Composting - Some Practical Advice

Private Property South Africa
Shaun Wewege

While there have been significant improvements in recycling glass, plastic and paper; food remains high on the household waste list. The solution to this problem is composting. Simply put, composting is the process by which organic material (food, plant waste) decomposes. The result is compost that can be used in the garden.

One of the main reasons people don’t compost food and other organic waste is that compost heaps tend to be unsightly and odorous. A heap is perfect for anyone with a large garden: you can place it in the corner, away from your windows (and neighbours, if you are not trying to get back at them for something) and all you would need to do is add waste material, turn the heap with a shovel to help with aeration and manage the amount of moisture your heap gets. Too little and you will get very little compost; too much and you will be left with a pungent mulch.

Unfortunately if you live in an apartment, complex or estate you may raise more than a few eyebrows with a heap which is precisely why composting bins are becoming more popular. They control odour and resemble the types of bins you would normally use in your home. You can even build your own bin or buy them online or from a nursery.

There are some options when it comes to type of composting bin:

• Holding unit: literally just a bin that waste is emptied into. They are inexpensive, space savers and easy to maintain but they do take the longest to compost, though the process can be sped up by regular turning.

• Compost Tumblers: spherical, rotating bins. They are neat and make it easy to control moisture and aeration. The major downside is that once they are full you are unable to add new materials. In the interim you would either have to store waste for composting or throw it away.

Electric composters: a unit that automatically heats, turns, and aerates food scraps. They have a quick turn around time (it takes as little as two weeks to create compost) and can even accommodate dairy, meat and fish (using a heap or bin to do this is not recommended as food waste may attract pests). They resemble dustbins, can be stored in the kitchen and control odours effectively.

• Microbe composters: has a similar effect to electric composters with the only difference being that microbes are used to create heat. A batch of compost can be created in just over two weeks.

Worms: they eat almost any kitchen waste, produce little odour, take up little space, and work quickly. The major downside of a worm farm is that you will not be able to compost meat, dairy or fish. http://www.ecolife.com/garden/composting/worm-composting-how-to-guide.html

Composting might bring odours and unwanted pests but there are some things you can do to reduce such problems:

• Sawdust can be used to reduce odours.

• Freezing food waste will kill larvae. If you have a worm bin be sure to unthaw the food before adding it.

• Use a vacuum to suck up flies in your compost bin. If you do this for a few days you should be able to kill off the adult population in your home and prevent them from breeding.

For further information on composting visit http://www.ecolife.com/garden/composting/types-compost-bins-and-systems.html

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