Composting at School - A Practical Guide
6th May - 12 May 2018
Why do we need to reduce waste?
Approximately 50% of the rubbish Australians put in the everyday mixed-waste ‘garbage bin’ could be put to better use in the garden as compost and mulch or could be returned to agricultural land to improve soil quality. This is the main reasons we need to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill are to conserve our precious natural resources and to limit the environmental effects of landfills.
As well as taking up space in a landfill, organic waste is damaging to the environment when it breaks down inside a landfill, producing toxic leachate and methane gas. Leachate can damage waterways and aquatic life if it reaches local streams. Methane gas can cause dangerous fires within landfills and is also a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
By reducing and composting organic waste instead of burning or incinerating it we can also reduce air pollution, reduce odours and help to stop the release of greenhouse gases.
Better soil, Better life, Better future!
So why should we compost?
Around half of the waste we produce at home is organic generated in kitchen and garden. This waste can easily be composted.
It is similar situation at school. Each day food scraps and garden waste that could be composted at school are instead put in a rubbish bin and sent to a landfill. The composting process captures the nutrients of organic materials and returns them to the soil.
This is nature’s way of recycling.
What can you place in your Compost Bin?
Traditional composting uses food, garden and some paper waste. It is relatively easy and cheap to obtain, buy or construct compost bins. A large amount of compost can be produced. Most systems require manual turning.
- Grass clippings
- Tree prunings, dead flowers, weeds and leaves
- Food scraps (uncooked, excluding meat and dairy)
- Tea leaves, coffee grounds, egg shells, vacuum cleaner dust,
- Paper products (including torn paper, old newpapers, cardboard, egg cartons and paper towels)
- Purchase one from your local hardware store or contact your local council about where you can purchase compost bins.
- Think about where your compost bin will be located in your school. You’ll need to find somewhere outside that is easy to access but not too close to eating and outdoor play areas. After all, doing the right thing for our environment doesn’t always smell delighful.
- How will you get food scraps to the bin? Smaller bins that can be emptied into the compost at the end of the day are a good solution, as is a roster of ‘bin emptiers’ and ‘compost turners’ (this needs to be done every 4 weeks). It's a very important job and hopefully you will have plenty of volunteers.
- Filling your bin. Start with a thick layer of coarse material (around 15cm), such as twigs or mulch. This will act as drainage, and is a very important measure to avoid sludge. Then begin to fill your bin! Use a three layer system, starting with garden clippings and kitchen scraps. Top these with dry leaves and paper, and then sprinkle with water. Sprinkling soil or finished compost on top of food scraps will make a richer compost and help reduce odours.
- Maintenance. You need to be familiar with ‘aeration’. Aerate your compost heap weekly to avoid unpleasant stinkiness and methane by turning it with a garden fork. Or you can place garden stakes or pipes through the heap to allow air to travel through your compost heap. Or you can buy the very fancy Aerobin that requires no turning or mucking about.