Composting your food and garden waste helps to preserve and protect the environment. For small amounts of green waste you could start a compost bin. Larger amounts of vegetation and other material can be taken to:
We’re proud to partner with Orongomai Marae and Para Kore to work toward a goal of zero waste.
The Rubbish Trip
Our friends at The Rubbish Trip have lots of great ideas on ways to reduce waste in your home and in your life.
Did you know that nearly half of all households in Upper Hutt already compost some or all of their organic waste?
Treating unwanted organic materials like kitchen scraps and garden prunings as ‘waste’ and sending them to landfill costs you money. People who compost at home save money and also get the benefits of having free garden fertiliser through their home composting system.
We have pulled together some good information on composting at home, worm farms and bokashi to help you get started and save money. But first, it is important to consider what system is right for you?
Choosing the right system
There are a number of options for composting your organic material at home. As a general rule of thumb, if you have a small garden that does not produce green garden waste and you only wish to compost your kitchen scraps either a bokashi or wormery system will suit you best.
If you have a larger garden that does produce green garden waste, a compost heap system may suit you best (Note: many gardeners have both a compost heap for garden waste and a wormery for kitchen waste). If you have no space at all, you can still have a bokashi or wormery system, but you will need to find a willing recipient for the nutrient rich compost your system will produce. Willing recipients of your compost might include:
- a neighbour with a garden
- family or friends with a garden
- your local community garden
If you would like to find out more about composting at home, worm farms and Bokashi please select from the options (top right).
So what are the benefits of composting at home?
- It’s easy.
- It will save you money in waste disposal.
- Any form of composting is a form of nutrient recycling. These are often the same nutrients you would pay good money for when buying fertiliser for your garden.
- A healthy fertilised garden will grow more healthy food for you to eat, saving you money on your grocery bill.
- A healthy garden that has compost in it retains moisture after rain or watering reducing the amount of water you need and use.
- Kids love growing things – parents who garden with their children often comment that they all enjoy the time spent outside together.
- Climate change – approximately 30% of the waste going into the local landfill is organic material. At Silverstream landfill most of the harmful greenhouse gas (methane) is turned into energy (through a methane capture and combustion system), despite this – it is better to compost your organic waste at home.
Get started with composting
Composting using a compost bin is a low cost natural recycling system requiring little effort and knowledge. It reduces your waste disposal costs, the impact on our landfills and improves the condition of your garden soil.
What should I compost?
Virtually anything that once was alive can be put on a compost heap (kitchen scraps, grass clippings, garden weed tops, straw, chicken manure, seaweed, twigs, autumn leaves).
Any larger materials like broccoli stalks, corn cobs, deciduous shrub prunings, should be finely chopped first, or mulched by running over them with the lawn mower. If you prefer not to chop or mulch, larger bits of stalks and wood will still be visible after the composting. These can be further broken down by composting them again.
Evergreen shrub trimmings and pine needles do not break down very well and should be avoided. Large quantities of those can be composted separately, and make a type of compost useful for acid-loving shrubs. Similarly, avoid adding flax, cabbage tree leaves and persistent weed roots such as oxalis, dock, thistle and twitch/couch grass.
Citrus should be added only in moderation. It is a good idea to avoid materials such as meat, fat, cheese and fish, which attract rodents and flies (they can be put instead into a home wormery or Bokashi system, as an alternative to landfill).
Wood ashes from untreated, un-painted wood (and not coal) are fine, as long as they are several days cold and only added in moderate quantities.
What can I do with persistent weeds like oxalis or ginger?
Use a plastic rubbish bin or wheelie bin and put the material in, at intervals cover with water and put a lid on, then leave for 6 months, in which time the weeds will completely rot down.
Should I buy or make a compost bin?
There are many different styles of composting units available from hardware and garden stores and direct online from manufacturers. If you would like to buy a composter, decent models start at approximately $40 and range up to $150 for the basic bin types. A selection of bin types and prices can be found here.
While these units are handy for getting started immediately, home built composters can easily be constructed at home at low or no cost (depending on what materials you have available).
Cost saving tip – call or visit the Earthlink Store at 22 Eastern Hutt Road in Lower Hutt. Earthlink have a wide range of reusable items and recycled materials available at very low cost.
There are varied types of compost bins. They can be made of any reusable or recyclable materials you have access to e.g. concrete blocks, recycled wood (untreated wood), or treated wood (lined with plastic) or even made with wire mesh on a frame.
A popular construction material is untreated pellet wood. Untreated pellets (sometimes called banana pellets) are often available through super markets or where other freight intensive business is occurring (always ask first!). Whatever material you use, the design needs to allow for easy access to turn the compost material.
- For an effective and flexible home-made container, wrap wire netting around wooden stakes and line with cardboard or newspaper.
