Food loss and waste at farm-level

The rain outside has been relentless for the last 20 hours and is likely to go on well into the night, now accompanied by the groaning of the wind as we are passed by the eye of the storm. This is the after-effect of Cyclone Debbie which has coursed through North Queensland this week. Here in Brisbane flood alerts are in place, schools are closed, and people warned against unnecessary travel. I live on a hill, in an apartment, and have stayed inside all day. I know nothing of what is really going on out there, and the consequences of this weather on people, homes and livelihoods.

Yesterday I went to the farmer’s market in the city and noted the absence of three stalls that sell fruit and/or veg. I put this down to the cyclone, which has caused farming communities significant crop damage and losses. Today is usually the day I go to the community garden. We only planted seedlings a few weeks ago. Will any of these survive? In the grand scheme of things, our beds of salad plants and herbs are no significant loss, but it’s still food that would (and hopefully still will) be used to help sustain our community.

Our food system begins in the field. The first step in the journey to produce food for consumers is growing food. The links in the ‘farm to fork’ chain may be few (e.g. vegetables that you have grown yourself) or many (e.g. a highly-processed meat-based ready meal) but if this first step fails then, as consumers, we could go hungry. But, as farmers, much more is at stake.

Food wasted at farm-level is usually referred to as food loss. It is food that was originally intended for human consumption but does not make it that far due to natural disasters, disease, inefficiencies in infrastructure and logistics, and/or lack of knowledge, skills and technology. This is in comparison to food waste where food is consciously disposed of. Food loss and waste can occur pre- and post-harvest.

In developing countries, 40% of food loss/waste occurs at post-harvest and processing levels, compared to developed countries where the same amount of food is lost and wasted at retail and consumer levels. These losses early in the supply chain are traced back to financial, technical and managerial limitations and equates to lost incomes for small farmers and higher prices which penalise poor consumers.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) 2015 found that in developing countries the agriculture (which includes crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry) sector absorbs 22% of the economic impact caused by natural disasters. They recommend the need for more mainstream disaster risk reduction and resilience building, as well as the improved and systematic collection of data to better aid risk reduction. In comparison to the economic impact, humanitarian aid is small. More investment – not just in terms of money, but also specific training on everything from demand forecasting to marketing their product, and improved infrastructure, particularly in terms of refrigeration and storage is needed.

But the impact of food loss is not just experienced in developing countries. Supermarkets in the UK recently experienced a courgette shortage due to unusually cold and wet weather in Spain. Spanish growers also suffered with loss of lettuces, and other crops, and were unable to plant any more due to the weather. Food waste campaign groups such as Feedback and Love Food Hate Waste were quick with the message: buy seasonal produce and provided a glut of recipes with what to do with the elusive cauliflower.

Disease is also a significant contributor to food loss that can have just as wide-reaching consequences as natural disasters. The impacts of the foot and mouth crisis, which caused industry losses of more than £8 billion, in the UK in 2001 are still being felt by the British farming community, not least in the horrific memory of it. Lessons were learnt and farmer’s now have identification and tracking systems for their animals, contingency plans and advanced disease control technology. However, legislation regarding the disposal of food waste – particularly for use as animal feed – was introduced following the foot and mouth outbreak and campaigns like ‘The Pig Idea’ are calling for this to be changed in order to reduce the amount of food waste sent to landfill or for energy recovery.

In Queensland it seems Cyclone Debbie has brought mixed fortunes. Large losses in sugar cane are expected, although the extent of the loss cannot be seen until the June harvest. Farmers on the coast are expected to have experienced heavy losses, with those on the Whitsunday coast – an area considered north Australia’s food bowl – fearing entire crops lost and that it could be months before they’re able to grow again.  However, the heavy rain has been a blessing to many cattle producers and farmers in central Queensland following serious drought. Current predictions exceed $1 billion in damages, with fruit and vegetable farmers seeing between $100,000 and $2 million in individual losses. Natural disasters in Queensland are not uncommon and disaster resilience planning for agriculture is continuously being improved. Support and advice is on hand from the government, and other independent bodies, and volunteer agencies are also on hand to help with clean ups. How this event impacts consumers over the coming weeks and months remains to be seen.

