Why is composting important for sustainability?

28/02/2021

Sustainability: Why is composting important?

Many of us may be familiar with the term compost, yes that is the stuff we put on our flowers in the garden, fertiliser essentially, or a more formal description is decayed organic material used as a fertiliser for growing plants. However, along with biodegradable, there is a lot of talk about compost.

You may think compost is what comes from composting. Simple! Well not exactly.

Composting occurs continuously in nature all the time. Especially in autumn when leaves and branches fall and decompose on the forest floor or in our gardens. It is nature’s way of recycling and nourishing the earth.

Composting is not just a new trend. The Romans were composting as early as 160 BC. As we are all becoming much more environmentally conscious especially post COVID-19. Much more people are using composting as a way of recycling, not just homeowners, businesses too.

Compost heaps have been used by many farmers and gardeners for generations.  Food, leaves, grass cuttings, and garden waste can all go into the compost, where ravenously hungry microorganisms eat the waste to produce carbon dioxide, water and humus(soil).  The resulting compost is an excellent natural fertiliser proven by organic gardeners to restore soil fertility, control weeds, retain ground moisture and reduce soil erosion. It is great for the environment and that is important to us being the first ethical hotel in the UK!

Compostable materials are like biodegradable materials, as they are both intended to return to the earth safely. However, compostable materials go one step further by providing the earth with nutrients once the material has completely broken down in the form of compost.

Compostable means anything that can go through the composting process and be broken down to provide fertiliser/compost at the end.

What Does Biodegradable Mean?

Biodegradable materials break down and return to nature. For packaging products or materials to qualify as biodegradable, they must completely break down and decompose into natural elements within a short time after disposal – typically a year or less. The ability to biodegrade within landfills helps to reduce the build-up of waste, contributing to a safer, cleaner, and healthier environment. Materials that are biodegradable include corrugated cardboard and even some plastics. Most plastics, however, are not biodegradable – meaning they cannot break down easily after disposal and can remain on the planet as waste for decades.

 

What is suitable for compost?

The raw materials that go into compost come from organic waste. These green, organic disposables can come from your garden, your kitchen and even your home at large.

A variety of ingredients are needed to get a compost heap going. The more variety of stuff that goes in the better the quality of the finished compost.

 

Essential ingredients are:

  • Leaves
  • Grass cuttings
  • Manure (preferably organic)
  • Any non-animal food scraps: fruits, vegetables, peelings, bread, cereal, coffee grounds and filters, tea leaves and tea bags.
  • Old wine/juice
  • Pet bedding from herbivores ONLY — rabbits, hamsters, etc.
  • Dry cat or dog food
  • Dust from sweeping and vacuuming
  • Old herbs and spices

Things that take a little longer:

 

  • Shredded newspaper, receipts, paper bags, etc (any non-glossy paper)
  • Tissues, paper towelling, and cotton balls — unless soaked with things like meat fat, chemicals, or other stuff that doesn’t belong your compost.
  • Cardboard, egg cartons, toilet rolls.
  • Used clothes, towels, and sheets made from natural fabrics — cotton, linen, silk, wool, bamboo.
  • Old string
  • Sawdust
  • Wood chips
  • Twigs
  • Hair, human or otherwise
  • Old, dry pasta
  • Nutshells
  • Corn cobs
  • Pits from mangos, avocados, peaches, plums, etc.
  • Wine corks

 

Things not suitable for compost?

 

  • Pet droppings, especially dogs & cats
  • Animal products — meat, bones, butter, milk, fish skins

 

How does compost work in hospitality?

Hotels and restaurants use packing and that means plastics which are not renewable or truly recyclable and are very damaging to the world’s environment. At The Wesley, as an ethical and sustainable social enterprise, for example we use packaging for food a drinks in The Garage Cafe from   Vegware https://www.vegware.com/ , who make their products from plants, and that means they can be composted and returned to the earth as natural nutrients for the soil for more plants to grow in. Essentially, companies can look to composting the same as homes. We are always on the lookout for even better ways to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable, so please feel free to let us know any ideas that can help us achieve this goal.

 

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