HOME COMPOSTING. Help Protect Kerry s Environment and Save Money... Composting is nature s way of recycling. Protecting Kerry s Environment

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1 HOME COMPOSTING Composting is nature s way of recycling! Help Protect Kerry s Environment and Save Money... Protecting Kerry s Environment

2 CONTENTS Seo é do sheans timpeallacht Ciarraí a fheabhsú. Dein do chuid aoilleach fhéin ag a baile, agus coiméad an láthair drámhíola folamh. Mar a dúirt an té a dúirt, I dtosach na haicíde is fusa í a leigheas. Mas féidir leat gearradh siar ar do chuid bruscair ag a baile, beidh sé níos easca orainn é a bhainistiú. Bain triail as, I ndiaidh a chéile is ea a dhéantar na caisleán. page 02 foreword 03 what is composting? 04 how do I start? 05 home composting bins alternative ways of composting how do I compost? 09 what s in and what s out how to use your compost common problems and simple solutions what else can I do to help the environment? 01

3 REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF WASTE YOU PRODUCE Over one third of the contents of your wheelie bin is made up of organic material. The bin also contains glass, aluminium and paper. IN TOTAL NEARLY 50% OF YOUR BIN CONTENTS IS RECYCLABLE RIGHT NOW! If you put these materials into your bin they are landfilled. When organic material is landfilled it can cause environmental problems. Get into home composting and keep organic waste from landfill - and at the same time produce a useful product for your garden and save money! This booklet tells you all you need to know about home composting. In Kerry we have one landfill site which services the entire county. Due to low recycling rates and an ever growing mountain of waste being produced this landfill is filling rapidly. Over 65,000 tonnes of waste is disposed of to landfill in Kerry each year. This figure is growing at a rate of 4% annually. This can t continue. We as individuals need to change our ways. A few simple changes by each individual can make a big difference - Shop for the environment, recycle more and get into home composting! Every man, woman and child in Kerry produces roughly half a tonne of rubbish each year, 97% of this is landfilled. A typical bin is made up of the following: Organics 34% Metals 4% Textiles 5% Glass 6% Paper 23% Plastics 8% Other 20% Over one third of every bin is made up of organic material. This includes materials such as grass clippings, fruit and vegetable waste, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, dead leaves, uncooked food scraps and general garden waste. If you separate this waste at home and compost it, you will save landfill space, along with providing your garden with the many benefits of the nutrients in the compost. HOME COMPOSTING IS POSSIBLY THE SINGLE MOST EFFECTIVE ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TO PROTECT KERRY S ENVIRONMENT - AND IT S SIMPLE! 02

4 WHAT IS COMPOSTING? Composting turns your waste into a useful product. Organic wastes, such as materials from the kitchen and garden, have a common trait that distinguishes them from other household wastes, they decompose quickly. This decomposition and subsequent return to the soil, is entirely natural and is a key cycle upon which all life depends. When this material is separated from other household waste, and allowed to decompose in the presence of air and a certain amount of water, organic waste is converted into a crumbly soil-like material called compost. The composting process involves millions of tiny creatures, most of which are too small to be seen by the naked eye. These creatures include bacteria, insects, fungi, and worms. 03 WHY COMPOST? Making compost is good for the environment because: Saves landfill space Reduces green house gas emissions from landfill Cuts down on burning waste in the back garden Enriches the soil Raises environmental awareness Discourages illegal dumping of organic waste Saves you money WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF HOME COMPOSTING FOR YOU? Making your Garden Grow Adding compost to your garden helps your flowers and vegetables in two major ways: by supplying needed nutrients and by conditioning the soil.

5 I don t have a garden? Compost will make grass healthier. Spread it on you lawn and watch it create the same wonderful benefits for you that it does for your gardening friends. You can also use it on potted plants in your home. I don t have a lawn, and I don t have a garden? Give your compost to someone you know who has a garden. Every good gardener will gladly accept it, as they know the value of compost. It will SAVE YOU MONEY... Eventually households will pay for waste disposal according to weight. Your wheelie bin will be weighed as it is lifted, and you will be charged accordingly. The more you reduce, recycle and compost the less you send to landfill....this means you will pay less. Slow the flow and save some dough. HOW DO I START COMPOSTING? Compost simply happens, it s a natural process. No sense getting all excited and worrying about it. Don t time it and wonder why it isn t done yet. Never worry that you simply can t compost - or that you are not doing it right. Put a system in place that best suits you, your family, and the space you live in. Having a garden is a bonus but is certainly not a necessity. However we do not recommend that you put your home composter on a concrete surface, as it prevents soil creatures from doing their job. Find a suitable location, begin to separate your organic waste at home and simply feed your composter. WHAT DO I NEED TO START HOME COMPOSTING? There are a few ways you can compost, from the fairly elaborate wormery to the basic heap it s really up to you. A special plastic container called a Home Composting Bin can be purchased from Kerry County Council. Alternatively you can build your own, some designs are included later in this booklet. Because composting is a natural process there is no need for any kind of structure, although for convenience many people decide to use the plastic containers. It is important to think carefully about where you locate your composting bin or heap. Have it placed close enough to your house to give easy access, especially during the winter. Also remember to have it close enough to where you will be using the finished compost. 04

