CATERING FOOD WASTE
Is the HOTBIN an effective recycling solution for businesses producing catering food waste?
As many as 50,000* UK businesses could utilise food waste composting to tackle catering food waste. It can save the company collection and disposal costs and help the environment by reducing the need for landfill. (*50,000 businesses might divert as much as 25,000 tonnes – derived from WRAP campaign on catering food waste statistics).
Over the past 12 months, we have been working with a group of corporate sites to test the HOTBIN in a business environment. Various teams in cafes, B&Bs, hotels, and business / corporate catering facilities have been using the HOTBIN.
The sites testing/using HOTBINs include:
||Hotels, cafe, B&Bs
||Kitchen Garden, Meldon
|Rose Lodge Care Home
||BrockBrushes Farm shop
||down south garden centre
||Plants R Ross
Does the HOTBIN work on catering food waste?
Yes – this was never in doubt, catering food waste is the much the same as domestic food waste.
Can the HOTBIN cope with a catering waste sites volumes?
Yes, however, the amount of food waste varies enormously across the sites – from very small amounts barely enough to keep the HOTBIN hot, to too much and right on the limits of practical use.
Top Tips When Looking at Composting Catering Waste
Capacity: match how much food waste to to number of HOTBINs needed. Few sites know how much food waste they have, so we have developed the following chart.
|Kgs / week
(rotating one per day)
||5Kg (10 litres)(2 small, 1 large kitchen caddy)
||20 Kg (40 litres)
||35 Kg (70 Litres)
||15-20Kg (30-60L)(60 litres is a mid-sized kitchen bin)
||60-80 Kg (240-320 litres)(200 litres is a std wheelie bin, or half a 4-wheel bin)
||100-200 Kg (200-600 litres)(600 litres is large 4 wheel wheelie bin a week
Notes: weights relate to just food waste – adding garden waste will significantly change capacity.
Find a compost aware champion: hot composting needs to be actively managed. No matter how good the equipment, mishaps will occasionally happen. In a business environment, it is important to plan for these by having a member of staff ‘on call’ with the knowledge to sort problems out. Your champion may have to sort out occasional issues (eg odour if the mix was incorrect, flies or maggots if the waste was left accessible to flies and HOTBIN was not running hot).
Avoid excess water: catering food waste is often ‘too wet’ for hot composting. Staff will have limited time to check what is being collected. Behind the scenes you need to:
- Balance the mix by adding shredded office paper and bulking agent.
- Find a storage space for bags of paper and bulking agent
- Plan for occasional leachate – check where you locate the HOTBIN
- Factor in time to chop up waste: a whole cabbage will takes ages to compost –and affect HOTBIN performance. Plan in time ‘to chop’ and be aware of business conflicts – eg staff need to clear and restock shelves versus chopping waste.
Housekeeping: Any waste dropped needs to be picked up. This is vital – your site is likely to be very quite at night and no noise plus food on the ground is a ‘rat magnet’. Store all waste prior to adding to HOTBIN in covered container.
Loading routine: The HOTBIN has a minimum and maximum loading amount and it works best when fed twice a week. Plan the right collection routine and have enough HOTBINs to load based on that rota.
Emptying: empty the compost out every 3 months and take/spread it on the garden. You can load without any special kit – but emptying needs gloves, buckets trowels – it’s not an office dress task!
You may not want to use the compost there and then – in which case a storage area for ‘maturing compost’ is needed – normally a 1m3, ie a palette box is ideal
Is it worthwhile?
The test sites are demonstrating that with planning you can compost catering food waste onsite. It is still a little early to say if they have saved cost over the collection and disposal costs, but the environmental benefits by reducing transport and landfill are achieved. This is a good message around recycling and being sustainable.
Here are some items to add into your evaluation:
- Know your waste collection costs, and do not forget to add in your costs to load the wheelie bins with waste.
- The compost generated (1-3 mt) would save you perhaps £80-240/year if you compared to buying compost to spread on site gardens
- Bulking agent and browns should cost less than £40/year
- Cardboard approx £15-30/year (but free if you use office shredded paper)
- Staff time – we currently estimate 30 mins a day to load and unload 2 units
- Capital cost for HotBins (c£400), write of over 5 years
- Corporate messages – there is a great message around recycling and being sustainable. This can be extended for some into organic gardening.
- Carbon offsetting – no detailed information at present
We think as many as 50,000 UK businesses could utilise a HOTBIN. This would equate to 25,000 tonnes diverted from landfill. (Derived from WRAP campaign on catering food waste statistics).
Come on UK business – you know it makes sense – sign up today!
Research Twin packs and Quad Pack here.
