The Three R's
(Reduce - Reuse - Recycle)
Making compost is a very simple process. If you throw the stuff in the dustbin it will be wasted and end up in an expensive and undesirable landfill site, where it will do no good at all. The result of composting is a free supply of the best possible soil improvement material for your garden and an alternative to all the expensive artificial fertilisers and peat.
BUT, ISN'T IT COMPLICATED?
Nah, not really. It's all based on natural processes that ensure most living things that die rot away (or decompose). The world is full of organisms that feed on dead material, breaking it down to products at the foot of the food-chain - they are Nature's Recyclers. Wherever you find dead things you'll find a concentration of them doing their job. In composting we simply utilise their natural abilities to turn waste vegetable matter into a nutrient rich humus which you can add to your garden soil to boost it's growing power, improve it's structure and moisture content.
You don't need any fancy equipment to begin a compost heap. Start in an out-of the-way spot in your garden on bare soil, not on paving or concrete, and simply start to build a heap from all of your waste vegetable material. It's best to start off with a course layer of prunings, bark and twigs to allow air to enter the heap more easily (more of that later). You can knock together a rudimentary three-sided frame out of old pallet wood to hold the heap in place and help it's efficiency (Click here for instructions); or you can make your heap in an old plastic dustbin with the bottom cut off.
Once the heap has reached a reasonable size, those tiny organisms will really get to work. In fact they work so hard that the temperature in the middle of your heap can reach 70:C within two or three weeks (although it is more usual to find temperatures of around 50:C). It will take four to eighteen months (depending on conditions) before your heap is ready to add to your garden soil. You'll know when it's ready when it's dark in colour and has a sweet earthy smell. Of course, the recently added material at the top of the heap won't be ready yet, so simply use the stuff from the bottom of the heap and put the rest back to continue.
|WHAT CAN I COMPOST?
Fruit and vegetable peelings
prunings and broken-up twigs
Autumnal leaf falls
Horse, rabbit, pigeons & chicken manures
Feathers, hair and fur
Tea leaves/bags and coffee grounds
Crushed egg shells
|WHAT SHOULDN'T I COMPOST?
Meat, meat products, fish or cheese
Cooked scraps or scrapings
Persistent weeds** or weeds in seed
Soot or coal ash
Human faeces or used nappies
Pet litter or pet waste
Metal, glass, plastic, artificial textiles
|* In layers not exceeding 10 cm.
||** Especially bindweed.
IS THERE ANY SPECIAL MAINTENANCE?
The micro-organisms and bacteria that turn your heap into compost require three things: vegetable matter, moisture and air. Excluding air means that you'll encourage "anaerobic" organisms to get to work and turn your heap into a smelly, slimy mess. So one essential bit of heap maintenance is "turning". This means turning the heap over with a garden fork once every fortnight to mix and aerate it.
Your compost heap needs to be kept moist, but not wet, so keep it covered to keep out the rain and water it a little if it becomes too dry.
Heat is essential for rapid maturing of the heap. The heat is self-generated by the organisms as they break down the vegetable material, but the heat may be easily lost in cold weather. You can help by covering the heap with old carpets as the days get colder.
Things that will help accelerate the composting process are nettles (especially young ones, but avoid putting the roots in), chicken manure and human urine.
WHY RECYCLE GLASS?
Glass never wears out, so it can be recycled forever without any reduction in quality or properties. The average glass bottle in the UK already contains about 25% of recycled material and green glass bottles are much higher at 60-90% recycled. Every year the UK consumes approximately 2 million tonnes of glass but only 440,000 tonnes (22%) are recycled. This figure exceeds 50% in mainland Europe, with some countries exceeding 70%. Around half the glass collected is green glass, one third clear with the remainder being brown glass.
The cost savings of recycling glass are found in the reduced use of energy. High temperatures are needed to melt and combine all the raw ingredients used to make glass, but recycled glass melts at a much lower temperature and so less energy is required to melt it when added to a batch of raw material. Therefore, adding larger amounts of crushed, washed recycled glass (known as cullet) to the raw materials used to make glass results in substantial energy savings. For every glass bottle recycled, enough energy is saved to run a 100-watt light bulb for four hours.
