Composting Events and news
We can all minimise our Christmas carbon footprint by not wasting food (See separate post below) and by reducing and recycling other Christmas waste.
Baubles Glass and plastic baubles are not usually recyclable. Glass baubles should be wrapped up and placed in a general waste. Most Plastic baubles are not recyclable (check the label), will have to go to landfill. If plastic or glass baubles are in good condition, they are best to donated to a local charity shop.
Batteries Used batteries should be taken to a collection points, at the recycling depot or some electrical shops.
Cardboard is compostable, with corrugated boxes being a particularly excellent source of carbon rich “browns” they should be torn or cut into smallish pieces and scrunched up when added to the bin. If the cardboard is being sent to be recycled flatten boxes to save space and keep them dry if they get wet and go mouldy, they cannot be recycled. Plastic film and sticky tape should be removed from paper and card packaging before recycling.
Christmas cards Buy cards that are Forest Stewardship Council certified. This ensures the paper used has been sustainably and ethically produced. When Christmas is over cards should be reused or recycled. Reusing There are many crafting activities using cards for children interested in reducing waste e.g. As gift tags. paper chains or cut out the images to make cards for next year.
Card recycling. As a composter the first choice should be composting or a charity collection but for other cards can be put into recycling bins in the local a supermarket or car park, local household recycling centre. If the card looks as if it is metallic or contains plastic or laminated materials do a scrunch test. The initial test as to whether a card can be recycled is the scrunch test. If it does not stay scrunched the card cannot be composted or recycled.
Some cards will have glitter added this should be sent to landfill. Unfortunately, most glitter cannot be processed in recycling plants as it clogs up the equipment, but the backs of paper Christmas cards without a coating or glitter can be composted or added to the L.A. bag or box recycling collection (see Glitter below).
Christmas cards are also recycled by councils via the paper recycling bin. However, if, as mentioned above ,they have foil or glitter on them they should be sent to landfill. The volume of waste wrapping can be reduced by giving presents in bags that can be reused next year and save on paper and waste. Paper cards can be cut up to make gift tags for next year.
Christmas trees can be composted but it is advisable to shred them first to increase the surface area exposed to the composting microbes and speed decomposition. If a shredder is not available branches can be cut into small “thumb” size pieces, but these will be slow to compost, and it is easier donate the tree to the Local Authority to be shredded into chippings which are then used locally in parks. Local authorities often arrange drop-off points or special collections of 'real' trees in early January. Check your local authority website for more information. If the council does not offer a system for dealing with Christmas trees they can be cut into small pieces and put in the garden waste bin.
Pine needles can be composted or turned to leafmould, but they will be slow to decompose, and any significant quantities are bested treated separately form deciduous leaves.
Unfortunately, artificial trees, most of which are made from the dreaded plastic face only one possible destination when their final day arrives: landfill. If you have an artificial tree, the best thing to do is use it as many seasons as possible or donate it to someone else who will.
Corks Natural corks can be composted but will take a time to break down and might need returning to the bin for a second session when the compost is harvested.
Electronics. Electronic items may not immediately come to mind as being Christmas waste but so many people get new electronic items at Christmas gifts large numbers of electrical items are disposed of immediately after the festive season. Use any upcycling services in your area if not most recycling centres will have a separate area for working electrical items. Christmas tree lights are recyclable but need to take to a Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) recycling centre.
Gift tags etc. Tags made from card can be cut up and composted having first removed any plastic ties. Plastic or foil tags will not compost.
Glitter Large numbers of Christmas items are decorated with glitter, including from cards, wrapping paper and decorations. Most of the glitter contains microplastic such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) do not compost or recycle items containing glitter put into a sealed container such as a plastic bag that is being binned anyway the landfill collection system and do not buy any next year.
Biodegradable glitter made from a certified compostable film that adheres to the European
(EN13432) and the American (ASTM D6400) standards is available but may require a little effort to find.
Eco glitter is made of a cellulose film mainly derived from eucalyptus trees from sustainably sourced FSC plantations and is designed to break-down in the sewage system. The product sold in the USA is certified as home compostable. (https://glitterevolution.com/). Details of UK suppliers at https://moralfibres.co.uk/eco-friendly-alternatives-to-glitter/
Paper Chains If you have made paper chains, you cannot recycle them unless they are just plain white paper. Paper chains with prints or colours are not ideal for recycling and are probably best off in the compost bin.
Paper napkins and party hats from the crackers can be composted.
Ribbons and decorations Ribbons, bows may be made of natural fibres in which case they can be composted but many will contain foil or plastic and cannot be composted or recycled.
Wood ash from open fires or wood burners can be composted if mixed with other materials.
Wood Cocktail sticks although small can be added to the composted. To avoid pets trying to eat them and injuring themselves put the sticks into a container and empty it directly into the kitchen caddy. Holly, ivy and mistletoe can be composted. The holly is best shredded and used to make leafmould separately.