- Stronger bins can be made from wood, bricks, or concrete blocks. Holes for air and ready access from the front are necessary.
Where should I keep my compost bin?
Composting can be done right in your own backyard with your compost heap sitting directly on the ground. You’ll need:
- good drainage
- sheltered area
- a garden hose within reach
- a spot out of direct sunlight.
How do I make compost?
Compost making – five simple steps:
- Before positioning the bin, fork over the soil where your compost pile will sit to aid drainage and encourage worms. Ensure your bin is aerated through ventilation openings or raise the bin on a few brick.
- Place a layer of coarse twiggy materials (materials from a previous heap may be used) at the bottom of the bin to ensure good drainage and entry of air.
- Build a heap of alternating layers of greens and browns (50:50 ratio) to about 20 cm high. ‘Greens’ are nitrogen rich e.g. fruit, vegetables, lawn clippings etc. and ‘browns’ are carbon rich e.g. leaves, twigs, paper etc. and lightly compress with a fork. If materials are dry, lightly moisten. Optional: add a sprinkle of poultry litter to top brown layer, or animal manure. Seaweed, soil, or your own mature compost can be used if animal manure is not available. Alternatively, use a few handfuls of blood and bone, or sulphate of ammonia fertiliser, or a compost starter kit available from garden shops.
- Continue to build the compost heap with alternating layers, as material becomes available. When the bin is full, cover and leave the heap to mature.
- Turning once a month to aerate the heap and mix the decomposer organisms through the waste material. If you regularly turn the compost heap it will take three to four months to mature, but without turning it will take nine months to a year.
How do I use compost?
- When mature, spread three centimetres of compost and mix into topsoil. Any remaining stalky material can be removed and recycled into the base of your next compost heap
- Mature compost mixed with two parts topsoil and one part sand makes an excellent seed-raising or potting mix
- Compost gives newly-planted trees and shrubs a good start. Mix one or two buckets of compost into the soil prior to planting
Then sit back and relax and watch your garden flourish, knowing that nature’s recycling system is hard at work!
- Compost shouldn’t be too acidic. Try a light sprinkling of dolomite or lime every few layers
- To speed up the process, chop or shred materials into small pieces
- Aerate your compost regularly. Air is essential for odour-free composting
- Dampen your heap regularly in summer to maintain a consistency of a squeezed out sponge – moist but not soggy
- Compost is mature when it has darkened and has a crumbly soil-like material with a pleasant odour
- If offensive odours (such as “rotten eggs”) are produced, turn your compost heap to aerate
- The best compost needs the right mix of carbon (dry stalks or leaves) and nitrogen (green matter, fruit or animal manure). Use four parts of carbon for each part of nitrogen material
- The volume of the compost heap needs to be large enough to insulate itself in order to maintain the heat of microbiological activity. A cubic metre or slightly larger is sufficient
- Vegetable/fruit scraps or peelings
- Tea leaves
- Soft garden debris such as leaves, lawn clippings, weeds (if they have not gone to seed)
- Untreated wood ash, sawdust or straw
- Animal manures
- Meat, fish, fats or cooking/salad oils
- Wood, bones, tin, glass or plastic
- Diseased plant material
- Plant foliage with chemical sprays residue
- Weeds such as oxalis, live twitch, convolvulus, docks, dandelion
- Toxic material
Bokashi is a Japanese word, translated means “fermented organic matter” and is made by treating plant-based by-products with Effective Micro-Organisms (or EM). The by-products of EM suppress other harmful micro-organisms (a sterilising process) and enhance the decomposition of organic matter.While the system costs money to purchase and maintain, it is well suited to indoor applications with smaller volumes of kitchen waste (note: you must still have a garden or have access to a garden for the compost this system generates).Bokashi has been widely used by Christchurch residents after the earthquakes as chemical free emergency composting toilets.
Find out more about Bokashi or to order Bokashi system supplies
Hutt Community Survey, 39.2% of respondents said they compost their food waste at home in a composter and 9.4% compost their food waste in a wormery. In addition, 42.9% of respondents compost their green waste at home as well. Council is also doing its part to divert food waste from landfill.
The UHCC recycled bathtub wormery processes approximately 30kg of our organic kitchen waste per week.
You can easily make a thriving worm farm, year-round, indoors or out. It doesn’t take much space to build a worm farm that composts your kitchen waste, and it makes great fertiliser!
Worm composting is the process of using earthworms to break down food and garden waste. This is faster and more nutrient productive than normal composting. The earthworms produce castings which is sometimes called vermicompost.
Vermicompost contains five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus and eleven times more potassium than ordinary garden soils. These key nutrients are essential for plant growth and cost lots of money to buy as garden fertiliser!
