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How to compost food scraps at home

How to Compost Food Scraps at Home – 6 Easy Tips

Each year, Australia wastes 7.6 million tonnes of food across the supply and consumption chain. That's equivalent to 312 kg of food waste per person, or 1 in 5 bags of groceries.

There are lots of small changes that you can make to reduce your food waste. Increasing home composting is one of the behavioural strategies discussed in the Australian Government’s National Food Waste Strategy: Halving Australia’s Food Waste by 2030.

Composting is not only great for the environment, it can help reduce your household waste significantly. Your kitchen scraps can do more than just clog up your green bin. You can turn them into fertiliser that you can use to help grow plants and keep soil healthy.

If you're new to composting and want to know what to do with food scraps, here are 6 easy tips for composting at home.

How to compost food scraps at home with waste from the kitchen

Ideas on how to compost food scraps at home

Make a basic home compost

Make a compost food waste pile on bare soil. This will allow beneficial organisms to aerate the compost. Next, lay twigs or straw to help with drainage. Then build layers of compost materials alternating moist and dry, with more carbon than nitrogen. A good rule of thumb is to use two thirds brown and one third green materials.

Green materials are your food scraps, lawn clippings and green leaves. Brown materials are things like coffee grounds, eggshells, paper bags, twigs, and brown leaves - the drier stuff.

Mix everything together, keep moist and cover them to hold moisture and heat. Turn your pile every few weeks to aerate it. This adds oxygen and speeds the process. You’ll know that it's ready for use when it has a rich brown colour and crumbles easily.

You'll need to learn what you can and can't compost. Used coffee grounds, for example, are compostable, but usually not the coffee capsule or packaging. Look out for brands of eco coffee with biodegradable pods and compostable coffee filters if you prefer filter coffee.

Collect the food scraps on your kitchen counter to add to your compost bin periodically. A well designed caddy like the BioBag MaxAir II Ventilated Bin is a good start up food scrap bin. It’s fully ventilated, dries out food waste quickly, and reduces kitchen smells.

How to compost food scraps at home

Compost food scraps in a Bokashi bucket

Bokashi, which is “fermented organic matter” in Japanese, is a compost fermentation method. It uses fermented material to eliminate odours, attract beneficial microbes, and decompose food scraps in a compost bucket. It dissolves food wastes with microbes to create a nutrient rich soil conditioner. The process leaves behind little or no greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also much quicker than composting. The end product is added to the garden or used to top up the compost pile.

Check Compost Revolution to see if your local council has discounts on home composting gear like Bokashi buckets.

Try a compost digester 

A Green Cone can compost food scraps of any kind. It's a solar powered unit designed to break down materials safely and cleanly. The waste is digested rather than composted, and is reduced to nutrient rich water. It encourages beneficial microbial growth through air circulated between inner and outer cones.

It's easy to set up and maintain. You don't even need to manually turn the waste, unlike in a traditional compost bin. Just make sure to place it in a sunny area in your home or garden.

How to compost food scraps at home with a worm farm

Start a worm farm

Make compost at home using just worms! Worms help break down food scraps into a rich fertiliser for your garden. They'll speed up the composting process, introduce great microbiology for your soil, and aerate and mix the compost ingredients for you.

Don't confuse compost bin worms with garden earthworms. You'll need something like tiger worms or red wigglers that live closer to the surface. They prefer moist conditions, and eat lots of ‘raw’ organic material. 

You can buy compost worms at your local hardware or garden centre. You’ll need 1,000 multiplied by the number of people in your house. They breed twice every couple of months, so you may end up with 20,000.

A worm composting bin is a great alternative to a traditional kitchen compost bin. It’s great for those with limited space. It’s also odourless and simple to operate. And if you're a bit squeamish about worms, don't worry - you can absolutely have a worm farm without ever needing to touch them!

Keep chooks in your yard

Chooks are hard working compost makers. They help turn the heap of compost regularly so that the composting process becomes faster. Just put them on top of a layer of straw and throw in food scraps. They’ll be able to mix and help turn the material into a resulting compost.

Don Burke of Burke’s Backyard shares how he makes compost in his chook pen:

“In an average compost heap, if it is not turned, the composting process takes around six to 12 months. A heap that is turned once a week can break down rapidly in six weeks or so. But who could be bothered? We all know that the extra oxygen that is available in a turned heap helps the composting process, but who has the time? The chooks do! And they have the inclination!”

The nitrogen content of chook poo (chicken manure) makes it an excellent compost activator. But you need to make sure that the poo is well composted. Raw chook poo can burn and even kill plants because of its high nitrogen (N) content. Composting reduces its ammonia (NH3) content, making it safe to use around plants, people, and pets.

How to compost food scraps at home with chooks in your backyard

Find a community compost if you don’t have a garden

Food scraps go into various types of waste collection services. In Australia, these services include school gardens and community composting hubs. These centres are for people living in cities without gardens or compost collection bins.

You can also connect to an online community for composting through ShareWaste. It’s an app that connects “people who wish to recycle their food scraps and other organics with their neighbours who are already composting, worm-farming, or keep farm animals.” It’s a fun way to divert organic material from landfills while gaining new friends.

The Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA) also has an online Composter Directory where you can search for a compost facility near you. These facilities generally accept organic waste from businesses and waste management companies.

You can do your bit for the community and collect your food scraps using compostable plastic bin liners or compost bags. These bin liners from BioBag, Biotuff and Onya are perfect for organic waste collection.

Composting food scraps is easy

Composting food scraps is practical as it’s environmentally sustainable. It also provides a low cost source of nutrients for your plants, garden, and even your community and local gardens.

We’ve covered some of the most popular composting methods that will help you get started on your journey. There are lots of other options, and even if you just try one, you'll be helping to reduce food waste. Remember, lots of people taking small steps adds up to a big difference.

Further reading

Degradable, Biodegradable And Compostable: What’s The Difference?

Sustainability for Kids: How to Raise Them with the Environment in Mind

Eco Coffee at Home: Your Guide to Organic Coffee, Plus Biodegradable and Reusable Coffee Pods

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