Composting Human Hair and Orange Peelings in Sunny Spain!
We had an interesting enquiry today from a new user about to set up the HOTBIN in Spain on how to compost human hair and orange peelings.
“I have just ordered one [HotBin] for southern Spain. My hairdresser is happy to provide bags of hair. Is hair in large quantities ok? Also a juice bar has offered bags of orange peel. Again is this ok in large quantities? I want acidic compost. Thanks for your help. I am really quite excited about moving from cold to hot composting”
With the first snow of winter falling today, sunny Spain sounds great.
Here is a summary of the tips:
Hot Composting Human Hair
You can hot compost human hair. As with most things in composting, it tends to work better when mixed with other items. We do not have specific experience, but for a few months check it does not form into a dense thick layer that might affect airflow. Remember to give it a stir and mix in less if it does.
Hot Composting Orange Peelings From Juicing
Orange peelings and pulp from juicing will be a challenge for hot composting. They are very high in water content and an item often “too wet for hot composting”. You may need lots of shredded paper or to air dry the peelings in the sun for a few hours. (Also your dry hair might be a good balance – it really depends on how much of each you have). You will need to experiment but give a call any time if you need help to get the recipe right.
You mention ‘acidic compost’ – presumably you are trying to tackle an alkaline soil. I am not sure attempting to make acidic compost is the best route. Bacteria in the heap work best at neutral Ph. If the bin goes acidic (due to organic acids found in all plants, but high in orange peel), the compost will turn anaerobic, stink and slow down to a halt.
I think you will be better leaving the compost to work at neutral Ph and tackle your soil Ph either slowly by adding ‘neutral’ compost which will eventually bring the soil Ph down, or by adding a natural acidic mineral to the soil (eg sulphur or iron sulphate). You may know this, but just in case, take care because if you add too much you will cause issues. Best to get an exact Ph reading from the soil and then match this to the exact quantity (in grams) of the acidic mineral. The RHS has a good article on soil acidification: http://apps.rhs.org.uk/AdviceSearch/profile.aspx?PID=82
Sourcing “Trade Waste”- Do a Quick Check
I do not wish to put a damper on your ideas, but please check with your local traders and you will not get into trouble with the local Environment Agency or waste disposal officer. All waste from businesses within the EU is classified as ‘trade waste’ and rightly, each business is subject to rules to ensure the waste they generate is disposed off safely. As daft as this might appear, they might not legally be able to give you peelings or hair for home composting! Hopefully, your local agencies will be enlightened and see small quantities and home composting as a good route, but these things can get very sensitive depending on interpretation of the rules.
USE IT or COMPOST IT
Many of you will have heard on the news today that we throw half of all the food grown away. That equates to a staggering 2 billion tonnes of waste. This underlines what WRAP and the LOVE FOOD hate waste report noted last year. http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com/content/about-food-waste-1
Composting is not the solution for this type of food wastage but perhaps we should go from the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) to add a U for USE it!
However home composting leftover food scraps and spoilt food is certainly beneficial, so keep recycling more in 2013 with your HOTBIN.
Half of all food ‘thrown away’
Published on Thursday 10 January 2013 12:42
As much as half of all the food produced in the world – two billion tonnes worth – ends up being thrown away, a new report has claimed.
The waste is caused by poor infrastructure and storage facilities, over-strict sell-by dates, “get-one-free” offers, and consumer fussiness, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
Each year countries around the world produce some four billion tonnes of food. But between 30% and 50% of this total, amounting to 1.2 to 2 billion tonnes, never gets eaten, says the report Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not.
In the UK, up to 30% of vegetable crops are not harvested because their physical appearance fails to meet the exacting demands of consumers. Half the food purchased in Europe and the United States is thrown away after it is bought, the report adds.
Vast quantities of water are also wasted in global food production, it is claimed. The demand for water in food production could reach 10 to 13 trillion cubic metres a year by 2050, the institution said. This is up to 3.5 times greater than the total amount of fresh water used by humans today, raising the spectre of dangerous water shortages.
Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today. It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.
“The reasons for this situation range from poor engineering and agricultural practices, inadequate transport and storage infrastructure through to supermarkets demanding cosmetically perfect foodstuffs and encouraging consumers to overbuy through buy-one-get-one free offers.”
By 2075 the United Nations predicts that the world’s population will reach around 9.5 billion, resulting in an extra three billion mouths to feed. Added stresses on the ability of the world to feed itself include global warming and the growing popularity of meat, which requires around 10 times more resources than staple plant foods such as rice or potatoes.
Dr Fox added: “As water, land and energy resources come under increasing pressure from competing human demands, engineers have a crucial role to play in preventing food loss and waste by developing more efficient ways of growing, transporting and storing foods.
“But in order for this to happen governments, development agencies and organisation like the UN must work together to help change people’s mindsets on waste and discourage wasteful practices by farmers, food producers, supermarkets and consumers.”
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