6 The ideal situation is to have a plastic compost container for all food scraps and kitchen waste along with some garden waste, while at the same time build a compost pile for the majority of your COMPOSTING BIN garden waste and paper/cardboard. C O M P O S T I N G N a t u r e s Wa y o f R e c y c l i n g HOME COMPOSTING BIN 05 The easiest system for many people with little or no garden space, or people who like the idea of a tidy closed container, are the commercially available home composting bins. There are many different types on the market. These units have a capacity of approximately 250 to 300 litres, and should be large enough for the average family. Most are made from recycled plastics. This style of bin also retains moisture and heat Some oxygen is introduced each time the lid is opened, and in the case of some models air is allowed in through the base plate, vents along the side and also through a spike in the middle. Don t worry if the bin is filling up quickly, nature s great disappearing act is about to begin. There will be a sizable decrease in the volume, even within a week.

7 WHERE SHOULD I PUT THE BIN? When deciding where to place the bin, there are a few guidelines to remember. Place the bin on grass or earth... This allows worms to enter the bin from underneath - worms help to keep air circulating through the material and plenty of air is needed to speed up the composting process and avoid odours. Also as the material decomposes moisture seeps out and you ll need to allow this liquid to soak into your grass or earth. To prevent vermin from getting into the composter it is advisable to place bird cage wire under the base of the composter. Distance from house... Place the bin not too far from your kitchen door, so it is easily accessed but far enough to allow bacteria, fungi, worms and beetles to work in peace. Place the bin in a sunny spot... The colour of the bin will absorb the sunrays without the risk of drying out the material in the bin. The composting process will speed up during the summer months and slow down during winter. Protect it from heavy rain... Heavy rain may waterlog the bin, which will starve the bin of air and prevent composting. Once you ve chosen your location loosen the soil in order to help drainage and make it easier for the worms and bacteria to pass into the bin from the surrounding earth. For problem free composting, it is essential that there is good air circulation. It will be necessary to stir the material on a regular basis, to ensure that the material will not smell. A garden pike or a small hand shovel/spade will do perfectly. 06

8 DIY COMPOSTING BINS 1 COMPOST PILE No construction necessary. Find a sheltered spot in your backyard to begin your pile. That s all you need. Just keep in mind that items such as paper towels and napkins can blow around without a some sort of shelter or protection around the pile. 2. WIRE-MESH Tie a length of wire or plastic mesh into a circle, and attach the ends with a wire ties using pliers. Use and old carpet to cover, which will prevent the material from becoming too wet. 3. SINGLE WOODEN UNIT Choose a 3 x 3 square area for your compost bin. Use a sledgehammer to pound the four posts 2 x 4 into the ground, three feet apart, at the corners of the square. One side can be left open to allow for easy access. A second unit would allow the compost to mature in one box while you add materials to the first box. C O M P O S T I N G N a t u r e s Wa y o f R e c y c l i n g 4. WOODEN PALLET UNIT 07 One easy way to build a simple and effective compost bin is to use four ordinary wooden pallets, and tie them together. Many retail outlets will allow you to reclaim the discarded pallets for use at home. After placing the four pallets upright to form your square bin, tie the four corners with rope or wire. You can use a fifth pallet for flooring to allow greater air flow. Again cover with an old carpet or some other material to keep it dry. Again a second unit would also be helpful with this type of composting. 5. CEMENT BLOCK BIN Cement blocks or bricks may be used to build a composter. It is easy to set up and can be constructed with two sections to facilitate the turning of the pile, from one section to another.