 

 

Composting and waste reduction in the UK and Australia

Since moving to Australia I have taken on a couple of voluntary roles at a nearby community centre and garden run by the Australian Red Cross. One is as a community garden volunteer which, as well as general garden activities, includes planning and coordinating the garden and welcoming visitors and encouraging them to participate. The garden is also home to one of the community composting sites managed by Brisbane City Council and as a composting site volunteer I am responsible for its upkeep. I am loving my volunteer work. I have learnt so much more about gardening in such a short time, and I am able to put my composting knowledge into practice on a greater scale. But that brings me to my shortcomings: I’m in a new place with a very different climate, different potential pests, different legislation and initiatives with regard to waste reduction, and the use of different schools of thought about composting.

So I have asked myself the following questions:

How fast does the compost process take given higher temperatures?

Queensland has a sub-tropical climate and although has four seasons, like in the UK, winter here is comparable to a British summer. Using a cold composting method which requires little management and materials are added as and when, decomposition can take 6 to 12 months in the UK. At the community composting site here in Brisbane decomposition has taken approximately 4 months. This is not necessarily comparable as the bins receive a greater quantity of waste than a home composting bin. However, it does suggest that the process is significantly quicker.

What about snakes?

An inevitable question, of course, but interestingly it is not a subject that has arisen as yet at the composting site. I have been warned of spiders when pruning (‘if you see a spider, back off’), but not snakes! However, the first step for avoiding snakes in gardens and compost bins is to make them unattractive to things like rats which, as a food source, attract snakes. So, the rules are the same as in the UK: as with any pest, keep your bin/heap covered, attend to it regularly, avoid raw meat, cover food scraps with other materials, and place the bin on a fine layer of mesh.

35Popularity of worm farms?

I have noticed since being here that worm farms (wormeries) seem particularly popular, including the ‘worm swag’ as pictured. The advantages of these and compost tumblers (of which we have two in the community garden) are that they help avoid problems with pests due to being enclosed. Worm farms are also really good for apartment living given their size, enclosed nature, and the small quantity of worm castings that are produced. In comparison, I have not yet come across composting methods like the HotBin, Green Johanna and Green Cone that exist in the UK and enable people to compost things like cooked food waste that cannot go in a conventional compost bin.

preventionWaste reduction legislation – nationally and state-wide

UK waste reduction legislation is, at the moment, directed by the EU Waste Framework Directive. The Waste (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 are the country-specific rulings. These provide a definition of waste and include measures on waste collection and separation, recovery, landfill, and so on. The EU provides a hierarchy of waste management (with another one specific to food waste), which is an extension of the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ mantra that most people are familiar with. The EU also sets targets for waste reduction and waste to landfill.

In Queensland the relevant legislation is the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 and aims to:

  •  “promote waste avoidance and reduction, and resource recovery and efficiency actions;
  • reduce the consumption of natural resources and minimise the disposal of waste by encouraging waste avoidance and the recovery, re-use and recycling of waste;
  • minimise the overall impact of waste generation and disposal;
  • ensure a shared responsibility between government, business and industry and the community in waste management and resource recovery; and
  • support and implement national frameworks, objectives and priorities for waste management and resource recovery.”

The Act also outlines the ‘Waste and Resource Management Hierarchy’ as:

AVOID, REDUCE, REUSE, RECOVER, TREAT, DISPOSE.

Each state in Australia has their own individual act relating to management of waste and resources, but I have been unable to find anything specific to the country as a whole. That said, the measures being undertaken are very similar to Europe.

Food waste and other waste reduction targets

Targets in the UK include: recycling half of UK household waste by 2020; reduce waste to landfill to 35% of 1995 levels by 2020; and a 20% reduction in food and drink waste by 2025.