It makes absolute sense for B&B’s and small hotels plus some cafes who have use for their compost! You can even compost the Vegware range of completely compostable food packaging and catering disposables as you can see in an earlier post.
One size (or even four) does not fit all. If you need a really big onsite composter do not despair, we have some big friends and we are happy to introduce you. http://www.tidyplanet.co.uk/, Ridan http://www.ridan.co.uk/, HotRot http://www.hotrotsolutions.com/
RUNNING AT 20-40C
My HOTBIN is running at 20-40C, is it OK?
HOTBIN is very proud of its ability to hot compost at 40-60C. We “go on” about it all the time that given the right amount and mix of waste all customers can hot compost. However there are HOTBIN customers who love the HOTBIN and are happy to leave it trundling along at 20-40C.
And it is perfectly alright for HOTBIN customers to choose to bask in a ‘warm glow’ rather than sit in the ‘blazing heat’! Some of our customers know they will be warm composting through winter until they get more garden waste.
However here is the key Top Tip to remember:
If you want to ‘warm’ compost rather than ‘hot’ and still add ALL food waste you need to take extra care to ADD MORE shredded paper/corrugated cardboard and bulking agent than normal. Less water will leave the HOTBIN as steam, so you need your mix to have more dry material (paper) and ensure it stays aerated (bulking agent). If you don’t there is a real chance that you could end up with a soggy anerobic HOTBIN.
So now you know you need be strict about ADDING MORE shredded paper/corrugated cardboard and bulking agent than normal you can just sit back, relax but remember:
- Seed destruction will be less
- There is a slightly higher risk of fruit flies (they are harmless!)
- It will take longer to destroy pathogens, herbicides and pesticides (you may not have use or have any, so it could be irrelevant
- It will take longer to create you compost – so be patient, but relax – speed is not what everyone needs
Here’s a quick refresh of compost speeds and temperature:
Even when you are taking a relaxed WARM not HOT approach remember for every 10C above the external air, your compost will still decompose twice as fast as an open heap running at ambient air temp.
The things you need to watch out for when the temperatures in the HOTBIN are between 20-40 C.
Flies, maggots and fruit flies
There is a slightly higher risk of fruit flies and maggots from house flies.
- Temperatures below 40C will not kill maggots (flies can lay eggs in the food in your kitchen caddy, on garden plants etc.
- If you get an infestation either leave them be, or be patient – they will die of in winter, and you will be able to hot compost again in spring if you have grass / nettles / comfrey and more easy to digest material available in the garden.
Pathogens, herbicides and pesticides
It will take longer to destroy pathogens, herbicides and pesticides (This could be irrelevant if you have not used them – see full pathogen blog)
- Herbicides & pesticides – follow mfg guidelines – all info assumes cold composting, so if it says leave six months – leave a batch to stand for an extra couple months in bags
- Pathogens – it is defiantly safer to compost meat, fish etc at higher temperature. If you decide to warm compost, the key is to keep the waste aerated. You will lose less water as steam and see more leachate. Compensate with MORE bulking agent and more shredded paper- – keep the mix drier than normal.
Some seeds (eg tomato, melon, weeds, grass) are likely to survive when composted below 40C so they can germinate when compost is used.
- Ease the problem – do not add weeds that have seeded – get them into the HOTBIN early as greens.
- Does it really matter if a bunch of tomatoes seeds sprout where you used the compost. Pull them out and add to compost heap.
- Take extra care with invasive weeds. Do not add them to a bin operating warm – consider burning them
Bottom line – Compost
If you have any queries about warm composting in the HOTBIN or you just want to try and get into the hot composting zone between 40-60C, then please contact the HOTBIN team and we will work with you to get you hot composting.
Even if you do not have enough waste, there are often very simple solutions like taking in your neighbours kitchen caddy, stocking up with shredded paper and a bucket of chicken pellets, etc.
The bottom line – given a your compost a little longer as after all the compost coming out from a warm heap will be good for your garden!
170 THINGS TO COMPOST
Want to know what you can compost? HOTBIN’s complete list of things to compost guide is for you!
We compost every day and know what can go in at a practical level. Based on what type of compost bin you have and how hot it gets, we tell you how long it will take. Our list is technically accurate and hopefully more valuable (and most of it is tried and tested too!). There are over 170 items. It was a blast creating it and we hope it is valuable! Click on the graphic to see the full list
Who will find this COMPOST list USEFUL?
- Recyclers who want to make a real positive difference by composting more waste
- Gardeners who want a large amount of quality compost
- HOTBIN Customers who know they can add more than the ‘Traditional List’ to their HOTBIN and want to give it a go!
