Repurpose your kitchen food waste into compost

Repurposing your kitchen scraps into compost is one way to prevent your food waste from going into landfill.  You have done your best to minimise your food waste – You planned your meals to ensure you only purchased what you needed.  You have followed tips to prevent food waste by storing your fruits and vegetables appropriately.  You have repurposed your scraps into other foods where possible and you have repurposed your cooked meals into other meals.  If you have herbivorous animals, you will probably have fed them some of the scraps. Well done for minimising food waste!

You minimise your food waste because you care for food and the resources that go into producing it.  You also care for the environment; you are concerned about food waste’s contribution to global warming.  Like me, you also probably consider the fact that you paid money for that food.  Why would you want to waste it?  Having repurposed your scraps into other foods or feeding your animals, what more can you do?  The final method of using what you cannot eat recycling the nutrients. You can do this through composting.   The nutrients in the compost will enrich and improve the soil when applied to your garden.  Your plants will uptake those nutrients.

What is compost and why should you compost

Compost is a mixture of decomposed organic material, especially from plants.  Organic means relating to living matter such as plants and animals.  Composting occurs when the organic material is turned into soil by earthworms and microorganisms (bacteria, moulds, protozoa and others).

Earthworms composting
Earthworms composting food material

When food is thrown away and ends up in landfill it creates greenhouse gases.  Greenhouse gases cause global warming and climate change.  If you would like to read more on greenhouse gases, check the My Climate Organisation website.  The difference between the food in the landfill and your compost bin is in the availability of air.  In the landfill, food decomposes without air in what is termed anaerobic decomposition.  This forms methane gas.  In a compost pit, bin or pile, the material decomposes with oxygen and forms carbon dioxide.  Both Methane and Carbon dioxide are Greenhouse gases.  Methane gas warms up the planet twenty times more, compared to carbon dioxide.

By composting, you route food from landfill to repurposing.  The compost provides nutrients for your garden.  When you use compost in your garden, you remove or reduce the need for fertiliser.  Fertilizer manufacturing is one biggest contributor to greenhouse gas. This is from the manufacturing process.  One of the chemicals in fertiliser, Nitrogen produces greenhouse gases when fertiliser is applied.  Fertiliser is also expensive, compared to using compost.  A triple win here! Save the planet, save money, improve your soil and grow healthy plants.

Tips on composting

You can compost by piling your compostable material into a heap.  Cover the heap of composting material with a tarpaulin sheet, plastic, or even an old carpet.  If you want a tidier composting method, use a compost bin. I use a compost bin.  I find it easier to manage the compost this way.  The bin has a little hatch at the bottom.  You remove the ready compost via this door since the newly added material will not have composted. You add your composting waste from the top.  Ready compost comes out of the bottom.

Composting bin
Composting bin with ready compost

You can compost most plant material. This includes pineapple crowns, fruit and vegetable peels, inedible scraps, husks and stalks.  You can also compost grass and leaves from your garden.  I trim my vines, chop up the cuttings and leaves. I then and throw them into my compost bin.  In autumn, I add dead leaves from my yard. Egg shells, coffee grounds and used tea leaves or teabags are also compostable.  Ensure your teabags do not contain plastic.  I throw in mouldy bread if I have any.  I also compost scraps from cooking pots such as caked polenta or mashed potatoes.

You can pick scraps from the sink, so long as the food doesn’t contain meat.  You can also throw your old flowers into your composting pile or bin. Your old cardboard boxes and paper can go into the compost. If you have herbivorous pets such as rabbits and hamsters, you can compost their droppings and bedding.  I find most plant material composts.  Avocado seeds do not compost well.  They probably would take a long time to decompose.

Do not compost meat or bones.  Bones will not decompose.  The meat or fish will give off an unpleasant smell.  If it is raw meat, you will be breeding harmful bacteria such as salmonella or E. coli.  You will then spread this in your garden and potentially contaminate your growing plants.  Rotting meat will also attract pests such as flies and rats. Plant material only compost doesn’t smell in an overpowering way.  I find that even when it is very hot in summer, my compost bin does not smell bad.  This is because I only compost plant material and crushed eggshells.  Do not compost weeds, you will end up filling your garden with them when you use the compost.  Keep sick plants out of your compost as you will spread the plant disease.  Woody material doesn’t compost well. It would take years to break down and compost.

How to compost

Find a nice, shaded area for your compost heap or bin. It is as simple as starting to throw in your composting waste.  If your composting waste is too dry, consider watering it.  This will speed up decomposition.  Dry waste can be dry animal bedding such as grass, cardboard or dead leaves.  Ensure your composting material is made up of both dry and green material to get good quality compost.

After 3 months, turn and mix up the compost using a garden fork. This provides oxygen to aid decomposition. After turning the compost twice, let it be till you harvest it.  A compost bin works best because you can continue to top up as you use the compost from the bottom.

Crumbly compost
Crumbly compost ready for use