In Queensland, targets include: reduce general waste by 5% by 2024 and reduce waste to landfill by 15% of 2012 levels by 2024. Food waste actually seems to have a far more nationwide approach but targets are much more specific to individual businesses and industries, or with regard to zero to landfill, X% to charity, etc.

85732417_005219719-1I was also very happy to read this: The Queensland Government’s state-based ban on single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags (already banned in four other states), and Container Refund Scheme, will begin on 1 July 2018! Plastic bags have been irritating me since I got here. I didn’t realise quite how much I’d taken the effect of the UK plastic bag charge for granted. In the UK I had got used to shopkeepers asking if I would like a bag; here I have to be really quick to say ‘I’ve got my own bag!’

 

 

 

 

Leftover jacket potato pasties

My youngest is going through a stage of gulping down his dinner one day and not touching it the next, so I have been ending up with lots of untouched meals in the fridge, perfect for lunch the next day. His jacket potato with beans (he had managed to eat the cheese on top) was destined to be a potato cake, because that is usually what happens to leftover potato in my house. However, I had some sheets of puff pastry in the freezer that I had been wanting to use, and a hankering for cheese and onion pasties, so I tried something new!

20170310_121536.jpg

Ingredients:

1/2 cooked jacket potato

2tbsp baked beans (optional)

Grated cheese, to taste

1tbsp chopped onion

1 puff pastry sheet

Method:

Blend potato, beans, cheese and onion until smooth. Add seasoning and more cheese/onion if required.

Cut pastry sheet in half so you have two rectangles. Fill half of each rectangle with the mixture, remembering to leave a gap, and dampened the edges with milk/egg/water. Fold over the pastry and seal tightly. Score the top with a knife and place on an oiled tray. Bake at 200C for 20-30 minutes until golden.

I served the pasties with a higgledy-piggledy salad that made the most of half-eaten fruit that my children had forgotten about.

 

From farm to where?

I am not very good at remembering statistics. We have so many numbers to remember as it is. That the estimated annual food waste in the UK, according to WRAP (2016) is 10 million tonnes (60% of which is avoidable) and that this quantity is equivalent to £17 billion and 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions gets lost on me: I always have to check the details and even then I cannot grasp these numbers, all I understand is the enormity of them.

And of course, statistics change over time and depend on whether you are measuring on a local, national or global scale, so these factors need to be clearly stated. (My research has been predominantly UK-focused, and the limitations of this are apparent now I’m on the other side of the world!) Two different sources might also give different statistics: food waste is a complex problem after all and the definition of food waste and the ability to measure food waste lend in part to the problem.

We want to be able to measure food wasted as well as its economic, social and environmental impacts and the impacts our positive actions have on dealing with the problem. 

The statistics I prefer are the ones that are more visual and therefore  (to me at least) easier to get your head round. Yes, the numbers are big, but they are manageable. For example:

Globally, enough food is produced to feed the 1.5 times the population.

farm

But according to the FAO by 2050, based on predicted population, consumption and economic growth, food production needs to increase by 60%-70%. Therefore we not only need to improve our food systems so that current production meets population needs but also establish a food system that can feed more people.

Other statistics that I always find easy to remember are:

plan

  • The catering industry throws away the equivalent of 1 in 6 plates of food.  Imagine you are sitting in a restaurant with five friends. You all have your favourite dish in front of you. Then the waiter comes over, picks up your plate of food and chucks it in the bin.
  • An average UK family could save £60 a month on food through more efficient meal planning, education on how to use leftovers and more general awareness on the impacts of food waste.

These are just a few examples. Every day there is something on the news about food waste. Who is contributing to the problem. What somebody is doing to address the problem. Ideas range from simple to radical.  Blame is apportioned more ominously on some parties (arguably with good reason) but what we truly need to understand is that it is the system that is at fault and we – individual consumers, retailers, manufacturers, farmers, etc – are all a part of the system.

supply-chain

My current series of blog posts is going to address different areas of this system that both produces food waste and has the means to make positive reductions and preventions of food waste. This link is for a 59 second video that I produced for my Masters degree which illustrates where food is wasted, the impacts of food waste, and the positive changes that are taking place. It is by no means exhaustive but I will expand on this as the weeks progress.

