At the London Environmental Network we get a lot of questions from Londoners about local environmental issues. One topic in particular we get a lot of inquiries about is composting. This blog will hopefully answer all of your lingering composting questions and be a helpful guide for starting your own composting system.
Green Bin Program
At the moment London and Windsor are the largest and last cities in the province without an organics collection program. According to the National Zero Waste Council, Canadians throw out 2.2 million tonnes of food waste which is equivalent to 9.8 million tonnes of CO2 or 2.1 million cars on the road. London, however is planning to implement a green bin program collecting food waste, bones, and eggshells with a revised starting date of 2023 but will not include apartment buildings. If you’d like to learn more about the upcoming program and give feedback on its development, visit the City of London’s website to share your input or watch our Green in the City Green Bin Event. You can provide feedback on bin size, what materials go into the green bin and the pickup schedule. Although this program is not operational at the moment, there are initiatives within the city to encourage community members to start composting on their own.
Composting is a great way to cut back on the amount of waste going into landfills. All of that food waste provides an excellent feeding ground for earthworms, microbes, and insects which help to break down food into nutrients for your plants to consume. Adding compost material to your garden can also improve the soil structure which means improved water retention in sandy soils or drainage in heavy clay soils. A quick way to get started is to visit one of London’s local EnviroDepots where you can purchase a composter for $20 ranging in size and needs. Or you can build your own compost heap or three bin system, whatever works best for your space.
Outdoor composting methods include pile, buried, garden piles, or digesters. When composting remember to mix layers of fresh and dry organics. Fresh organics include fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grinds or tea leaves (aka the green layer), whereas dry organics (aka the brown layer) include wood chips, dry grass or leaves. Layering “green” and “brown” layers like lasagna can help decompose the material quicker and prevent odors.
Digesters are containers that reduce organic waste into mush. These can range in design but a popular kind is where the container is half buried with a lid above ground. Unlike the other methods listed above, the digester can break down meat, dairy, and dog waste but does not provide composted soil.
Compost Piles are the most common and what most people are familiar with. Piled composting works exactly as it sounds: dumping organic waste into a pile. They are simple and do not require turning material as waste can continually be dumped on top while composted soil can be removed from the bottom. Make sure you layer though!
Buried composting involves digging a trench and burying organic waste. This method provides excellent nutrients for plants. Gardens can be planted immediately above the trench to provide an invisible, odorless composting system.
Garden piles can be applied directly to garden beds but it is recommended to only use garden waste like leaves.
If you don’t have the space or live in an apartment building but would still like to compost, there are great options. Urban Roots London is an urban agriculture non-profit organization that produces organic vegetables and herbs for consumers and social enterprises. Urban Roots London has a community compost pile where organic waste can be dropped off during their regular season. Within its first year, the community compost pile diverted over 3,200 pounds of organic waste from landfill, surpassing Urban Roots London's goal of 2,000 pounds!
Vermicomposting is another option involving some hard workers, worms. More specifically Red Wiggler Worms. Vermicomposting, also known as worm composting, turns organic waste into rich soil perfect for gardens or potting soil. Red Wigglers require little maintenance, are quite eaters, and do not produce any funky odors. London has its own vermicomposting factory, The Wormery at the Western Fair District. They have some upcoming workshops and also sell worms! This is the perfect COVID-19 quarantine project, especially for kids. It seems like magic; put food in and out comes rich soil. The Canadian Wildlife Federation also has some great information about the benefits of vermicomposting and how to get started.
- Decide which composting method works best for you
- Plan a spot for your compost to live for either inside or outside methods
- Buy the equipment needed (food scraps collection bucket, shovel, vermicomposting material, etc.) or search on Facebook neighbourhood groups to see if someone has extra material
- Start collecting organic waste
- Alternate between dry (brown) and wet (green) organic compost layers
- Continue to add more layers
- Maintain compost by turning material over or mixing in dry or wet material
- Harvest your compost
- Sprinkle ½ - 1 inch of your compost on gardens or in potted plants and watch your plants thrive!