9 HOW DO I COMPOST? All organic can be divided up into GREENS and BROWNS. GREENS are things like... kitchen waste, such as fruit and vegetable peelings, bread, pasta, rice, coffee grounds, cooked and uncooked food scraps (except meat, fish, and chicken), dead leaves, dried grass cuttings, garden weeds. BROWNS are things like... tea bags, paper including egg cartons, toilet paper rolls and cereal boxes, leaves, straw, sawdust and other woody materials. - These materials need to be broken up or shredded. AN EASY WAY TO REMEMBER IS THAT BROWNS ARE DRY, HARD MATERIALS. GREENS ARE FRESH, SOFT, MOIST MATERIALS. Don t worry if you don t have many materials at the beginning. Although a compost pile needs a certain amount of bulk to get working, you will soon be adding lots more material to your pile. You should not leave kitchen scraps (GREENS), on top of the pile. It is best to keep these materials buried inside the compost heap, where they will break down quicker. That is why you finish with BROWNS on top of the pile. Just remember that each time you add some grass clippings and kitchen scraps, cover them with a layer of BROWNS. The easiest way to do this is to keep a bag of leaves or shredded paper near your composter, or compost heap, and then throw in a few handfuls each time to cover your GREENS. C O M P O S T I N G N a t u r e s Wa y o f R e c y c l i n g GREENS provide nitrogen. BROWNS provide carbon. For composting to work properly, you must have both carbon and nitrogen in equal quantities. Begin with a layer of BROWNS - a base of leaves or wood clippings will help air circulate in your pile, and then add a layer of GREENS. Finish by covering with a layer of BROWNS. As you add to your pile in the weeks and months to come, continue alternating layers of GREENS and BROWNS, always finishing with a layer of BROWNS. 08

10 what s in... what s out... Your composter will not give you any problems as long as the right balance of materials, air and moisture are used. WHAT S IN from the House Fruit and vegetable scraps Baked goods including bread Rice and other grains Pasta Paper towels and serviettes Tea leaves and bags Coffee grounds and filters Egg shells (important source of calcium for the compost) Shredded paper (newspaper, cereal boxes, paper packaging etc.). WHAT S IN from the Garden Leaves Grass cuttings Weeds Plants and plant cutting (non diseased) Twigs etc (break into smaller pieces). WHAT S OUT from the House All meat including chicken Fish and shell fish Bones Fat, grease, oils All dairy products including cheese Vacuum cleaner bags Textiles Glossy print material WHAT S OUT from the Garden Weeds that have gone to seed Diseased plants Large branches and roots Dog and cat waste Plants previously sprayed with non-degradable pesticides. 09

11 HOW DO I USE MY COMPOST? Compost is ready for use when it has a fine crumbly appearance like soil, and is dark brown in colour. Compost can be use in a number of ways... For houseplants and potting, mix the compost with garden soil. The recommended ratio is 1 part compost and 8 part top soil because of the very high nitro content. Compost can be used as a mulch to suppress weeds. It can be used as a soil or lawn top dressing, or seed starting mix. Compost tea can be made from steeping compost in a bucket and using the liquid to water and feed plants. Use compost when planting trees or shrubs by mixing a bucketful with the soil at the bottom of the planting hole. SOME OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION Activators/Accelerators An accelerator is any substance that will speed up the rate of composting. Some ready prepared accelerators are available from gardening centres and hardware shops. You simply sprinkle it over the composting material each time you add a layer to your pile. Natural accelerators are just as good and much cheaper. Examples of good accelerators are crushed seaweed and manure from horses, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chicken and pigeons. Never put dog or cat droppings on your compost pile. Water It is important that the composting material is moist. It should generally be as wet as a wrung out sponge. If it dries out, simply add water when required. If too wet, add in some browns to soak up the excess moisture, or if you have it covered, remove the cover in sunny weather to let some of the liquid evaporate. 10

12 Air To add air to your compost pile, poke a shovel or a pitchfork into it and turn the material over. By simply mixing the material up in this way, once every two weeks or so, you will add air to the pile. This helps to speed up the composting process, and prevents the pile from smelling. It is also important because the micro-organisms and earthworms that do all of the of turning your wastes into such a valuable resource, need the moisture and air to stay alive and do their work. To sum it up, your job is just to add the material, turn (mix up) the pile every two weeks and keep your pile damp. Wormeries Worm bins are also an effective way of composting. A number of Irish Companies supply worms, and they can be added to your Composter. Contact the Freephone number at the back of this brochure for more information. COMMON PROBLEMS AND THE SIMPLE SOLUTIONS 11 Can I compost in Winter? Yes you can. Although your compost heap may look frozen during the winter, it will usually be working in the middle, although at a much slower pace than during the summer. Keep adding material to your pile throughout the winter, even if it freezes, it will start composting again with the start of spring, and hopefully warmer weather. How long does it take to make compost? Compost can be produced in as little as 3 months or it can take as long as two years. It depends on how you maintain your heap. If you use roughly equal amounts of GREENS and BROWNS, keep the pile moist, and turn or mix the pile regularly, you can get compost in a few months. A less active maintenance program will result in the same product, but after a longer period of time. Should I use an accelerator? Accelerators claim to speed up the composting process. Basically they contain concentrated amounts of elements already present in a well-used compost bin. They certainly seem to work but adding a small amount of fresh grass cuttings, nettles or coffee grounds will have the same effect. Perhaps the most readilyavailable compost accelerator is human urine, but we do not recommend it this technique in urban areas!!!