 

Community composting

Ever since I started composting I’ve been fascinated by the idea, and practice, of community composting. I think a big reason from this was not so much that I lived in an urban area with minimal space for composting, but that composting -or at least the motivation to start composting – scared me. It seemed a lot of work to get started – to buy or make a bin, create some space for it, learn what I could and could not put in it and then teach my family what they could and could not put in it (still a never-ending task).

At the same time I was volunteering at a community centre. The centre was looking to tidy up and develop their composting site and overall garden and I helped out a bit with this. Sorting through the compost bins showed two things:

* people have good intentions when it comes to composting their food waste

* people do not fully understand what can and cannot be composted

Although I had brainwaves of ideas about expanding the site so members of the public could also use it, I never suggested them.

Imagine it: local residents can fill a caddy with their kitchen scraps and then take it to the community garden and empty it into their bins. When the organic matter had broken down and the compost has matured residents, if they can use it, can collect free bags of compost to use on their own gardens and the rest can be used on the community garden or even sold elsewhere to make a bit of money for the community centre.

All sounds great, doesn’t it? But unfortunately it doesn’t,  and can’t always, work like that.

Imagine someone puts things into the bin that shouldn’t be there. Cooked food or raw meat that attract vermin. Dog faeces or cat litter which spread disease. The associated risks with community composting mean that it is covered by legislation.

In the UK community composting is covered by the ‘Waste exemption: T23 aerobic composting and associated prior treatments’. Generally, compost can only be used on the site where it is produced, but community composting groups are able to apply for an exemption so long as the quantity of waste stored/treated is under 60 tonnes. This enables residents to bring their waste to a centralised site and for compost to be used on local gardens, although council health and safety officers usually recommend compost be used on the site where it is produced to keep things simple. Wormeries/worm farms also need to be declared, and depending on the quantities might also be covered by the Animal By-Products regulations which came about following the foot and mouth outbreak. Allotments and schools are two other examples of sites which would need to apply for an exemption certificate.

20170214_092503

Two months ago I moved to Brisbane, Australia. Prior to moving I was searching for community gardens as this was something I wanted to get involved in, and my search led me to Brisbane City Council’s community composting scheme and the discovery that there are currently four community composting sites in Brisbane. It didn’t take me ten seconds to sign up for the scheme, select what would be my local site, and then once I had arrived in Brisbane collect my free compost caddy! Now every week after dropping my son at school I walk the twenty minutes to the compost site to empty my caddy, easy as that!

20170109_122206

The scheme is still in its infancy and has only been running since mid-October last year. There are four sites located at community gardens throughout Brisbane – Jeays Street in Bowen Hills, Kelvin Grove, Nundah, and The Gap – with 279 residents currently participating in total (the spread across each site is fairly even). The council will be opening more sites across the city in a staged process, but it is clear that the scheme is going well so far – Jeays Street community garden has recently added another bin to their site. Over half of the Jeays Street site users live within 1km, and 14% within 2km, although the furthest someone travels is 17km! Presumably they work locally but this does suggest that there is the demand for sites elsewhere in the city.

20170227_123951.jpgThe maintenance of the composting sites are the responsibility of volunteers, although the council is on hand if any extra tools, bins, signage, etc., are needed, and they also run composting workshops. I have been to the composting site today to meet the program officer, one of the volunteers, and the community engagement officer at the community centre so that I can also get involved with this. Three of the compost bins at the site are ready to be used, and the compost is going to be spread on the raised beds (which have just been cleared) at the community garden so we can get planting! The community engagement officer has not long started and is very keen to develop the garden as it has been somewhat neglected.

So, here begins the next stage of my composting journey!

 

 

 

 

Apple biscuits

Whenever I make a crumble I always make the topping in bulk so weasy have enough to last a few days (I’m not great when it comes to puddings so this is about as adventurous and work-intensive as it gets). Sometimes though I have too much topping leftover relative to fruit. No big deal, I’ll just put a bit more on  (or eat it raw) but it does make for a dense and less crumblier crumble.