There are other benefits to using cullet in glass manufacture. When a glass bottle is recycled, 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution are produced than when a new glass bottle is made from original ingredients. One tonne of glass produced from raw materials creates about 175 kgs of mining waste, but using even 50% of recycled glass as opposed to raw materials reduces the amount of mining waste produced by three quarters. And, of course, recycling glass also results in a reduction of the total amount of landfill space taken up by used bottles and jars.
There are over 20,000 "Bottle Banks" in the UK, situated mainly in car parks, at supermarkets and in municipal waste centres. In most cases the banks are divided up into clear, green and brown glass.
Here's a list of pointers issued by the glass recycling industry designed to make the process as efficient as possible:
Always take refillable bottles, with or without a deposit, back to the supplier. Never put milk bottles in a glass recycling bottle bank - always return them to the milkman.
Before putting glass into bottle banks, empty and rinse the containers and remove any bottle caps or corks.
At the bottle bank, separate clear, brown and green glass and place into the appropriate bottle banks. Place blue bottles in the green bottle bank.
Only deposit glass containers such as bottles and jars - food, pharmaceutical and household items packaged in glass are all recyclable as well as beer and wine bottles.
Never deposit window glass, light bulbs, Pyrex or Visionaware cooking dishes or glass crockery items in the bottle banks.
If a bottle is decorated i.e. coated with printing inks, paints or a plastic sleeve, look at the top of the bottle or jar where the cap has been and see what colour the glass is to determine which bank to put it in.
Try to plan your trip to the bottle bank along with other essential errands such as shopping or school runs.
Don't leave cardboard boxes or plastic carrier bags used to bring the glass to the bottle bank unless there is a bin for these materials on site.
Never go to the bottle bank late at night as your visit may disturb local residents.
If you find your bottle bank is full, please try again another day.
Persuade a friend or relative to recycle glass too, and help the environment!
END USES OF CULLET
Recycled glass finds its way into an amazing variety of uses:
- Drain pipe bedding & backfill
- Septic tank drain fields
- French drains
- Retaining wall backfill
- Aggregate base for roads
- Asphalt paving
- Stepping stones
- Retaining wall blocks
- Garden ornaments
- Glass beads
- Opacified flat glass
- Pressed glass
- Sintered Mosaic tiles
- Synthetic marble
- Industrial flooring
- Roof tiles
- Landfill cover
- Golf course sand traps
- Weighted bags for vehicle traction
- Beach sand
- Ice control (salt replacement)
- Oil spill cleanup
- Electro-magnetized wastewater
- Filter sand for septic tank
- Water filter medium
|WHAT DO I NEED?
- Large oblong washing-up bowl
- Sheets of used waste paper (newspaper, tissue paper, junk mail, gift wrap, etc.)
- Egg whisk or a kitchen liquidiser/blender
- Liquid starch
- Fine mesh wire gauze of about 200 mm square
- Two sheets of blotting paper or a newspaper
- Rolling pin
WHAT DO I DO?
- Tear the waste paper into small pieces (about 20 mm square or smaller) and put them in the bowl.
- If you're using a liquidiser put the torn paper into the liquidiser, fill with water and beat until the fibres are dispersed. Add to large bowl of warm water then proceed to 5 below.
- Fill the bowl with warm water.
- Let the paper soak for a quarter of an hour, then beat it with the egg whisk until it becomes mushy and the fibres well dispersed.
- If you want paper that you can write on with ink then stir in two teaspoons of starch at this point.
- Dip the mesh into the bowl of slurry, tilting it at 45: so that the edge goes in first. Then, holding the mesh horizontal by its edges, lift it straight up out of the water.
- Hold the mesh over the bowl and let the water drain off.
- Turn the mesh upside down on to the blotting paper or newspaper. This must be done smartly but carefully so that the pulp does not come apart.
- Carefully remove the mesh by lifting one edge first. If you have problems removing the mesh then gently sponge excess water off of the mesh to help release it.
- Place the second sheet of blotting paper on top of your pulp and, using the rolling pin, roll firmly but gently.
- You may iron your paper carefully until it is dry or allow it to dry naturally.
- Gently peel back the blotting paper from your hand made sheet of paper. You must now leave it for 24 hours to dry completely.
|You can experiment to produce different sorts of paper. Using a thicker slurry will result in heavier gauge paper. You can add different colours or types of paper to the slurry for different effects; a proportion of brown wrapping paper can give a very nice finish. You can even add things like glitter, confetti and food colouring.