- What is composting?
- Why compost?
- Where should I put my composter?
- What should I put in the bin?
- What should I not put in the bin?
- Learn useful tips from a composting champion
- Top tips for beginners on composting
- How and where can I purchase a composter from the council?
Composting is the decomposition of organic material. Over one third of waste is compostable. Composting is easy and fun. It reduces waste and returns nutrients to the soil.
- Composting is an easy and practical way to help reduce the amount of household waste that is currently disposed of at landfill facilities
- A third of all household waste is organic and could be composted cleanly and cheaply in the back garden
- Compost provides a rich soil enhancer for use in the garden and improves plant yield
- Composting saves you money on buying compost from the garden centre
- Composting protects the environment by reducing the demand for peat based compost
See our 'Mini-guide to Composting' for more details.
Vermi-composting is an additional form of composting which involves the use of tiger worms and a sealed base unit which allows for the composting of cooked food, paper and cardboard. To find out more about vermi-composting:
When deciding where to place the bin, there are a few guidelines to remember:-
- Place the bin on grass or earth
This allows worms to enter the bin from underneath – worms help to keep air circulating through the material and plenty of air is needed to speed up the composting process and to avoid odours. Also, as the material decomposes, moisture seeps out and you’ll need to allow this liquid to soak into your grass or earth. The bins with bases have holes to allow for worm entry, and should be raised slightly off the ground, 1 – 2 cm. This can be achieved by placing a few flat stones under the base. The 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 your kitchen door, so it is easily accessed, but far enough to allow bacteria, fungi, worms and beetles to work in peace.
- Place the bin in a sunny spot
The dark colour of the bin will absorb the sunrays, without risk of drying out the material in the bin.
- Protect it from heavy rain
Heavy rain may waterlog the bin, which will starve the bin of air and prevent composting. Once you’ve chosen your location, loosen the soil in order to help drainage and make it easier for the worms and bacteria to pass into the bin from the surrounding earth. Put the bin in place (on its base if supplied) It is best to start a compost bin in the spring, summer or autumn, as the decomposition process slows or stops in winter.
Anything organic - that is anything that was once living, whether animal or vegetable can be composted but some materials are more appropriate than others for home composting. Organic material falls into two categories: “Green” & “Brown”. “Green” or “Nitrogen Rich” organic material is wet and often green like grass clippings or fruit and vegetables.“Brown” or “Carbon Rich” organic material is dry, woody material that is usually brown, such as fallen leaves, and tree-cuttings. The following list of materials can be composted at home. It has been separated into “Green”and “Brown” for simple identification.
- Coffee grounds
- Tea leaves and tea bags
- Fruit and vegetable waste (cooked or uncooked) roots, cores, etc.
- Bread, pasta and rice
- Cut and dead flowers
- Manure from any vegetarian pets (good activator) #
- Weeds (avoid weed seeds)
- Old plants (not diseased)
- Seaweed or garden pond cleanings (good activator) #
# Activators are the primary food of the organisms and help to establish the bin or speed up the process.
- Egg shells
- Kitchen paper
- Papers and light cardboard e.g. cereal or shoe boxes (crumpled) *
- Pet hairs and human hairs
- Wood/peat/peat ashes (no coal ashes)
- Tree prunings and woody material (chopped)
- Hay and straw
- Sawdust or wood shaving
* Newspapers, cardboard and paper can be added in small crumpled amounts but it is better to recycle them if you can.
Some organic materials are not suitable for home composting. The following is a list of materials that should not be composted at home and the reasons for their exclusions.
- Meat and fish scraps – attracts pests
- Grease and oil – slow to decompose and attracts pests
- Cat litter and cat or dog faeces – temperature of the bin too low to kill pathogens (diseased cells)
- Glossy papers or magazines – plastic coating will not compost
- Barbecue and coal ashes – coals have been chemically treated and will chemically contaminate your compost
- Large woody material – slow to compost
- Evergreen shrubs – too acidic
- Disposable nappies or septic tank sludge - temperature of the bin too low to kill pathogens (diseased cells)
Bill O'Connor and his family live in Busypark just a few miles from Ennis, Co. Clare. Bill is a keen gardender and has been composting for more than 14 years. He says it's easy and wants to encourage other people to start composting.
Joan Tarmey, Environmental Awareness Officer with Clare County Council spoke with Bill and put the following questions to him.
Why do you compost?
Mainly to reduce the load on our waste collection service and to use the compost to feed our garden.
What type of composting system have you set up?
I use the plastic cone-type composters also known as cold composting. I have two composters as it's useful to let one sit and biodegrade, while we continue to fill the other one.
