25 January 2010

Chris the compost pile grouch

2004 saw the introduction of the Recycle Now home composting scheme, a subsidised drive part funded by WRAP and local authorities to get 1.6 million British households composting their green and brown waste at home.

Reasons which are either good for the environment, good for the taxpayer, or both abound; to ease the burden on Google I've dug out a few of the big ones for you.
  • The main environmental threat from biowaste is the production of methane in landfills, which accounted for some 3% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-15 in 1995. The Landfill Directive 1999/31/EC obliges Member States to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste that they landfill to 35% of 1995 levels by 2016, which will significantly reduce the problem. The Commission's priority is to ensure that Member States comply with this legal requirement fully and on time. (Source: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/compost/index.htm)
  • Under Waste Strategy 2000, statutory targets for recycling and composting were set for local authorities in England for 2003/04 and 2005/06. England has successfully met and exceeded its 17% target for 2003/04 and our current recycling rates for 2004/05 indicate that we are on target to meet the 25% target of household waste to be recycled or composted by 2005/06.

    As part of the review of England's Waste Strategy, the Government is proposing to increase those statutory targets to 40% by 2010, 45% by 2015 and 50% by 2020. Under the EU Landfill Directive, the UK also has to meet targets for the reduction of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill. (Source: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/topics/compost/index.htm)
  • Landfill tax is charged on anything that goes to landfill, rates for 2009/2010 stand at £40/ton. (Source: http://www.defra.gov.uk/ENVIRONMENT/waste/topics/index.htm)
So, recycling is good, landfill is bad. We all know that.

But what to do if you live in a flat, the council doesn't offer you a green waste collection and your only outside space is made of metal and 30 feet up in the air?

Unsurprisingly, there's some crap for that.

Crap is perhaps a little harsh, but most composting solutions offered through the scheme or from your local garden centre involve plastic bins (made of oil, never degrade and use a good chunk of energy to produce and then recycle) which kind of takes away the warm fuzzy feeling that we all like to get whilst doing something good for the environment (come on, admit it, you love that fuzzy feeling).

The offending/enabling item in question is a bran based Bokashi setup, capable of composting fruit/veg/meat/fish/dairy waste, that includes 2 counter-top bins with taps on the bottom of them, a little scoop and a kilo of Bokashi Bran available for £25.

This setup turns all your kitchen waste into liquid compost, 18 litres per bin, of liquid compost., per month.

We now know that it is possible to compost on a balcony, but is it a good idea?

If you don't have use for 18 litres a month of liquid compost, probably not. And given that in the last 6 months of 2009 I used 7 litres of organic liquid compost between 12 lettuce, 4 spinach plants, 8 strawberry plants, a large tomato plant, 2 sweet and 2 chilli pepper plants you may struggle...unless you have a very large roof terrace, or plants with the eating habits of a heavyweight boxer.

I'm entirely sure that fellow balcony gardeners are/were composting and would love to hear your stories of success or failure.

In the mean time, you'll be able to find me sat in my trash can, grumbling over my waste kitchen scraps.

Now leave me alone and get lost!


  1. hi chris,

    oi'm thinkin of getting going on composting, and also setting out to grow a few basic herbs and veg in my shady garden. have you got any tips on what to grow, firstly, and secondly, a recommendation on a good composter? i've a courtayard garden - fairly small - and aesthetically much prefer the wooden slatted ones but would like to hear what you think. thanks!

  2. Hi Ellie,

    Love the saladclub website, absoloutely awesome idea...nice veg plot too.

    Let me start by saying that I am by absoloutely no means an expert in the field (groan) and have only spent 7 months so far, "trying not to kill things"

    The most sucessful and easy to grow crops for me have been lettuce varieties...I'm trying to be organic and can't resist the temptation to buy things in posh packets from Prince Charles - so ended up with 2 of the 3 Duchy Originals varieties, "Dynamite" & "delight" both of which grew well, with minimum fuss - these were harvested leaf by leaf as an when I needed them, so continued to regrow through the summer.

    Spinach is also easy to grow, but does require some TLC or it just wilts and turns into a slimy green mess.

    Everything else so far has been "bought" so I haven't had to do the tricky bits, but just keep things watered and fed.

    Plans for this year are for tomatoes, carrots, garlic, shallots, 3 lettuce varieties and maybe some potatoes.

    Composting is new territory to me, my only experiences being:

    a) building a 2 section bin out of old pallets for my mum and dad.

    b) filling said construction with leaves that I had raked up from their lawn.

    If you have some time/patience/blaging skills and a hammer/nails I would reccomend BYO from pallets - lots of companies on industrial esstates have stacks of them next to the bins which they are more than willing to let you take away (just ask first...I am not encouraging bin/skip raiding no matter how much fun it may be!).

    http://www.recyclenow.com/home_composting/ has some great information on where to site a bin and what can and can't go into it.

    Anything else just ask, please keep checking back and tell your friends!