PLEASE GIVE THE LIST SOME RESPECT
This list is not for anyone seeking to ‘copy and paste’ to make their own list longer to attract traffic. This list is © copyright of HOTBIN Composting & AC Innovations Ltd, 2010-2013. It took significant time to author, research the facts and correct the ‘dross’ lists on the web. It is not OK to copy. As a bare minimum, be courteous enough to reference us as the source and use a reference hyperlink back to us at www.hotbincomposting.com
Producing another list has no value. We think we have added value by understanding what people need to do, why they need to do it and advising if it practically works and ultimately is worth the effort. We have adding context and value by adding categorising and indexing the table as follows:
Categorised waste by source
- Food, garden, manure, home/other. Sub sorted alphabetically.
Indexed by science i.e. Is it biodegradable or not?
- Biodegradable means it breaks down back through the carbon cycle to water, carbon dioxide and the trace elements (NKP, Ca, etc). But there is no standard that defines how long. Few list the critical conditions when they quote how many years it takes. The scientific fact of biodegradation and how long it takes are different. Time can vary by a factor of 100 relative to the conditions (notably temperature) – 1 year can become 50 and so on. It can also become never if a critical part of the system is not present.
Indexed by compost method – Is it compostable in a hot or cold system?
- Your composting method and equipment does make a massive difference! (Most all readers will only have the equipment to cold compost. Here at HOTBIN we make a hot composting system which changes everything).
- Is it practical and worthwhile? Can it be done with relative ease? What volume of waste, collection, time, risks, rewards. What do people making compost want – lots of good compost. That requires lots of starting material. A tonne of manure will make around 250Kg of compost. It would take you a lifetime to create the same compost by collecting the cotton from Q-tips (see end of list!)
Compost things that makes a real difference
- Compost all garden waste (plants, grass, branches, weeds)
- Compost ALL food waste
NB – A typical household throws away 250Kg of food waste – that is second only to green garden waste. But it has to be easy!
WHY COMPOST FOOD WASTE
Benefits of composting all food waste – is it worth it?
Why compost food waste?
An estimated 7.2 million tonnes of food waste is collected by UK Local Authorities and sent to landfill. This is approximately 150-250 Kg per household per year (ref. WRAP, 2011). Around 7m UK homes already home compost, but they compost as little as 35% of their total food waste – typically adding vegetable peelings and tea bags. The other 65% of food waste (plate scrapping, meat, fish, cooked food, rice, pasta, leftover bread, cakes, etc) is on the “do not add” to your compost bin list. This advice is well founded when cold composting food waste as it often results in odour, vermin, yuck and mess (ref Defra funded, Brook-Lyndhurst 2008).
Successful home composting of all food waste has environmental benefits as it reduces fuel used to collect and transport waste to landfill, prevents methane release in landfill, [methane is a potent greenhouse gas] and reduces the number of new industrial composting / anaerobic digestion plants required in the UK.
WHAT SAVIINGS does this TRANSLATE into?
A quick estimate is 250Kg/house x 65% x 7m households upgrading to hot composting = 1.12 million mt of food waste diverted from landfill. This equates to roughly 50 large scale AD/IVC central plants. Whilst costs vary, this is around £500 million of capital costs and 10 years of planning and building.
We clearly have a vested interest, but it would appear to be a good environmental case to subsidise the more expensive “all food waste compost bins” for those households that want them. If the government exempted the compost bin from VAT (£25) and matched 3 years of food waste collection cost (£20/yr/hh for FW), then that would get to around a £75-85 subsidy!
(No VAT? – Within the overall UK energy & environmental programme there are a number of energy saving devices classified as zero rated VAT goods. So if we lobby politicians along the lines of “what’s the difference between energy saving and saving the environmental impact of transport/landfill/building AD processing facilities)
We need to get a couple of council officers thinking £75 subsidy. At a price point of £75 per HOTBIN we know people would buy on mass. From here it is a virtuous circle – high volume production reduces costs, which means lower prices which equates to more volume. We are miles away from this – but our goal has to be large scale diversion!
It’s a big lobbying task, but the rewards could be large.
Just for clarity – we are not anti the WRAP/government strategy to build anaerobic digestion (AD) plants to extract energy from food waste. Technically sound and matches the council’s need to build solutions that cater for most of the population. Composting is not going to work for all (flats, no gardens etc come to mind). At best composting is relevant for 20-30% of households, but this 20% can make an immediate and large impact winning time for the planning consents and large AD facilities to handle the other 80%.
My Council Collects food waste in Kerbside containers –
Is it still worth composting?
Some Local Authorities collect and transport food waste to either a large composting or anaerobic digestion processing plant – well done your council. To meet UK commitments on landfill diversion, we estimate 300 new reprocessing plants will be needed across the UK. Each will cost many millions to build and take many years to fully commission.
