The Number 1 Way to Drastically Reduce Your Landfill

”Do what you do until you know better and then, when you know better, do better”. This would have to be up there as one of my most favourite quotes, and its one that I really try to live my entire life by. 

Before I knew better, my family of five would be running a large bag of rubbish out to the wheelie bin almost every day… ugghh... I cringe just thinking about it and dread to wonder how many kilos of waste we were sending to landfill each week.

These days, while we still have plenty of room for improvement, I’m happy to say that only one bag of rubbish makes its way to the wheelie bin each week (often only half full) and in terms of weight, over the last ten weeks we are averaging about 1.6kg a week. (Like I said, there’s plenty of room for improvement but considering what it was we have come a long way!)

There are so many different things you can start or stop doing to reduce your waste and honestly, it can get to a point where you are so bogged down with different information that it all just feels too hard and you never end up doing anything. But if you really want to reduce your waste both QUICKLY and DRAMATICALLY, the number one thing you need to do is START COMPOSTING!

According to Oz Harvest, the Government estimates food waste costs the Australian economy over $20 billion each year with over five million tonnes of food ending up in landfill. That’s enough to fill 9,000 Olympic sized swimming pools! Per household, it’s estimated that one in every five shopping bags bought home will end up in the bin with 35% of the average household bin being food waste - costing families upwards of $3,800 every year!

Composting is the perfect example of where information overload can make it all seem to hard and scary! It literally took me over a year to get my compost going because I wanted to do my research and make sure I was going to get the composter that would best suit my family but the more I researched… the more confused I got!

Round bins, square bins, tumblers, open enclosures, in ground, above ground, inside, outside… my goodness… so many options! And then the rules… it can’t be too wet and it can’t be too dry and you can compost this but you can’t compost that and you need to make sure you have your carbon and nitrogen mix right... wholly cow, I ended up convinced that one needed a science degree just to deal with the vegetable scraps from the kitchen!

Eventually I just took the plunge and hubby and I spent an afternoon in the yard creating a three-bay compost area out of leftover bits and pieces from old projects and some pallets from his workshop. We went this way because we had the space (in all honestly its probably a tad too big and we could have easily just had two smaller bays) and because we both figured if I ‘failed’ at composting at least we hadn’t spent a lot of money!

And the good news? I haven’t failed... because you can’t really get it wrong!

So, making it as simply as possible, here’s what you need to know to compost:

Add stuff and turn every now and then. Once you pile is high enough or your bin is full you stop adding and keep turning and eventually you will be left with nutrient rich compost! Yep, it really is that simple!

Ok, maybe I’ve simplified it too much now which can be just as scary, so here’s some more info:

  • Everything that goes in your compost is either considered BROWN (Carbon) or GREEN (Nitrogen).

  • Apparently, the mix should roughly be three or four parts brown to one part green. However, it really doesn’t have to be exact and if it starts going a little haywire (too wet, too dry, smelly) it’s easily fixed.

  • Hit your pile with the back of a shovel. If dust comes off, then your pile is too dry. Give it a spray with the hose!

  • If your compost pile starts to smell, it’s probably too wet. Add more brown.

  • If stuff is taking a really long time to breakdown, your pile might not be getting hot enough or you might not be turning enough. Add some more green to it and turn it a bit more!

  • Turn or don’t turn. It’s no big deal because the decomposing process is going to happen regardless, however, the more you turn, the quicker you will get compost.

  • The smaller you chop stuff the quicker it can break down and the quicker you will get compost.

  • It’s recommended to leave meat and dairy out. Not because they can’t be composted, but because they do take longer to decompose and are pretty much guaranteed to smell bad and attract flies and rodents!

  • Depending on where you live, how big your compost heap is and how often you turn it, creating ready to go compost can take anything from a couple of months to a year…

  • Compost is ready or ‘finished’ when it looks, feels and smells like rich, dark earth rather than rotting vegetables. In other words, it should be dark brown, crumbly and smell like earth with none of the original ingredients recognisable.

  • You may still see sticks, roots, corn cobs and avocado pits in your compost because these do take a very long time to break down (especially if you haven’t chopped them up) These can be plucked or sifted from the compost and tossed into the next pile.

Honestly, it’s pretty easy to see if your compost is ready, but if you are still really unsure there are a couple of tests you can do:

  1. Place a small amount in a sealed container then put in a dark place for a few days. When you open the container, the sample should smell the same as it did before. If it smells worse, your compost needs more time.

  2. Pop some compost in a container and plant some radish seeds in it. The seeds should germinate in a few days. If they don’t the compost isn’t ready. If the seeds germinate but the leaves are yellow, the compost isn’t ready. If the seeds germinate and the leaves are a nice definite green… the compost is ready!

Alright… now you’ve reduced your landfill waste significantly (massive high five to you!) and you’ve created some lovely compost… but umm, now what do you do with it? Here’s some ideas:

  • Make potting mix. For seeds, mix one part compost to three parts soil. For seedlings that already have roots or for transplanting plants the mix can be one part compost to two parts soil.

  • Nourish your established houseplants. If there is room, just add to the top of the pot. If not, shovel out the top layer of dirt and replace it with compost.

  • Dig it through your garden beds. It’s a great amendment for both sandy and clay soils.

  • Top-dress gardens, trees and the lawn. Add a layer, spread it out and water it in.

  • Grow some food. While straight compost can be a little strong for most, some plants like tomatoes and pumpkins will grow quiet well.

  • Share it around with neighbours, schools or community gardens

I’d love to see all households and businesses composting! It really is one of the simplest ways to reduce your waste and as you can see, it’s really not that hard to do, so I hope I’ve inspired you to give it a go!

If you need help remembering the green and browns.. Download the printable… print two and share with a friend.

Remember “Knowledge increases by sharing not saving”