In February 2022, we began working with Compost Culture, a two-year project supported by the National Lottery Climate Action Fund. Its aim: to transform the way people think about food waste and composting in Birmingham.
With a busy office upstairs and the bustling Warehouse Cafe downstairs, we generate food waste every week which can easily end up in the refuse system, to be landfilled or incinerated.
One year on, we have saved 926 kilograms of food waste from the bin. We have completely closed the food waste loop for our organisation. So far, we have made almost a tonne of rich, nutritious compost, which will lock carbon into the soil and nourish the veg beds in Digbeth Community Garden.
The process is simple:
In our community garden we’ve designed and built large, 1.2m square composting bays, which have fine mesh sides that keep out pests and allow airflow into the compost.
Each week we collect food waste in sealed plastic buckets, which we reclaimed from a dairy. We add a few pinches of bokashi bran, which ‘pickles’ the food waste, and stops it from producing greenhouse gases, like methane.
At our monthly Compost Club, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and build the heap. A good rule of thumb for composting is to combine equal volumes of nitrogen-containing ‘greens’ (in our case, pickled food waste) to carbon-containing ‘browns (woodchips, sawdust and shredded paper or cardboard). Having something chunky like garden prunings also helps create structure in the pile, allowing air in.
We’ve found that the best way to get a feel for this is to mix it in a wheelbarrow, in batches.
Our pile regularly reaches 70C, even in freezing temperatures. This is due to its large mass, balanced mix, and regular turning. However, it’s possible to make compost on a very small scale, too, and with much less work.
Compost Club runs 12-2pm on the first Saturday of every month, at Digbeth Community Garden, just next door to Birmingham Friends of the Earth.
Written by Roo Hocking