Processing at home can start immediately; it saves labour, transport costs and the need to build as many reprocessing plants. If you have very little waste (less than 2.5Kg, or a small 5 litre kitchen caddy per week), or have no garden to use compost, then using a kerbside collection makes sense.
My Council Offers cheap/free dalex/plastic compost bins –
Is it worth using a HOTBIN?
We believe so. The key issue we see is this – almost all compost advice sites (government, user, expert) will state: “do not add cooked food, meat, dairy, fish, bone etc to a traditional cold dalex type composter – the food is likely to decay anerobically and generate odour which in turn will attract rats and flies”.
1) This means around 65% of food waste items are not added to a coldcomposting bin
2) You only get significant diversion if home composting can handle all food waste
3) You need a special food waste compost bin to handle all food waste
In our opinion, as soon as you establish an objective like ‘compost all food waste with low odour, without attracting rats or flies’ or ‘compost using an easy recipe; ‘compost faster’; ‘compost all year round’ then you need to look at ‘hot composting’.
You can find a full list of the benefits of hot composting and how to evaluate a specialist HOTBIN over a traditional heap at our post on choosing the right compost bin.
Things to consider unclude;
- Do you want to make a more positive contribution to the environment?
- Recycling all your food waste so your local council no longer has to collect and transport it to landfill or a central AD/IVC reprocessing plant?
- Are you just fed up with allocating more and more of your flower or vegetable patch to overflowing compost bins that never seem to do anything?
- Do you only have seasonal waste, or do you also have regular weekly amounts of food waste all year round
You will find a full list of the benefits of hot composting over cold composting at this post
My Council Collects Green waste –
Is it still worth composting?
Many councils charge for green garden waste collection (e.g. £20-30 per year) and these charges are likely to increase. Many green bins are collected near empty (wasting time and fuel). Most of the time they are filled with mainly grass – grass is really easy to compost!
If you are a keen gardener, more than likely you will buy fertiliser, peat and/or compost to maintain the quality of your garden. Why not make your own compost and fertiliser. It takes no more effort and you could save you money.
Why is COMPOST & Composting Important?
Most gardeners just ‘know’ compost is good – they use it and they see the benefits in terms of plant growth etc.
Perhaps less well known is that humus (see definition below) is absolutely critical to soil structure, tilth, fertility, etc. It is hard to grasp just how many aspects of life on earth are linked to humus – agriculture, sustainable agriculture, reduction in inorganic fertilisers, peat, carbon sequestration, biochar, desertification, land rehabilitation, the list goes on.
So just an opinion – humus is hugely important.
Soil chemistry books are well reviewed on Wiki etc. However we do think it is helpful to clarify that humus as defined in soil science has a different meaning to the more colloquial gardening use of the term where it often used as another name for compost. In soil science, humus is a distinct fraction of the soil organic matter (SOM). Humus is:
- Dark (almost black), mushy, sticky and watery
- Is a colloidal mass, ie it holds many times its own weight in water – squeeze humus and water will come out.
- The water in humus dissolves and holds the critical plant nutrients (NO3- nitrate ion, ammonium ion (NH4-), Sulphate ion (SO4-). As soluble ions, roots easily absorb them. The ions are not easily washed out (leached out). In humus, both water and the soluble ions are retained but are ‘plant available’, ie absorbed via plant roots
- Humus has the capacity to hold and exchange cations (e.g. metal ions such as so sodium, calcium, aluminium, iron). Soil cation exchange capacity “CEC” affects fertility – CEC increases as you move from poor soils (e.g. heavy clay) to good (e.g. rich loam). Adding humus increases soil CEC, i.e., soil fertility.
- Humus is highly resistant to further mineralisation (decomposition). It is routinely carbon-14 dated at 200-500 years old
- Humus is made of large polymeric chains. However, when extracted for chemical analysis, it has the following constituents: humeric acid, fulvic acid and humin. This family of ‘aromatic ring compounds’ are used as ‘building blocks’ linked in many different ways to create a complex polymeric substance.
‘Mature compost’ is not ‘humus’, although it will contain humus. The more humus in your compost the better for your plants, soil and the environment. There is an awful lot of soil fertility and soil science that indicates humus is one of the most important items in soil fertility. Nutrients from decay end up in the soil at some stage. These nutrients are retained and made available for plants via humus. It is a sad and growing fact that nitrates and other nutrients added to soils tend to leach very quickly from soils with low humus content.