How does a wormery work
The organic kitchen and garden waste is placed into the wormery and the worms then feed on this. The worms convert the organic material into high quality compost and concentrated liquid feed.
Unlike a compost bin, a wormery does not rely on microbes to heat it up and digest the waste. The worms do all the processing and the result is that the system is compact and clean, and is fed a little at a time as kitchen waste is produced.
A functioning wormery is often located outside the kitchen door or on the patio. Some people even have them indoors in the garage or under the kitchen sink!
What can go in the wormery?
Worms can eat almost anything organic and just like a healthy human, worms like variety in their diet. As a rule of thumb, the organic material you put into your wormery should not be more than 20% of any one type of material.
For example, worms will eat coffee grounds, but if you feed them only coffee grounds, they will not survive. Coffee is acidic and makes a poor diet if that is all you have to eat (for worms and humans!).
If your bin becomes too acidic, a little lime (available from hardware stores) will bring the pH back under control. Crushed egg shells are also helpful for controlling pH in your worm farm.
In addition to acidity, your worms need oxygen to breathe. Too much green garden waste can form a slimy wet layer which traps the worms below without air.
The following ‘YES PLEASE’ list contains organic materials that worms will happily eat in any quantity (provided there is a mix of different materials).
- Egg Shells
- Cakes/ Biscuits
- Pasta and Rice
- Pet and Human hair
- Coffee grounds/ Tea bags
- Leftover fruit and vegetable peelings
- Bread and grains
- Leaves (in moderation)
- Baked beans
- Small amount of dead flowers
- Small amount of leafy green prunings
- Annual weeds (no seeds!)
The ‘IN MODERATION’ list contains organic materials that worms can eat, but only in very small amounts or with conditions (explained below).
- Citrus Fruits – are acidic. Worms breathe through their skin and to do this they must be moist, thus an overly acidic environment is toxic to a worm.
- Meat or Fish – worms can eat meat scraps. However, if the meat is not buried beneath other vegetable organic material, it will cause odour and it is very likely to attract flies (maggots) and other vermin.
- Bones – worms will not eat bones, but they will clean the organic material off bones. As with meat above, bones should be buried under vegetable organic material to deter odour and vermin.
- Garlic/ Onion / Salt – acidic, as ‘citrus fruits’ above.
- Diary products: milk, cheese, butter, eggs – worms will eat these products, but very slowly. In large quantities they will attract vermin.
The ‘NO THANKS’ list contains organic materials that you should never feed your worm farm.
- Diseased plant material
- Solvents/ Paints
- Spicy food such as curry
- Poisonous plants/ weeds
- Hoover contents
- Lawn cuttings – large quantities can harm the worms
- Non biodegradable material e.g. plastic/metal
- Horse manure (if the horse has been wormed)
- Pet faeces or Nappies (dangerous pathogens)
- Chicken manure (too high in ammonia)
- Insecticides and pesticides (or any material subjected to these)
What to do with vermicompost and the liquid ‘worm tea’
Vermicompost makes a great soil conditioner, apply to the top of your soil as a slow release fertiliser or dig it through the garden for improving your soil structure.
As well as the vermicompost made from the worm casts, a wormery will often collect nutrient-rich liquid at the bottom. This is often called ‘worm tea’ and can be diluted at a ratio of 10 parts water to 1 part worm tea to give plants a nutrient boost.
Buy or make a wormery?
If you’d like to get started with wormeries immediately and don’t feel up to a little bit of ‘DIY’, there are now many companies that produce wormery kits. Wormery kits in New Zealand can cost anywhere from $80 – $250 for a domestic sized unit and are available from most hardware stores and direct online through New Zealand made manufacturers.
These kits are either dustbin-like single units or modular stackable systems. The latter often cost a bit more but have the advantage of making access to the completed vermicompost much easier.
A range of different products and systems are available. Links to websites that provide further information can be found in the Resource & links section.
Prices can vary from supplier to supplier, so it pays to shop around and find a good deal.
Cost of a wormery kit too high? Don’t worry, there are some low and zero cost options for building your own wormery out of recycled materials!
Wormeries can be made from:
- old rubbish bins
- old car tyres
- old stacking boxes
- old bathtubs
Depending on which type of wormery you are making you may need a few bits to get you going e.g.
- a drill
- if you want to have a tap (for the liquid) you will need to buy or borrow a hole saw
- a tap (if you want one)
- composting worms (not the same as garden worms)
- a decent lid
- a drainage medium (sand, gravel etc.)
- some shade cloth or weed mat
Before deciding on which you would like to build, consider how much organic waste you would like to compost in your wormery. Worms can eat up to their own body weight in kitchen scraps each day. But if you wormery is too small, it will never be able to hold enough worms to eat the organic waste you are placing into it. If you are unsure, a modular system (old tires or stackable bins) allows you to add extra layers as required.