Wrapping paper and boxes Paper and card are a good source of “browns” and can help create air pockets to the compost bin. Plastic tape should be removed from the wrapping or envelopes as the tape does not breakdown during composting. Some paper and cards willcontain plastic or laminated materials these cannot be composted or recycled. Scrunch the item up in your hand. If it stays 'scrunched' it can be composted or recycled. Paper can be shredded and used as protective packaging around future gifts, or even use it as a window and mirrors cleaning “cloth” .
Wreaths Christmas wreaths made from plant materials can be composted after the any glue, plastic and wiring are removed. If leaves have been coated with glitter discard them to landfill. Most council will accept “clean” Christmas wreaths as garden waste.
New to composting? Practical training sessions will be offered at our Composting Demonstration site at Stokes Wood Allotments Leicester
Christmas is a festival which results in vast quantities of food waste. During the Christmas season we, in the UK, eat much more than we need and 80 per cent more than during the rest of the year. Not only are we eating more we are wasting more binning approximately 230,000 tonnes of food waste during the Christmas period with 53 per cent of people confessing that they throw away more food at Christmas and about a third of families admit to wasting some of their Christmas dinner. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 10 per cent of every festive meal is wasted. This is valued at about £64 million. Of all the festive food turkey causes the most problems with one in 10 families having binned an entire bird as the result of a cooking mishap.
The best way to reduce Christmas food waste is by buying only what is needed and cooking and eating any leftovers. As always, the key message is Reduce, Reuse and Recycle but as a composting website our message is to home compost your waste where possible. This covers all “unavoidable” food waste including cooked food. Uncooked fruit and vegetable wastes e.g. peelings from Christmas vegetables and satsuma peel, can all be composted in the normal cold compost bin. Cooked foods can only be composted in a hot composting system, a food waste digester, bokashi bin or wormery. In a revised page on Christmas Food Waste on www.carryoncomposting we look at bins suitable for dealing with cooked food waste such as the Hotbin, Green Johanna, Jorra, Green Cone and Bokashi bins. The is still time to order a suitable bin for delivery for Christmas.
Non-food waste will be covered in a future post
The heading does not refer to a dance attended by worms but the ball of worms that may form in response to adverse conditions in a wormery or compost bin. This ball was formed overnight when the temperature dropped below freezing before the bin had been insulated or moved into an outbuilding.
Worms are also thought to form balls when faced with other unfavourable environmental conditions. The theory being that under these circumstances the balls offer a form of protection. It has been found any "stressor" can result in them balling up. In addition to a sudden drop in temperature these can include:
Rise in Compost Temperature
The optimum temperature range for composting worms is 12 - 24°C and will they not survive above 35°C. They will try to escape the heat in compost, during the thermophilic phase of hot composting by moving to the lower levels of the bin or back into the ground.
Unfavourable moisture levels
Excess Moisture where the composting material is too wet, and air cannot circulate freely as a consequence it may turn anaerobic and the worms migrate to the top of the bin in order gain access to oxygen so that they can breathe.
It is said that worms may also “ball” if the compost is too dry. I have not experienced this and feel that if the organic material in a compost bin is too dry the worms will remain in, or migrate to, the soil. However, it may be a problem in a wormery or a sealed composting system the answer is to add water or the “sludge” from home-made compost tea or plant food but not so much liquid that the wet bedding heats up as warm bedding is undesirable in a wormery.
Worms are also thought to form balls when faced with other unfavourable environmental conditions. The theory being that under these circumstances the balls offer a form of protection. It has been found any "stressor" can result in them balling up. There is more information at Worms in Compost
The fall is now with us and while leaves can be composted, and green summer leaves usually are, the large quantities of leaves resulting from the autumn fall present a challenge calling for a different technique and are best converted to leafmould.
Even a cool compost bin will generate heat, in part, due to the activity of bacteria helping to breakdown its contents but the process of producing leafmould relies more on fungal action, than bacterial activity, and occurs at lower temperatures so that while compost may take a few weeks or months depending on the type of leaves and process being used leafmould usually takes a year or two.
Most autumn leaves are an excellent source of carbon but depending on species may be slower to compost than the rest of the material in the bin if using cold composting techniques. However, as leafmould they become excellent mulch and a key ingredient when making homemade potting and seed composts Making your own potting mix is a personal contribution to saving peat bogs and reduces road miles by producing the product on site.
The Leafmould and leaf composting page of carryoncomposting http://www.carryoncomposting.com/142941489 has been updated to include more information on the suitability of different leaves and on methods.
Over 100 pumpkin lanterns and other pumpkins were saved from being sent to landfill as a result of the Pumpkin Smash at Stokes Wood Allotments Leicester on 9th November 2019. The Smash took place on the Composting Demonstration site where all the pumpkins were composted as part of the Smash. The technique employed to smash the pumpkins varied depending whether the pumpkins were to be composted in the pallet bins, one of our range of plastic bins, hot composted or buried in pits. The age of the person smashing the pumpkin also played a part in the choice of method, younger "smashers" favouring a mallet while older volunteers mainly opting for spades. these where also used for pumpkin cricket which did seem to be very effective at sharing mushy pumpkin flesh amongst those standing to close to the action. The is more information at www.carryoncomposting.com both on Pumpkin Rescue and composting pumpkins.