So if you are keen to get hot composting take a look through this blog or visit our website which also has a substantial composting FAQ
Out and about with the Master Composters
HOTBIN has been working with Master Composters and Recycling Officers for the past 12 months. We donated 15 HOTBINS to be used with various teams across the country. We were keen to get the Master Composters to try the HOTBIN and see how it compared against the other composting bins they work with.
HOTBIN composting is quite different from traditional composting methods and we knew Master Composters would definitely put the HOTBIN to the test!
What do we want to achieve via the HOTBIN project?
WRAP( July 2011) estimated there are around 7 million homes in the UK composting. About 65% of household food waste is classed as “do not add to compost bin”. Most composting is therefore adding 35% comprising mainly of vegetable peelings and tea bags from the kitchen. The HOTBIN can compost ALL food waste including meat and cooked leftovers.
If we can upgraded all home composters to compost all food waste, then that would divert an additional 1.12 million tonnes from landfill and collection. (250Kg/house x 65% x 7m households = 1.12 million mt of food waste). This equates to roughly 50 large scale AD/IVC central plants. Whilst costs vary, this is around £500 million of capital costs and 10 years of planning and building.
We clearly have a vested interest, but we think there is an environmental case for councils to subsidise the more expensive “all food waste compost bins” for those households that want them. If the government exempted compost bins from VAT (£25) and matched 3 years of food waste collection cost (£20/yr/hh), then that subsidy would allow a price point of £75 per HOTBIN! The subsidy leads to a virtuous circle – more units leads to high volume production, which reduces costs, which reduces prices again which increases volume which diverts even more. We are miles away from this – but our goal has to be large scale diversion. (If you want to read more on the benefits of hot composting topic jump to this post).
This year will see HOTBIN enter all the major Council framework agreements (ESPO/YPO/Scotland Excel) giving us more visibility and opportunity to discuss removing food waste via home composting. With the help of Recycling Officers and Master Composters we hope to divert more food waste in 2013.
HOTBIN test SITES include:
||What & Why
||2 units with Waste Recycling Officers
||4 units, 2 with Master Composters & 2 with Recycling Team
||1 unit with Waste Minimisation Officer
||1 MC – Sarah, aka ‘Compost Woman’ Follow her blog and review here
||1 unit with Master Composter
||On display Snibston recycling centre
||1 unit with waste recycling Officer
||1 unit with MC
||1 unit with MC
||1 MC & 12 Units with Waldringfield Community Composting
||1 unit with MC
||1 unit with MC
||2 Units, on display at York Rotters See St Nicks field website
|Zero waste (Scotland)
||Waste Recycling Officer
|If you would like contact details for the above, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
REMEMBER MASTER COMPOSTERS;
- Already use many different composting systems
- Work with many different users from novice to expert
- Have undergone formal compost training and accreditation
So What Do the Master Composters say ABOUT THE HOTBIN?
Jane Griffiths, MC Network Manager: The HOTBIN processed a very challenging food waste mix into compost after 90 days. During the trial we were really impressed that when checking the temperature it read 60°C when the outside temperature was around 10°C.”
Lesley Tulitt, Buckinghamshire: I got the bin going and have not looked back. The time of year is irrelevant, as the key point is to introduce a large amount of fresh greens like grass clippings which start the process and then keep adding waste every few days to maintain the temperature. As long as you keep feeding it with material it works. (Lesley recently blogged at http://recycles.buckscc.gov.uk/).
Sue Baines, Oxfordshire: The HotBin website is fascinating, I can spend hours looking at it when I think I should really be gardening, but it’s good to have access to so much information. I received the straps a couple of weeks ago and they do seem to help to hold the hatch in place. I’m still having problems with leachate, although not as much as before. …The compost in the bottom of the bin was extremely compressed and wet and seemed anaerobic and smelly although it was mainly composted…. Having said all that, I’m still getting good quantities of reasonable compost out of the bin, so I’m not complaining.
Sarah, Herefordshire (see Compost Woman – blog): I filled the bin mid afternoon on a sunny but cool day (18C). After 24 hours the top layer of material was at 50 Celsius with an ambient temperature of 20 Celsius. It was very easy to load the HotBin and so far I am impressed with the ease of use. I am also VERY impressed with the comprehensive and user friendly information on the HotBin website – especially the FAQ pages, which are full of all sorts of useful information about composting.
Rod Weston, Leicestershire (HOTBIN at Snibston Discovery Museum): The bin is attracting a lot of interest, particularly the external thermometer just about everyone has to open the lid to confirm that it is hot (60-70C) inside. We are using it to compost food waste from the on-site cafe so it is a bit of a challenge but the bin is performing well.
Betsy Reid, Suffolk: I am the satisfied owner of a HOTBIN. What I am now wondering is whether you could offer any price reduction for a Community Composting scheme?
