A healthy compost has even amounts of these materials layered over each other and needs to be turned once a week with a pitchfork. Now that doesn’t sound too hard does it?!
Please remember though that not all household waste is compostable. Things not to put into your compost include coal or charcoal ash, dairy or meat products, diseased plants or plants that were killed by insects, pet waste, fat and oil. These materials will degrade the compost and make it unsuitable to use on your plants.
There are many ways to make a compost system at home:
- The first is the most affordable and most straightforward, you pick a place in the garden where you throw your food and plant waste and cover with black plastic. However, this method, although easy, can attract insects, flies and other animals so is not highly recommended.
- Secondly, you can purchase a bottomless compost bin that sits on the ground and has a lid which keeps out animals, bugs and flies. This solution is easy but does require turning with a pitchfork once a week.
- The third method is a tumbler compost which does not require manual turning, as it has a handle that keeps the compost aerated. These can get quite expensive though depending on the size of tumbler required for your needs.
- Fourth is the ever-popular worm farm, where compostable material is added to a black tub full of worms. The worms digest the food and plant scraps and the castings from the worms is used as a nutrient-enriched liquid fertiliser.
- For people who do not have a garden and want to compost at home, there is a solution called a bokashi bin. The bokashi bin sits on the kitchen counter or under the sink, and a fermented grain solution pickles the kitchen scraps. The liquid solution can be drained on to house plants and windowsill herb pots.
- Another great solution are the Subpods® ‘in garden compost systems’, which are available at Santos Organics. Subpods® are a below-ground compost solution that use worms and microbes to convert home waste into nutrient-rich material for your soil. Because the Subpods® are buried in the ground, they eliminate smell and nasty bugs, flies and curious animals. After three months the Subpods® can process up to 15kg of food waste a week and the lid doubles as a pretty garden seat!
So, when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint and being kinder to the earth, composting is a quick and easy solution. Statistically, it takes 12 years for a tree to start removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But composting starts to reduce the amount of rotting food in landfill straight away. Plus, it will enrich the nutrients in your soil so if you grow fruit and vegetables in the garden, those nutrients are then transferred directly into the food you eat.
Southern Cross University
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