Not this time! I guess I was having a biscuit craving (I do have a weakness when it comes to biscuits) but I thought ‘why not make a few biscuits?’ After all, I was already half-way there.  The boys leapt at the idea and Harry then requested apple biscuits. I remembered vaguely reading an apple biscuit recipe where they lay slices on top and we had a half-eaten apple in the fridge so I thought I’d give it a go.

Rather than binding the already rubbed in mixture with water or egg, I used the leftover liquid from my chickpeas that I’d been storing in the fridge. It had congealed  (sounds appetising, I know) so was very egg-like in consistency. The liquid is called aquafaba and is becoming a popular egg replacer  (around 3tbsp = 1 egg). The liquid from any pulse could be used but chickpeas,  followed by other white beans (e.g. butter beans,  cannelini beans) are supposed to have the best results. I’d used a dairy-free spread in the crumble mix so these biscuits are both dairy-free and vegan-friendly.

Ingredients for crumble topping 
8oz flour

4oz butter (I used an olive oil spread)

2oz sugar (I used raw granulated sugar)

Handful of oats

1tsp ginger or cinnamon

Ingredients for biscuits

Leftover crumble mix

Aquafaba  (or water)

Thin slices of apple (I used a vegetable peeler to do this – I think it would be good to dry them out a bit first so the top of the biscuits don’t get too soggy.

Sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar

Rub all the icrumble ingredients together. After you’ve made your crumble take whatever is leftover and add enough aquafaba to bind it into a soft dough. Either roll and cut out your biscuits or just place flattened balls on a greased tray. Lay apple slices over the top and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 180c for approximately 15 minutes.

Leftover food stuff used:

Apple * aquafaba * crumble mix

World Food Day

Yesterday was ‘World Food Day’, a day celebrated each year to mark the foundation of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in 1945. The day itself was established in 1979 and since 1981 it has adopted a different theme each year so as to highlight where action is needed and provide a common focus for governments, businesses, NGOs, ministries, universities, campaign groups, individuals, and so on. The themes have included things like food security, rural poverty, women in agriculture, nutrition, and sustainable food systems. 2016’s theme is climate change: ‘Climate is changing: Food and agriculture must too’.

I celebrated ‘World Food Day’ a little early by attending not one but two events on Saturday which are both very close to my heart. One of these events highlights the significant problem that we have with food waste, and the other promotes slow food. Despite these differences, both have one thing in common: the notion that food is for everyone and should be shared and enjoyed together. How this relates to 2016’s theme for World Food Day I will come back to at the end of this post, but first I would like to tell you a bit about both of these events.

Utilise Social Kitchen

Utilise Social Kitchen is a social enterprise set up by an Enactus team at Loughborough University in February 2016. It is part of the Real Junk Food Project network which uses perfectly edible food that supermarkets and other commercial businesses would have otherwise thrown away to produce hearty meals for the community.

The Social Kitchen takes place at Fearon Hall in Loughborough, everyone is welcome, and payment for the meals is on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis whereby you pay what you think the meal is worth, or indeed what you can afford. Initially every three weeks, from November the Social Kitchen will take place each Saturday between 12.00 and 13.30.

This Saturday, Fearon Hall celebrated ‘Social Saturday’ and the Social Kitchen was joined by Action volunteers from Loughborough University, and two local social enterprises. Our local MP even stopped by for a meal. The next cafe is on the 22nd October alongside a talk by Transition Loughborough about Potato Day, and on the 29th, in the lead up to Halloween, Utilise are running a special ‘Pumpkin Rescue’ event in collaboration with Hubbub and Love Food Hate Waste.