(We did and Waldringfield is our first community Composting scheme with 12 HOTBINS last year and another 12 HOTBINs to be delivered in March 2013!).
Linton Waters, Shrewsbury: Having now experienced the HOTBIN, I’d be very happy to talk positively to members of the public at events etc and recommend it where it seems appropriate.
Hugh Baker, Compost Works, Mole Valley: Thanks for the HOTBIN – Very impressed with it.
Lessons learnt with Master Composters
Our first year has flown past, but not without challenges. Our policy is to learn and fix problems as soon as possible. Here’s a short review of issues and fixes that came up from the Master Composter testers:
Bulging doors and straps: The first batch of HOTBINS had some hatch panels that appeared to slip. We supplied cam straps to all existing and new customers and subsequently made a design revision which solved this problem.
Rats: MCs know rats can get into just about any compost bin – plastic, wood or metal. They always ask: Is it rat proof? No, but 99.5% of all customers report no issue with rats. The key defence against rat attack is the removal of odours that attract them – the HOTBIN achieves this – you can read more on rats by jumping to our rat FAQ post.
Not getting warm: a small percentage of all customers struggle to get into the hot composting zone. The % of MC who struggled was no different to customers. We solved each incident and have got them going. The causes are usually human factors (prior experience cause skipping key steps – like adding plenty of bulking agent when adding food waste or not adding enough chopped cardboard or shredded office paper with wet waste) or practical (not enough waste).
Leachate & avoiding excess water: If the mixture is too wet – leachate (brown water) comes out of the base. We now:
- Plan for occasional leachate – and ask users to check location of HOTBIN
- Advise how to minimise leachate by adding shredded cardboard or office paper to waste
Flies and maggots: A hot HOTBIN working above 40C kills flies, maggots and other critters. One MC spotted an infestation of fruit flies. We advised how to get hot composting and the flies disappeared.
Emptying: It could be easier – but also noted no harder than other compost bins.
Bulking agent, food waste and how to handle food waste: of all our challenges taking trained composters who know you should not add food waste to a compost bin and asking them to do it was hardest. Very few are trained in compost engineering and hence the theory and practise of using bulking agents and hot airflow. What we ask is counter intuitive too many aspects of cold composting – but when they get it and see it working there is an addiction and smile that at last composting can be fast and fulfil its potential for recycling.
For more information on the HOTBIN please call the HOTBIN team on 0845 6210095
We can also arange 12 HOTBINS for a community composting group purchase, you just need to find 12 friends who want to compost all food waste!
For bulk pricing and sales to Councils, please call Straight plc 0113 245 2244
Compost bin review – Tom Pattinson who writes a garden column in the Morpeth Herald is also a HOTBIN composter owner and he says, “it is brilliant”.
How to use your compost
Spring is on its way!
Well done, you have composted food waste all winter and you are now ready to use your first HOTBIN compost. But how are you going to use it?
Firstly check it your compost is ready to use – if you are unsure, after all looks can be deceptive – have a read of our blog here or take a peek at my first batch of HOTBIN compost.
Here are 10 ways to use your compost;
- Dig in to flower beds
- Dig in to vegetable plots
- Make a tomato or cucumber bed in your greenhouse
- Top dress your indoor plant pots
- Top dress your outdoor flower beds
- Top dress your lawn
- Mulch – perhaps not! (see tomorrows blog)
- Use it to plant seeds/seedlings – take care! (See tomorrows blog)
- Use in pots and containers
- Don’t use it – bag it and store it for later
We will explain each of these and provide more hints and tips in our next HOTBIN blog on ‘How to use compost’.
Compost: How Long Does It Take To Make?
How long does it take to make compost?
This is one of the most asked compost questions – most gardeners want rich compost fast. You will see all of the following on various sites:
- Promises of compost in 7 or 14 days
- Compost in 21 days
- HOTBIN says 1-3 months (30-90 days)
- Other sites say 6-12 or 12-24 months
- We meet composters who say ‘I have been composting for 2 years and still had nothing out’
Who is right?
Are some people telling porky’s or is there something that can explain the differences? Each of the above is possible and below we explain a bit more on how and why.
Before doing this, for the record: we advise anyone thinking of buying a compost bin promising “compost in 7, 14 or 21 days” to walk away. Hot composting in the HOTBIN composter at 60C is just about as fast as it gets and we advise a minium of 30 days for mulching compost and a typical time of 90 days for mature compost.
So why does the time vary so much?
Anyone following Prof Brain Cox’s latest TV programme ‘Wonders of Life’ will know all life on earth follows a set of laws.