Do you do any gardening?
Yes, I spend a good bit of time in the garden in the summer particularly between cutting the lawn, trimming hedges and looking after the rockeries, shrubs and plants.
What materials do you compost?
We mainly put in fruit skins such as banana, grapefruit, orange or fruit that has gone over. Also vegetable peelings of all types, old flowers. We put in only small amounts of grass clippings (10% at most) in little layers spread over the compost pile. I tend to recycle newspaper, and only compost very small amounts as they can mat together if you put too much in. No meat or cooked food should be put into compost bin - this is very important.
What percentage of kitchen waste vs. garden waste would you have?
On average about 70% of the organic waste comes from the kitchen, while 30% comes from garden waste including grass clippings and trimmings.
Can you tell me a bit about the geography of your area, home and garden?
Our house sits on a half acre plot, with about 50% lawn and 50% hard surfaces. It's a rocky site sitting on a hill, which gets a lot of wind between November and February, so the position of your composter is important to avoid being blown away.
Where is your composter located?
It is important that the composter is convenient to the kitchen. Ours is located within a short distance from the back door, in a spacious corner beside a dry stone wall and picket fence which acts as the boundary.A large ash tree overhangs this area providing some shelter and cover in the rain. The two composters are placed directed onto the soil and sit next to each other.The area around them and the yard is covered in pebble-sized stone which allows drainage.
How many people live in your house and do they eat daily meals there?
There are four in the family - two adults and two children. The whole family generally eats breakfast and evening meals at home and any organic waste goes into the kitchem caddy under the sick, and is emptied into the composter.
Any problems / solutions you've had with your composting system?
Haven't really experienced any problems in my 14 years of composting. I'm careful to put in the right materials into the compost pile.
Any problems with flies? Solutions?
Sometimes in summer, tiny fruit flies appear in the composter, but this isn't a problem as they are harmless. I keep the composter lids on so that the food waste isn't exposed to the air too much.
Ever had any problem with unwanted animals in the composter?
No, I've never had a problem with this. The only animal I can recall was a pet fox. He didn't go near the composters; was mostly curious and probably looking for rabbits. Haven't seen him for a long time now.
How do you manage grass - often too much grass for composter?
In the spring, the grass is cut with a ride-on mower and collected especially in early spring. These clippings are placed under our hedges as a mulch to supress weeds and provide some feed.
It is easier on the mower to switch it mulching mode once the grass has been mown a few times and is shorter. Mulching mode chops up the grass and spreads it over the lawn as you mow providing a useful feed.
How and when do you harvest your compost?
I usually harvest one of my composters in the autumn, and it is handy to have one composter which has been sitting for a while biodegrading, while we actively fill the other.
I usually shovel the compost out of the bottom hatch/opening in the composter into a wheelbarrow, and spread it around the plants as required.
What do they use the compost for?
Since our site is rocky, there is relatively little soil. So I use the compost as a soil enhancer for bedding plants, and larger shrubs.
- Make sure not to put meat in your composter
- Keep composter a little moist, and water a litter in dry weather with a watering can/bucket.
- The smaller the pieces of organic waste you put into the composter, the faster you will have compost. It is easy to do this as you go.
- You can use any spare bits of insulation you have to cover your composter in the winter to keep the heat in and keep it ticking over.
Clare County Council has home composters available at the following locations at a cost of €50.00 each.
- Ennis Recycling Centre, Gort Road, Ennis (Tel: 065 6893705) Pay and collect composter at this facility.
- Central Waste Management Facility, Ballyduff Beg, Inagh (Tel: 065 6836960) Pay and collect composter at this facility.
- Kilrush Town Council, Kilrush (Tel: 065-9051039). Purchase ticket at the Cash Office, Kilrush Town Council, Kilrush (9:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Monday / 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Tuesday-Friday) and collect composter at Vandeleur Walled Garden.
- Lisdeen Recycling Centre & Transfer Station, Lisdeen, Kilkee (Tel: 065-9060172) Pay and collect composter at this facility.
- Scariff Recycling Centre & Transfer Station, Fossabeg, Scariff (Tel: 061-921735) Pay and collect composter at this facility.
- Shannon Recycling Centre, Smithstown, Shannon (Tel: 061-364483) Pay and collect composter at this facility.
- South East Clare Area Office, Westbury Centre , Knockballynameath (Tel: 061 356160)
Further information can be obtained by contacting (065) 6846503.
Composting workshops will be organised during the year and details will be advertised in the local media.
Page last updated: 22/02/11