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Building a Home Compost

Composting is natures way of recycling, and it comes without all the confusion about which day it gets collected on. More importantly, its an easy way to substantially reduce your environmental footprint.

On average 1/3 of all household waste is food or organic materials that can be composted instead of being sent to landfill. Organic waste in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is 8 times more potent than CO2 and amounts to 8% of the worlds greenhouse gas emissions.

If you're itching for a project to do this weekend or as restrictions ease we've put together some instructions on how to build your own home compost. Having said that there are lots of different ways to do this, so feel free to adapt to what will suit your needs!

What can go in a compost

First, it's important to know what you will and won't be putting into your compost to ensure things breakdown correctly and you don't attract any rodents. The majority of organic waste material from your kitchen and garden can go into the compost bin including:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Bread, pasta and eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and paper tea bags
  • Grass, leaves, and sticks, though avoid anything too big
  • Newspaper, unbleached paper towels or tissues and small amounts of cardboard

Things that you shouldn't put in your compost include:

  • Any dairy products including cheese and milk
  • Any meats, fish, and large bones
  • Human or animal waste
  • Processed paper such as magazines and brochures
  • Compostable or biodegradable packaging unless it is certified to break down in a home compost
  • Treated wood such as varnished wood
  • Large amounts of lemons, lime, or anything highly acidic
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Where it should go

It is important that the area is well-drained and draws moisture away from the bottom of the bins, otherwise it becomes soggy. It's best to keep it out of sight and away from the living and sleeping areas. It needs to be sheltered from wind and extreme heat, so a shady area is best.

What you will need

  • Spare wood or wooden palettes for the sides and posts (It's best to find wood of around 1m in length to make sure your compost will be a good size)
  • Long nails or screws
  • Extra wood if you span to make a lid for on top
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How to build it

1. Clear a 1x1m square area where you’re going to put the compost bin and level the ground using a shovel or a rake if it is uneven. This has to be over bare dirt or soil, not on a concrete surface.

2. Dig 4 small holes in the corners of the area and place your 4 posts into them. Using a sledgehammer or heavy tool, drive them about 20-30cm deep into the ground so your compost has stability.

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3. Line up planks on each side of the posts, and use a hammer or screwdriver to secure each plant to the posts. Space the planks 50mm apart so that the compost has air to breathe.

4. You want your compost to be about 4 or 5 planks high on each side to make sure there is enough space for the organic waste to break down.

5. If you decide to have a lid, you can make a simple one by nailing together more 1m long planks (about 7 or 8) and securing them together with another two planks across the top.

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Maintaining your compost

While maintenance is minimal, regularly turning the pile is better for your compost. Keep the pile dry as the materials going into it will create moisture and you need as little sogginess as possible. If your pile is too wet, add shredded newspaper or dry leaves. This material will soak up the excess moisture and prevent mold from forming.

A great result is when your compost looks and smells like dark, rich soil. You can use it in many ways, like in garden beds, in container plantings, and even as an ingredient in seed-starting mix.

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