If we know the exact mix of waste materials, oxygen flow, water content and temperature, we can say how long it would take. These items vary hugely from compost bin to compost heap – hence how long it takes can vary from days to years. The easiset way to to estimate how long it will take is to look at the three most significant things.
Three major things that will affect how long it takes to compost
- Temperature (which can range from freezing (-10C) up to a very hot 70C
- The composition of the material (is it all bits of sugar or dense lignin fibres (wood)
- The size and shape of the waste (small pieces or one big lump)
Of these, temperature is the most important factor – it has an ‘exponential effect’ based on the Q10 equation – we can try simplify this in this simple illustration:
Examples of time for domestic food and garden waste
||70 / 60 /50 /40
||10 / 0
||60 to 1000’s
||Starch, Carbohydrates, proteins
||90 days – never
||2 years – never
||Lignin (wood), latex rubber, acetates
||10 years – never
||500 years – never
The chart can only be a rough guide.
What should be clear is that it depends on your mixture, for instance;
How chopped up it is?
How aerated will it stay?
How is the water controlled or not?
What materials have you added will also deeply affect the time it takes to compost. (see 160 things to compost)
What we can also say is the HOTBIN is designed to maximise and help achieve optimum conditions (notably aeration and high temperature). Plus it is insulated to reduce heat loss. A typical 4 person household should see waste decreasing in volume very quickly and on average get a batch of mature HOTBIN compost every 3 months.
Can I Compost Newspaper
Can I compost Newspaper?
If you have check out our 170 things to compost list you will see Newspaper is on the list – yes you can compost it!
However, we do not recommend adding it to the HOTBIN composter as it is SLOW to decompose and can cause aeration issues. We think it is best to be recycled in the paper recycling bin but not in the HOTBIN.
Should I wrap food waste in newspaper? The normal reason to wrap food in newspaper is to stop the flies getting at it*. However in the HOTBIN wrapping causes issues. Newspaper is slow to decompose (read why at our wood and paper post), so the sheet acts like a blanket stopping air flow for many days or even weeks. This can cause the food inside to anerobically decay. (Which can be smelly!)
Always best to add food waste loose in a HOTBIN, then mix in bulking agent, if you have used newspaper scrunch it up into a ball and add.
However if you are collecting in caddies and trying to keep them clean – grab 4 sheets of used A4, fold and place in the caddy or add a handful of shredded office paper. They make a great temporary lining, and when done, the white office paper composts rapidly see our collecting food waste post.
* The HOTBIN has an airtight lid which reduces smells and stops flies getting into the compost – In a correctly operated HOTBIN, once the heat gets above 40C, all creatures (except thermophilic bacteria) will die off. Find out more in our FAQ post
James has been running the HOTBIN for over a year now and this is what he has to say;
“We’d started cold composting with the usual local authority supplied and subsidised ‘Dalek’ bin. This had done us well for a few years – it worked slowly but the whole idea for us starting to compost was to do something useful with our garden and food waste and being able to put the waste somewhere and eventually get something useful out of it was appealing.
The Dalek sat right down the end of the garden, and with infrequent visits and a ready supply of veg peelings made it ideal for a rat, so that was eventually the end of that bin. We’d got used to collecting all our veg peelings and putting them back in to our waste bin seemed the wrong thing to do so we started looking around for alternatives.
Wormeries looked interesting but a bit too ‘delicate’ and Green Joanna type bins looked like they’d do the job but again I’d be worried about rats. I came across the HotBin on the web and after reading through the extensive info on the website decided that I’d give it a go.
Yes, it’s relatively expensive for a compost bin but if it did what the website said it would do then it would be worth it.
The added appeal of being able to site the bin close to the house and its compact dimensions sealed the deal. My only worry was whether we’d be able to keep it fed well enough as we are a two person family (although a solution to that is explained on the website). In the end we’ve had enough waste – we have more than enough from the garden during the summer and the guys in my office contribute fruit peelings to a caddy I keep near my desk so that’s about a litre a day so that plus our own food waste keeps us going through the winter when garden waste is minimal.
A few days later the bin arrived and was setup. The middle of a very cold January was not the best time to srart hot composting but after following the instructions, a couple of goes with the hot start bottle and a quick mow of the lawn to give me some grass cuttings, things started to happen and the temperature crept up and it was off.
3 months later I took out my first batch of compost, half of which went back in to be mixed with the top layer for another go, the other half went on the garden – pretty good for the first batch. So far so good. So how have I found it over the year so far.
Firstly, it’s very easy to use. The HotBin is quite forgiving on what you put into it. In the end composting is just nature at work – as long as you have a good mix of materials (not too wet, not too dry), allow a good oxygen supply, and slow the heatloss you can continually hot compost – the design of the HotBin makes it very hard to get this wrong and if you do it’s very easy to put right. You soon get the hang of getting the mix ‘right’ though.
