Start composting your organic waste

Start composting your organic waste

CLAIRE RENCKEN examines the merits of composting organic waste and finds tips on how to do so

Towards the end of last year, The Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) released a statement saying we need to make every effort to divert waste from landfill sites.

Stuart Gower-Jackson, a member of the IWMSA, says, “When organic waste breaks down in landfills, it produces methane gas, a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. There are numerous benefits of composting organic waste as it produces mulch, soil amendments, organic fertilisers and blended products that can assist in saving costs such as chemical fertilisers.”

Organic waste suitable for composting includes garden waste such as grass, leaves, plants, branches and tree trunks. General food and wood waste can also be included, as well as straw, manure, mulch, paper-processing sludge and non-synthetic textiles.

Materials that are not suitable for composting include hazardous waste such as cleaning products, pesticides, broken glass, medicine and treated timber. Painted wood and recyclable materials (glass, metal, aluminium, paper, plastics and cardboard) are also not suitable for composting.

Prof. Suzan Oelofse, president of the IWSMA, says, “Composting of organic waste is relatively simple and we encourage residents to set up their own composting system at home.” She indicates that it usually takes up to a year for the composting heap to fully decompose, with little turning and effort.

She also gives some tips on how to start your own composting heap at home:

1. Set out an area in your yard: The size should be approximately one cubic metre.

2. Start mixing your waste: Mix two parts of brown matter (dry leaves, small twigs, straw) with one part of green (grass clippings, food waste).

3. Make large pieces smaller: Cut or break any twigs and large pieces of fruit and vegetable waste so that materials can break down faster.

4. Add water: Water your compost to keep it moist, but not saturated.

5. Turn your compost: Compost needs air. Turning the compost will help to break it down and will prevent it from smelling unpleasant.

6. Rich soil: When the compost is ready, it should look and smell like rich soil. Use finished compost to feed your garden, flowers, potted plants and lawn.

“Composting is a wonderful way to keep soil fertile and helps reduce waste sent to landfill sites. We encourage everyone to start their composting garden,” concludes Oelofse.

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