Community Composting Q&A
Ellessandra is Product Design Engineering student at Swinburne currently in her final year. She recently contacted us with some question on composting for a project she is working on that is aimed at reducing food waste from the home.
Here is a Q&A we did with Ellessandra on community composing in Chippendale.
Q: Can anyone in your area use the compost bins, do they have to sign up to use them?
A: Any one can use them, however they are encouraged to get trained up by our team of volunteers lead by our local sustainably coach Michael Mobbs http://sustainablechippendale.com/home/.
Q: What composting method do you use in your composting system?
Q: Why did you choose this method?
A: Our bins were donated to us.
Q: How long does it take for the food to break down into compost so that it can be used on the garden?
A: Six to eight weeks
Q: How much maintenance is involved e.g. shredding the food scraps, turning the compost, moving it from one pile to another, watering it, etc.?
A: Generally we spend about an hour a week on the compost bins, but people also care for them as they use them, so it's hard to be exact.
Q: How do you deal with inorganic waste being put into the compost?
A: Those who are using the bins and managing them pull out inorganic waste when they see it. It's not a big problem.
Q: Do you have a strategy to stop people from putting inorganic waste in the compost bins?
A: The signs we have on the bins work pretty well.
Q: Do you have any security on the compost bins so that only certain people can use it and to stop vandalism?
A: No we have had minimal vandalism
Q: What do you do with the compost when it is ready to use?
A: We spread it on the verge gardens and some of the gardeners used it on their own gardens as well.
Q: Have you had any vermin or pests in your compost?
A: Yes cockroaches have been an issue when we have had too much use of the bins.
Q: How do you plan to deal with pests?
A: Frequent bin management, getting the mix of carbon and nitrogen is key to zero pests. Stopping residents and cafes putting to much of the same waste in the bins eg, orange peels, coffee grounds. Balance is the key to a healthy compost. Also eucalyptus oil can help.
Q: Do you find your composting system is well received by people?
A: As a rough breakdown, 80% of people love it, 9% are indifferent and 1% of people have an issue with it. Out of the hundreds of email we receive a month less than 1 in 100 will be negative if at all. Normally it's that same people complaining over and over. So the actual number of individuals is much lower. Most complaints are about the aesthetics of the bins which is hard to change.
Q: Do people use the compost bins properly?
A: Most people put the correct waste in the bins, however it is much harder to get people to take than next step to understand the art of managing the condition of the bins and taking action to manage them.
Q: If not, do you think this is because of confusion, laziness or another reason?
A: All the compost bins have links to our web site (http://sustainablechippendale.com/) where people can find details on how to use the bins, we also offer training on composting from our team of volunteers lead by our local sustainably coach Michael Mobbs. So for those that want to know it's all there for them. I think it comes down more to a question of time & motivation. Also composting can be a little tough for those who are squeamish when it comes to getting a little dirty, this is certainly a barrier for some.
Q: Have you had any unforeseen problems with the composting system?
A: The biggest challenge with community composting on this scale is the ratio of bin managers vs users. We have been overwhelmed by the huge demand for composting in the community and we actually had to scale down the numbers of bins as we were getting far too many people using them vs volunteers to manage them. This is a great problem to have on one hand, as it shows that people want to do the right thing. However a lot of people people lack the time, motivation, and constitution required to spend the extra time it takes to learn how to manage a compost bin correctly and put that knowledge into practice.