Ours has everthing from garden waste (grass, prunings, weeds) to vegetable / fruit waste (banana skin, orange peel, veg peelings. Tea bags and coffee grounds) to cooked food waste (plate scrapings, small bones) and this keeps the bin at anywhere between 40-70’c (as measured in the top 5 cms of the pile). I tend to feed the bin every 4 days with a 9 litre caddy that all our food waste goes into for temporary storage (the Garland 9 litre caddys are excellent – they keep cool stored in our garage and have little charcol filters in the lids so no smell or other problems).
I have two of these so usually as one is emptied the other is already half full. I also keep a couple of storage boxes in the garage containing shredded paper and corrugated cardboard (Amazon and Dominos pizza boxes cut up are good for this). As per Tonys instructions, two handfuls of shredded paper added to an empty caddy add some useful dry material and stop smelly, moldy waste building up in the bottom of the caddy.
When I add the food waste, I add 2-3 handfulls of composted wood chip and mix the wood chip and new waste into the top layer in the bin and that is it. Every 3 months or so I open up the hatch and take out the bottom layer of compost, give the little air inlet grille a clean and that is it.
In my bin, the bottom layer is always full of worms, quite happily living in the cooler lower layers even though it’s a steamy 50-60’c at the top. I’m no gardening expert but the compost it produces smells sweet and earthy, is well rotted. We mulch it into our flower beds and since we’ve been putting the HotBin compost onto the beds, we’ve noticed quite a difference in the plants. Not bad from waste we’d have just thrown away.
In operation the bin is pretty unobstrusive and just gets on with its job with very little user intervention needed. It does produce a small amount of leachate from the air inlet at the base which is easily washed away (the bin sits on a concrete slab on our patio) and the only sign externally that it is working is a steam coming from the air valve. It produces a slight odour (I’m not using the bio filter bag at present as an experiment) but the smell produced is a bit like warm yeast – not upleasant at all and only really noticeable on a very still day.
In the end it’s a biological process and the HotBin does a very good job of packaging this in a user friendly, easy to use way. I must admit to being fascinated by the whole process – especially the heat that is being produced by the bacteria in action and this has led to my HotBin gaining remote temperature monitoring via my home network.
Instead of nipping outside in the rain to have a quick peek at the long stem thermometer in the bin, I can check on the process on my iPad from the comfort of my sofa and also from anywhere in the world via a web browser – handy when on holiday – HotBin temperature checking can become a bit of an obsession!
So what’s not been so good ? Well remarkably little over the year it’s been in use. I did have a problem early on with an intruder in the pre cam strap days. I’d emptied the bottom layer and taken a bit too much material out which meant some of the un composted upper layer moved down near the hatch. When I put the hatch back on, a small gap remained which was enough to let warm air out and with it a nice attrative smell. Overnight a rat chewed its way in between the hatch and the bin body.
With a bit of guidance from Tony, I was able to repair the small hole and with the addition of cam straps, the hatch panel is nice and tight against the body of the bin and unwanted visitors haven’t been a problem since. I’ve had a couple of times when I’ve added waste that is perhaps too wet and slowed the process – again this is an easy fix, mixing in a few handfulls of chopped cardboard into the top layer soon restores performance.
The only other problem I’ve had is a stalled bin and this turned out to be the bottom layer which I’d left in too long over the winter period becoming over compressed and too wet – sluggish performance and lots of worms on the upper internal walls were a sign that things weren’t right with the base layer. A quick clear out of the base layer and all is well and I’m back in the hot zone again. As I write this a quick check on my HotBin via the internet shows that although the outside air temperature is 5.4’C, the waste I added 3 days ago is happily composting away inside the bin at 56.9’C. Fantastic!
So to conclude. For me, the HotBin has proved to be a great buy. We throw away no food related waste (and all our paper shreddings are used too) – it can all go in the HotBin.
A quick calculation based on me feeding it every 4 days (+ garden waste) shows that over the last year I’ve composted over 900 litres of food and garden waste. It’s proved durable, easy to use and for me a fascinating way to see nature at work on stuff I’d have just thrown away. It produces (as far as we can tell with the results in our garden) good quality compost. It does take a bit more effort but the results are worth it. I had a quick google about yesterday and there are some very costly domestic solutions out there including indoor composters (would you really want to compost indoors ?) or other fast composters which require power etc.
Compared to these the HotBin is a bargain. It works in all weathers and continues to stay in the hot zone even during long periods of cold weather. It really does do what it says on the bin. Overall an excellent product”.
You can see more HOTBIN reviews here