Loughborough University ‘Fruit Routes’

The Fruit Routes were developed by a local artist, Anne-Marie Culhane, and are managed by the sustainability team at Loughborough University as part of their ‘Eat Your Campus’ project. In 2012 76 trees, 25 fruit bushes and 285 hedgerow whips were planted around campus. Many of these are now coming into their own and one of the key events each year is the autumn apple harvest. Students, staff, the children at the campus nursery, and people from the local community all join in harvesting and sharing the apples. The week ends with a guided tour of the fruit routes, various apple-related events, apple pressing by Transition Loughborough, and the Great Apple Bake-Off. Year round anyone is free to forage the fruit routes for things like apples, pears, cherries, apricots, almonds and more!

Climate is changing: Food and agriculture must too.

Food waste is a global issue and one that is currently dominating the media. It has social, economic and environmental connotations. It is not right to say we need more land to feed the growing world population when an estimated 30-50% of food produced is wasted annually, over 700 million people are classified obese, and  925 million people worldwide are undernourished. Rather, it is better to look at each stage of the supply chain and see where and why things are going wrong. The pressure of consumption has depleted the nutrients in the land so that many areas have very few harvests left in them, which means an ever-increasing reliance on chemical fertilisers. Dumping food waste in landfill causes not just methane, a greenhouse gas that is a significant contributor to global warming, but also contamination of groundwaters and soil, and pollution of the local environment.  If food is wasted it is vital to direct this away from landfill and through more sustainable channels where it’s value and energy can be used, if not by humans, then by animals or to produce power or nutrients that can be returned to the earth.

Slow food is food that has been prepared with care using local, high-quality, seasonal ingredients. The benefits of this for combating climate change are vast: for example, local food = less transport = less pollution and need for fuel; and seasonal = less resource intensive farming to grow things out of season, or less air miles to transport produce from overseas. Slow food also tries to save and reintroduce endangered food back to their local environments. One particularly important element, to me at least, is that projects like the Fruit Routes, and others around the country that follow similar ideas and principles, teach people how to enjoy food and appreciate where it comes from and what it went through to get onto their plate. And hopefully this understanding and awareness will ensure it fills their stomachs and not their bins.

Macaroni cheese potato skins

There is something about using up leftovers that makes great comfort food. Perhaps it is that feeling of ‘decluttering’ or the fact that you are not letting anything go to waste; perhaps it is that element of creativity and imagination that takes you into places less travelled, like hopping on a random train or diving into a good book. Perhaps it is because the highest proportion of leftovers tends to be carbs like bread, rice, pasta and potatoes and these foods often form the cushiony basis of great comfort food.

When it comes to comfort food, macaroni cheese and potato skins (with lashings of bacon and cheese) definitely make the list, alongside bangers (sausages) and mash with baked beans. So for me at least this dish was an inspiration! And it not only used up leftovers, but it used up leftover leftovers (from work). In the instance of the macaroni cheese triple leftovers as this was Charlie’s portion from the Social Kitchen where they use food that would have otherwise go to waste to make meals (Charlie was asleep and didn’t then want food when he woke up).

20160822_210153.jpgIngredients:

Cooked jacket potatoes

Hunter’s chicken (chicken wrapped in bacon and cheese in BBQ sauce)

Macaroni cheese

Dash of milk

Handful of spinach

Parmesan

Method:

Scoop out the potato (save this for something like fish cakes or to thicken a soup). Chop the chicken and mix with the macaroni cheese, spinach and enough milk to rehydrate the macaroni cheese. Fill the potato skins with this mixture and grate parmesan on top. Bake at about 200C until golden and heated through (about 20 minutes). Serve with some tabasco, sour cream or a sprinkling of herbs.

 

Summer fruit pavlova 

I usually try to set a theme for whenever I’m off with my son during school holidays but I had no inspiration this time.  However we seemed to set a theme regardless: fruit picking. Monday was the fruit farm for strawberries and raspberries. Tuesday was early blackberry picking (and a surprise gift of cherries from a colleague’s cherry tree). Wednesday was a lovely walk around the university’s fruit route.