13 Can I compost evergreen material? Evergreen material takes a long time to decompose, over five years in some cases. In general they are very acidic and the leaves or needles tend to have an almost rubbery texture. There is no reason not to include them, except for their slow decomposition. Add in small amounts only. What should I do if my composter smells? There are two possible reasons as to why you are experiencing this problem. Firstly you may have too many GREENS and not enough BROWNS. If you haven t added Browns in a while, put some in. If you don t have any dried leaves handy, shred some newspaper and mix it in. The most likely problem is that your compost pile may be lacking in oxygen. To fix it, simply turn the material over with a shovel or pitchfork a few times. The smell will be gone in a day or two. I don t have much BROWN material. The most readily available BROWN materials are newspapers and cardboard. You only need about 10 newspapers a year for each compost bin. It should be torn into strips or as individual sheets rolled into balls before adding it in. About half a tabloid newspaper should be added every couple of weeks or so if no other BROWNS are available. Plain brown cardboard can also be used, again make sure it is damp and cut into smaller pieces. Avoid too much coloured cardboard as some of the inks can be toxic. What happens in the compost pile? Your compost pile contains the nitrogen and carbon rich material you have put into it, as well as a number of different microorganisms, worms and beneficial insects that live on a diet of these materials. The microorganisms will generate a lot of heat as they do their work, a compost pile regularly heats up to 50 to 65 degrees Celsius after new material is put into it. During this process, the materials are broken down into compost, and this is what you can spread back on your garden. Will I get animals in my compost pile? Not if you put the correct materials in your pile. No meat, bones, dairy products (including cheese), fatty materials, or oil should be put into your compost pile. These materials break down very slowly, and will attract unwanted pests. Remember all kitchen waste should be covered by BROWNS, (such as dried leaves). Animals are a very rare occurrence in a properly managed compost pile. 12

14 WHAT ELSE CAN I DO TO MANAGE MY WASTE PROPERLY SHOP CAREFULLY RECYCLE MORE REUSE MORE At present there are 85 locations in County Kerry to recycle glass, aluminium drink cans and more recently steel food cans. There are also 13 locations to recycle Plastic Bottles in the larger towns throughout Kerry. There are more extensive recycling facilities at the Transfer Stations which are located near Killarney, Milltown, Kenmare and Cahersiveen-these include plastic bottles, newspapers, magazines, cardboard, batteries, waste car oil, white goods and household hazardous waste. Recycling facilities are also available at the North Kerry Landfill Site. Waste Cooking Oil can be recycled. There are several private companies who will take waste cooking oil and recycle it. There is a cost for this service. Household hazardous waste, such as fluorescent lights, oil paints, pesticides, aerosols, bleaches etc., can also be recycled at the Transfer Stations. 13 Printed on Cyclus - 100% Recycled Paper

15 FOLLOW THE 10 BASIC STEPS TO A BETTER ENVIRONMENT SHOP FOR THE ENVIRONMENT... Avoid over packaged goods, buy goods packaged in recyclable material e.g. glass and aluminium. 10 steps GET INTO RECYCLING... There will soon be 60 recycling banks in Co. Kerry, start bringing your glass and drink cans to a bank near you. 3. SAY NO TO PLASTIC BAGS... Refuse to take a plastic bag when you do not need one - bring your own canvas or reusable bag. Plastic bags are made of a non-renewable resource and cause serious litter problems. 4. FOLLOW THIS BOOKLET AND COMPOST YOUR FOOD AND GARDEN WASTE AT HOME AND CUT DOWN ON WASTE GOING TO LANDFILL DON T LITTER AND DON T TOLERATE THOSE WHO DO... Litter is a serious environmental problem - we all object to it yet half of us admit to doing it 6. WATER IS LIFE... We can be careless about the water we use - wasted water is money down the drain. 7. DISPOSE OF WASTE LIQUIDS i.e HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS, PAINTS OR WEED KILLERS CORRECTLY... These products are often hazardous - hazardous to your health and to the environment if not disposed of correctly. 8. TAKE THE HEALTHY OPTION... For short journeys ask yourself do you really need the car. When stopping of at the shop don t leave the engine running. 9. TURN DOWN AND SWITCH OFF... Your heating system uses up the most energy in your home make sure it is well insulated and draught proof. Turn off lights and televisions when they are not in use. 10. BECOME LABEL CONSCIOUS... Chose energy labels A or B when buying a new washer dryer fridge or dishwashers - You ll save energy and money. 14

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