This decision along with the visit to the green waste processing plant when doing my Master Composter training has focused my thoughts on this subject. On one hand it can be argued that the collection of green waste by Local Authorities makes it easy for people not to have to think about home composting, and on the other that this service means that people who would otherwise have put green waste in their household waste bin are now involved in composting, albeit on an industrial scale.
There is variation between councils as to what can be put in the brown/green bin. Where my daughter lives all food waste and garden waste can be disposed of in the brown bin. This is because the plant where the waste is processed uses extremely high temperatures to help the composting process. My council will collect garden waste and raw vegetable waste and clean natural animal bedding, but cooked food and bread can not be included.
Over the past year or so I have been increasingly aware of the food that we waste. I never used to give it much thought, because nearly everything went into the compost bin, but I now think that if we do not start with the first R: Reduce, and put all our energies into the second two: Reuse and Recycle, then we are missing out on addressing the key issue of our over-consumption. I do think that the ready ability of green waste collection to collect some or all of our food waste could appease our conciences without making us think about why we are generating the waste in the first place. Home composting could be said to increase our awareness by keeping the recycling of our waste extremely close to home - in our own back yards in most cases.
One of the shocking things about the visit to the municipal green waste collection depot was just what ends up in the brown/green bins - most significantly a huge amount of plastic. The team at the plant do their best to pull most of this out, but inevitably some finishes up in the end product, and is effectively shredded down so much that it becomes invisible. It would certainly make me think again about buying any of the soil improver to use anywhere where I was going to grow anything that would be eaten.
So the question I have been asking myself is "should I stop using my brown bin?" and instead home compost 100% of the green waste that we produce. As a household of vegetarians with a mainly dairy free diet, I must admit that I have never had any problems home composting our cooked food waste as well as any peelings etc. However, our garden is modest in size and it is the woody prunings that I would find the most challengeing to manage in my home composting system.
This morning I pruned back an extremely overgrown and thorny rose bush and a beech hedge that had not been pruned for the last two or three years. Whilst I keep the chunky stems back to use for stakes, and some of the sturdier bits to use as pea sticks, some of the whippy growth I put in the brown bin. If I'd had a garden shredder to hand, I would have shredded a large proportion of this, and would have then used it as a mulch or added it to the compost bin. This, I think is the main advantage of the large scale collection and composting that Council collections enable. Where we do not have the capacity to Reduce and Reuse, and we cannot Recycle the bulkier waste at home, then our Local Authorities have a role in helping us to still avoid landfill or driving to a local waste site. In Suffolk all household waste that is collected is now incinerated to rpoduce energy, but apparently the inclusion of food and green waste impairs the efficiency of the operation.
|My thorny and woody prunings in the brown bin|