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Composting Organic Matter

Composting is an easy way to recycle your garden and kitchen rubbish, and it is a critical step in reducing the volume of waste needlessly sent to landfills for disposal. It provides a useful means of transforming biodegradable waste, such as fruit, vegetables, teabags and garden waste, into a product that can improve soil structure and nutrient levels.

It’s easy to learn how to compost and when you consider that 32% of household waste and 21% of commercial waste is biodegradable, getting a compost bin could be the best thing you ever do for the environment.

Composting turns organic household waste such as teabags or fruit and vegetable peelings into a valuable product for your garden and can reduce the amount of household waste you send to landfill by almost 33%.

If you have a garden, composting is easy and takes up very little time or space.

To compost waste you need to:
1.Get a compost bin or build a compost heap
2.Install your compost bin
3.Use your compost bin

WHAT YOU NEED TO START COMPOSTING

You can take part in composting by doing it yourself, by participating in community-level composting initiatives or by using centralised facilities.

To do it yourself you need to:

  1. Get a compost bin or build a compost heap
    Compost bins are available from your nearest garden centre or your local authority. The cost varies from area to area but generally ranges from €25 – €35. Most local authorities require you to order your compost bin in advance by contacting their Environment Section. See our useful contacts list for details.
  2. Install your compost bin
    Choose a convenient place in your garden for your compost bin or heap. The spot should be not too sunny, and the soil should be free draining. This will ensure your compost will be moist but well-aerated and will encourage insect activity and ultimately better compost. Locate the compost bin or heap in a position that is convenient to your house — make using it easy for yourself.

MAKE THE MOST OF COMPOSTING

Separate your organic kitchen waste and garden waste from all other waste put it in your compost bin and mix it with a garden fork at least once every two weeks.

Getting a balance between green and brown waste is essential. A good mix of browns and greens achieves the best balance and also helps with the aeration and amount of water in the pile. Too much of one or the other and you won’t make good compost.

Browns

‘Browns’ are dry and dead plant materials such as straw, dry brown weeds, autumn leaves, and wood chips or sawdust.

Greens

‘Greens’ are fresh (and often green) plant materials such as green weeds from the garden, kitchen fruit and vegetable scraps, green leaves, coffee grounds and tea bags, fresh horse manure, etc.

For best results place the ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ in alternate layers about ten inches thick.

WHAT YOU CAN COMPOST

Green Brown
Fruit, vegetables (cooked or uncooked) Kitchen paper
Bread, pasta and rice Sawdust and wood shavings
Tea bags and coffee Straw
Garden waste Paper
Leaves Wood
Weeds (not weed seeds) Twigs and branches (cut into pieces)
Dead plants and flowers Crushed egg shells
Branches and twigs
Grass and hedge cuttings

WHAT NOT TO COMPOST

Why it can’t be composted
Raw and cooked meat, bones Attracts pests
Poultry and fish Attracts pests
Dairy Products Attracts pests
Greasy, oily food such as mayonnaise or butter Attracts pests and decompose slowly
Dog and cat litter May contain pathogens (disease causing organisms)
Non-biodegrable materials
(plastics, glass, metals)
Will not decompose
Glossy papers and magazines The glossy coating will not decompose
Weed seeds Spreads weeds
Diseased plant material Danger of spreading disease to other plants
Garden waste recently sprayed with pesticide Chemicals need time for thorough decomposition
Sawdust and wood shavings from treated wood Chemicals need time for thorough decomposition
Disposable nappies, used paper tissue Could potentially contain pathogens (disease causing organisms)

THE FINISHED PRODUCT

Compost is ready when it becomes dark, crumbly and uniform in texture, usually in about 1 year. Use your compost as mulch around plants, as a top dressing over your lawn to fertilise the soil or as a soil improver in vegetable or flower beds.

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