So what an eye opener today has been!
As part of the development of the Gresham Community Garden project that I'm working on, we're going to need compost. A LOT of compost!
The site is being built on a derelict area, where rows of houses were demolished several years ago. There are plans to build a student village and an eco-housing development, but also a community garden. Because it's underlain by hardcore and building rubble, (and because it's a much less backbreaking and time consuming way of doing things!), the site will be developed using 'no dig' principles. Essentially this means covering it with around 6 inches of compost for planting. And it's big. Very big.
We'll be looking at several tens of tonnes, which is expensive, but we also want to make sure we're keeping within permaculture priciples and thinking about closing loops and minimising carbon miles. Obviously we can't generate the compost we need on site, but we've managed to track down the chaps who process Middlesbrough's green waste collections, Compost UK. Andrew there invited me to visit to see what's available, and some of the Gresham and otherwise local gardeners were also keen to see.
Green waste, collected from households from "Saltburn to Seaham," arrives here via bin wagons. It's shredded and piled and allowed to break down, being turned regularly. The sheer volume causes heat of over 60C, killing pathogens and weed seeds. It's sorted by grading machines (effectively like a big sieve) and then sold on at either agricultural grade (20mm) or horticultural (10mm), which is what we'll be having. The compost is PAS100 certified (this is the benchmark to watch out for), which means that it's met strict controls to ensure quality and safety.
What I found staggering, and really quite sad, is that mixed in with the green waste is so much litter and plastic. Apparently, it's so bad from our town's households that it's sorted in advance of shredding so that it can be removed in big pieces, rather than tiny fractions. The plastic is removed by hand - that's real people picking it out - and dumped into a giant cage that fills every 10 days. And it costs £1,000 each time to dispose of. How much simpler and more pleasant it would be if residents just didn't put plastic in their green bins!
I think that Compost UK are going to be our supplier for the site - not just because of the permaculture angle, but because the story we can tell people about the Gresham Community Garden - that it's been created from the green waste they've contributed to - is so valuable and so much the kind of approach we should all be taking, no matter for what aspect, to live more sustainable lives.
Back home, I have to content myself with my six dalek bins and a much smaller and slower scale! All our fruit and veg peelings, our plain card and paper, and all our garden waste goes into the bins. I've numbered them to keep track of which one to fill next in the sequence. Adding my meagre amounts to bin no. 2 this morning was not quite on the scale of Compost UK's operations, but I was almost overjoyed to see a bunch of busy brandling worms doing what they do best. Come summer we should have a modest contribution of compost ourselves!
Treading Lightly is simple living, within your means and the means of the planet, and making a minimal impact on the Earth. Find out more here about Catherine, of Barefoot Solutions, does this from day to day.