Composting domestic waste
Composting is the breakdown of organic material such as kitchen or garden waste by organisms that feed on waste and convert it into an earth like mass. This earth like mass (compost) can then be used as a soil conditioner.
As part of Irish Government policy on waste management, targets were set to reduce biodegradable waste consigned to landfill. The recycling and composting of domestic waste has been established as one way of reaching this target.
The European Union (Household Food Waste and Bio -Waste) Regulations 2013 were designed to promote the segregation and recovery of household food waste. Brown bins for composting have been rolled out to most towns and cities with only very small population areas being exempt or small islands or areas where it is simply not technically, environmentally or practical to separately collect such waste.
Organic materials can also be brought to civic amenity centres to be composted. You should contact your local authority for the details. You may not use a macerator to dispose of food waste into the sewerage system, or put food waste in the general waste collection.
In addition to contributing to the recycling process, composting reduces the
volume of your weekly domestic waste and therefore will cut your domestic
There are various forms of home composting - you can have a compost heap at the end of your garden or you can make or buy your own compost container. It is useful to remember that it is best to start a compost bin in the spring, summer or autumn as the decomposition process slows or stops in winter.
If you are using a compost container, this container will protect the contents from the elements. You can buy a compost container in most garden centres and hardware shops. Some local authorities in Ireland have schemes in place that offer compost containers to households in your area for reduced rates.
Before buying a container, you should take into consideration the size of your garden and the number of people in your family or household.
It is useful to have a small container in your kitchen that collects your organic waste for composting. This will reduce the number of trips to your compost container. You will also need a garden shovel or fork for turning and removing the compost. You can add activators to your compost bin to help establish the bin or speed up the decomposition process, but these are not necessary to compost successfully.
You can view further information about items you can compost. You can also view further information about waste items you should not compost and the reasons why.
You do not need a compost container to begin to recycle your domestic waste - you could have a compost heap at the end of your garden.
Health and safety
When deciding where to place your compost container, there are a few guidelines to remember from a health and safety perspective, to ensure that you are composting correctly:
- Place the composting bin on grass or earth: This allows worms to enter the bin from underneath. Worms will help keep air circulating through the material. Plenty of air is required to speed up the composting process and to avoid odours. As the material decomposes, moisture seeps out and you will need to allow this liquid to soak into your grass or earth. Bins with bases have holes to allow for worm entry and should be raised slightly off the ground (i.e., by 1-2cm.). You can achieve this by placing a few flat stones under the base. Bins with bases are raised slightly to prevent the holes becoming blocked, which would prevent worm and oxygen entry.
- Distance from the house: Place the bin not too far from the kitchen door. This allows you easy access to the bin but ensures the container is far enough away to avoid contamination.
- Place the container in a sunny spot: Containers made of dark colours will absorb light from the sun, without drying out the material in the container.
- Protect the container from heavy rain: Heavy rain can waterlog the container, preventing composting. When you have chosen the location, loosen the soil in order to help drainage and make it easier for the contents to degrade.
Further information about home composting is available from the Environmental Services section of your local authority.
Material on a wide range of environmental matters are also available on the ENFO website.