Find out more about DIY worm farms on the Lifeboat Farms website (will open in a new window)
It is important that whatever materials you put into or use to build your wormery do not have nasty chemical is in them e.g.
- some older bath tubs might have lead in their surface coatings, Resene Paint shops can lead test your tub)
- wood must not be treated (treated wood contains arsenic)
- garden waste that has been sprayed
- manure when the animal has been wormed (it will kill your worms too!)
What sort of worms?
Most people are familiar with the long, plump, pink earthworms you see when you dig in the garden. These are called lob worms and are deep burrowing worms. Whilst they are great for getting air into your soil to help plants grow, their deep burrowing habit is not ideal for use in a wormery.
There are other varieties of worm known as dendra, tiger, brandling or ‘red worms’ that live closer to the surface and consume decaying organic matter. These are the ideal types of worms for a home wormery. They can be purchased from a variety of sources including commercial wormery vendors e.g.
However if you, or a friend or neighbour, have a garden compost bin you may well find some in there that you can use to start your own DIY wormery. Suitable worms are usually an inch or two long and dark red in colour.
Commercial wormeries typically come with between 500g and 1kg of worms, but as they breed rapidly in the right conditions you can start with less, especially if you slowly build up the amount of kitchen waste that you feed into your wormery.
Care and maintenance
Wormeries are typically trouble free and can last for years. You need to remember to empty the ‘worm tea’ so that it doesn’t drown the worms, and harvest the vermicompost every few months.
If your wormery is outside you must ensure that it has a waterproof lid so that the worms don’t get flooded when it rains. In cold weather the worms will slow down, stopping work completely below 5ºC. You can help prevent this by insulating the wormery – wrap it in old blankets or an old duvet, or build a box around it and stuff it with scrunched up paper or recycled polystyrene packing.
Enjoy your wormery!
We’re supporting Ecomailbox, to help reduce paper waste from unwanted advertising circulars.
Ecomailbox estimates that 30kg of circulars are delivered to each New Zealand home every year. The paper used to print these comes from close to 300,000 trees.
Ecomailbox provides residents with a ‘No Ad Mail’ letter box sticker, suitable for all surfaces and weather conditions. Residents who use the sticker on their letter box will no longer receive paper circulars, but will still be able to view their favourite retailers specials online at the Ecomailbox website.
Having the sticker on your letterbox will not stop you from receiving local newspapers.
The stickers are free and can either be ordered from the Ecomailbox website, or picked up from the Upper Hutt Library or Upper Hutt City Council reception.
Reusable cloth nappies
Disposable nappies are a growing problem but there are options for parents looking to do the right thing. Gone are the days of safety pins and endless folding. There are a huge range of modern, convenient cloth nappies to suit various budgets. Plus, a family can save $4000 per child by using cloth nappies.
Why cloth nappies?
A baby is changed around 6000 times in 2.5 years and there are 145,000 babies in NZ in nappies under 2.5 years. That’s a massive 348 million nappy changes in NZ every year! The average used disposable weighs in at around 200g and if all nappies used in NZ were disposables, that’s a potential whopping 69,600 Tonnes of nappies costing around $232 million to buy (based on a unit cost of 0.66 cents) and around $7.8 million to dispose of (at $113 per tonne).
Cloth nappy facts:
- Cloth Nappies do not require, folding, soaking or pins
- Cloth nappies are 40% better for the environment than disposables
- Cloth nappies provide a zero waste alternative to disposables
- Disposable nappies should have any solids removed before disposing in the general waste
- There are 25% more parents using cloth nappies now than there were 5 years ago
If every baby had just one cloth nappy change per day, this would prevent 1 Million disposables from going to land fill every week in New Zealand. For further information on waste-free parenting, cloth nappies and more, visit www.thenappylady.co.nz.
New Zealand families waste about $560 each year on food which is thrown uneaten into the rubbish bin. This adds up to a staggering $872 million for the whole country. It also results in 122,000 tonnes of edible food going to landfill and generating greenhouse gases.
Upper Hutt City Council is proud to be part of the national Love Food Hate Waste NZ campaign which aims to turn this around, by inspiring and enabling people to waste less food.
For practical tips on how to reduce your own food waste and save money visit www.lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz.
Free for download, Easy Choice Family Kai booklets provides 4 weeks of recipes for affordable, healthy and zero waste meals.
Other organisations in Upper Hutt working to reduce food waste include:
Note: Groups working to minimise food waste in New Zealand include:
- Community Fruit Harvesting rescues surplus produce from gardens and orchards. They operate in the following locations.
- Food rescue groups operate in the following locations.
- The Social Pantry operates in six locations around New Zealand.