17. Dec, 2020

Christmas Waste: 1. Reducing and Composting

 This is the first of a series of blogs on reducing and composting Christmas waste. It is taken from the Christmas waste page at http://www.carryoncomposting.com/441149728  where the information is provided as a download.

In addition, there is a  page on  winter composting techniques. It is important that we do all we can to reduce waste including food waste at Christmas so check out sites such as Love Food Hate Waste  and your local council web pages.

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.

At Christmas we waste the equivalent of:

  •  263,000 turkeys
  • 17.2 million Brussels sprouts.
  • 11.9 million carrots,
  • 11.3 million roast potatoes,
  • 6 million pigs in blankets.
  • 740,000 slices of Christmas pudding
  • 7.4 million mince pies.

  The environmental impact does not end with growing and discarding food. The festival is completed by discarding 250 tonnes of Christmas Trees in January. Only 1.2 million of the 6 million trees bought each year will be recycled.,

In addition, we will waste  4.200 tons of foil, 125.000 tons of plastic, 750m bottles, 500m cans and 1bn Christmas cards contributing to the  3m tons of general waste every Christmas. Please help reduce this waste by reading the section on non-food waste below.

Plan now for Christmas food waste composting

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 compost bin. Cooked foods can only be composted in a hot composting system, a food waste digester, bokashi bin or wormery.

 Normally it is not advisable to add liquids to compost bins, but they will take “plate scrapping” quantities of gravy, cranberry sauce, etc. preferably mixed with shredded paper or cardboard Christmas nuts can be smashed with a hammer and composted. Food waste counts as a composting “green” and it must be balanced by adding an equal amount of “brown” materials to the compost bin.

Compost Bins for Cooked Food

Now is the time to plan to extend the range of food waste that you can compost at home by adding a food compost bin to your Christmas list or by buying one as a December treat. Depending on your needs and resources one of the following three bins can take your cooked food waste plus the normal garden waste.

 Hotbin (See photo)  We have  two Hotbins at the Stokes Wood Composting Demonstration, site using in Leicester and use them to compost waste food from the café as well as normal garden waste. They are well insulated so ideal for winter use and it is relatively easy to maintain a compost temperature of 40-550C provided they are fed regularly. The Hotbin is now produced in two sizes.  I use woodchip as the main bulking agent but also add shredded paper to help absorb the moisture. 

Green Johanna  I have used a Green Johanna for over ten  years both at home and on our Demonstration site.  All Christmas food waste can be composted as well as garden waste. A winter jacket can be purchased separately to keep it working when the average outdoor temperature drops below 5°C but I tend to wrap mine in several layers of bubble wrap. 

Jorraform 125    The Joraform compost tumblers are the most expensive of the three I have on display but are excellent for food composting being quick and easy to use. I have used mine to compost waste sandwiches and other  food from the café when the site was at a Botanical Garden and the dual  chambers proved very useful . They have a rust proof galvanized steel construction insulated with polyethylene. Wood pellets or wood shavings are recommended as a bulking agent, but I use wood chip which is available for free locally. I have used one of these bins for about ten  years and found it an excellent piece of equipment. Being a tombola drum shaped tumbler system, they are easy to aerate. 

Green Cone.  The Green Cone is not a composter; it is specifically designed as a domestic food digestion system for waste such as cooked vegetables, pasta, meat, bones, and dairy products. It is suited to a family producing relatively small quantities of food waste and  is not designed to take garden or non-kitchen food waste. It needs a well-drained soil .

 Bokashi Bins.    Bokashi is also a  useful system for those who cold compost as it allows cooked food to be treated so that  it can be composted in a conventional compost bin. Bokashi bins can be kept in the kitchen or outside in a shed or garden.

Check out www.carryoncomposting.com for more details of composting techniques including Bokashi and composting without a compost bin.

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