So what to do with a glut of fruit? Summer and berries just called out pavlova to me. The only problem with pavlova is it is too pretty to cut…

wp-1470480543842.jpg

Meringue:

2 egg whites

4oz sugar

1tsp cornflour

Whisk egg whites until firm then add sugar and cornflour in a thin stream until combined. Spread onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper in a circle, making sure the edges are thicker than the centre. Bake in the oven at 150C for between 45 minutes and an hour. Turn off the oven and leave to cool in the oven with the door ajar.

The Filling:

Creme fraiche (a few tablespoons)

Icing sugar (sweeten to taste)

Selection of fruit (in our case: strawberries, raspberries, cherries and blackberries)

A few sprigs of mint

Mix the creme fraiche with enough icing sugar for your taste. Spread over the cooled meringue. Distribute the fruit on top and finish with some mint leaves.

Food stuff used up:

Creme fraiche * Eggs * Fruit

Tips:

Meringues only use egg whites so always make sure you have a recipe in mind to use up the egg yolks so that they don’t go to waste. I was making egg-fried rice the next night so I used them in that.

Egg whites and egg yolks can also both be frozen once separated (although I have never tried it) so if you don’t plan on using the egg yolks immediately then this is a good idea.

 

 

Super-composting bins

My last composting post discussed the pros and cons of non-traditional compost bins that give you the ability to compost cooked food waste. Some of these methods are particularly great if you are tight on space but the problem I find is that they don’t tick all the boxes and that limited space might eventually become overcrowded because, maybe I’ll try a wormery out next, and I really do need a green cone,  and I’m sure I can dig up a few paving stones and create my own trench (just don’t tell the folks at the property management company), not to mention the pre-existing bog-standard composting bin that’s hidden in the corner of my garden nor the two bokashi bins in my kitchen… It’s not like composting is a bad thing to get addicted to,  but you do need to be practical. Time, money, space and available materials/waste are all things to consider.

The two big names in all-encompassing super-composting bins are the HotBin and Green Johanna. Feedback from fellow Master Composters tends to favour Green Johanna but given these were heavily subsidised by the council a few years back I’m not sure this is a fair argument as the price differential would have been substantial.

Both bins are forms of hot composting which means that you will get compost far quicker than with traditional bins – in as little as 12 weeks as opposed to 6-12 months with cold composting (the HotBin suggests it can produce compost in just 30-90 days but small print adds that it will mulch within 30 days and provide rich compost by 90 days). Hot composting also means that you can add things like perennial weeds that do not always rot down fully in traditional bins and would then regrow.

14494674624_4f5abb4f77_zHotBin 

The price for this bin (through the actual company) is £165-£185 depending on whether you want the added extras. You can fill it with garden waste, kitchen peelings and all other food waste, including bones.

It is a 200l unit made from 100% recycable materials, and looks very much like a black dustbin  – in other words, not very attractive but at least it will match. To keep the bin hot it needs about 5kg of waste each week (average household food waste in 2009 according to WRAP was about 6kg) and it is also necessary to add a bulking agent to wet ingredients to ensure aeration. There is a temperature gauge supplied to make sure you’re reaching the necessary internal temperature. It is user-friendly on any surface and throughout the year.

Great if you produce a lot of waste and want readily available compost, perhaps a tad too technical for someone like me who (both with composting and gardening) likes to chuck things in, cross my fingers, and let nature do its job.

16408910286_8ac3f62640_z (1)Green Johanna 

Including a winter jacket for when temperatureshe fall below 5C this bin costs £149.95 through Green Green Systems, which also sell Green Cones.

The Green Johanna is as versatile as the HotBin although not so good if you have a lot of garden waste as it recommends two layers of food waste to one layer of garden waste. It does not come as a complete unit so some setting up is required and it does require the occasional stirring but nothing too strenuous. It produces compost in about 6 months, perhaps quicker as I have heard someone describe it as never getting full.

The manufacturers recommend a shady spot on flat grass or soil although I have seen them used on patio as well with no issues. What I like about this bin is that it is much like the traditional dalek type bin except it accepts all food waste with the same degree of simplicity and no extra bins or gadgets.

This concludes my series of posts about different types of compost bins.

Which type of bin do you use? Which bins interest you most? Why?