Food Waste and Home Composting

About Food Waste

The average person wastes around £200 in food each year, rising to £700 for a family with children. 
More than 80% of food waste is avoidable. The main reasons for throwing away food are:

  • cooking or preparing too much
  • forgetting to freeze or chill food to use later
  • forgetting what food is in the cupboards

What to do with leftovers

There are lots of recipes available on the Love Food Hate Waste website to help you use up your leftovers.
For more information visit the Hertfordshire County Council website.

About Home Composting

Home composting is a great way to recycle your kitchen and garden waste at home. Composting is a natural process which transforms your garden or food waste into  nutrient rich food for your garden. Your compost can then be used for pot plants, flower beds, vegetable patches and even your lawn.

Choose the right composting method and bin for your space, budget and materials. See our drop down options below for further information and tips on getting started:

Getting started

The first thing you will need is a compost bin. These can be bought from a number of places online or local garden centres. Alternatively you can build your own compost bin by following the steps below:

  1. Use wood, old pallets and nails to make a timber frame and attach this to posts driven in to the ground
  2. Cover with a plastic sheet or old carpet to keep our the rain and keep the heat and moisture in
  3. Place your bin in a sunny spot on top of some soil. The soil provides drainage and the heat from the sun will help to speed up the composting process
  4. Start to add your garden and food waste

What can be composted?

Lots of food and garden waste items can be composted, examples include:

  • Dry items such as leaves and dead plants
  • Wet items such a tea bags, vegetable peelings, grass and fruit

For the best results try to get an equal mixture of dry and wet items.

More information on composting is available on the Recycle Now website or the Hertfordshire WasteAware Partnership website

How long does composting take?

This depends on a number of factors, one of which is the time of year. As the outside temperatures increase during spring and summer, the composting process speeds up. This is due to the increased activity of the composting organisms, which in turn creates heat within the compost bin itself. So if you start composting in spring, the process can take around three months. The process slows down in autumn and winter as many of the organisms are less active due to the lower temperatures outside the bin. If you start in autumn, you are looking at nine months before you can harvest the result. However, it is important that you continue to use your compost bin during these “low-activity” periods to provide organic material for composting when microbial activity is high.

A lot can also depend on how often materials are added to the bin and how you manage the composting process. A bin that contains a balance of “Browns” and “Greens” chopped into smaller pieces with a good aeration and moisture will decompose a lot faster than when one of all or these factors have been ignored.

How do I know when my compost is ready?

Finished compost is a dark brown, soil-like layer found at the base of your compost bin. It may contain a few items of uncomposted material, particularly those that were added to the bin whole, such as onions or oranges. Twigs or rough plant stems may also remain. These can be taken nothing to worry about. By “fluffing up” the compost with a garden fork it will soon separate into a crumbly texture ready for use.

Where should I site my bin?

A major consideration when deciding on a suitable site for the compost bin is access, so you can easily reach and place organic material out and put back into the bin to continue decomposition. It may not appear to be the crumbly material that you hoped for, however, this is perfectly normal as the weight of the undecomposed material above may have compacted it slightly. It can also be quite wet, which again is normal.

The compost bin should be placed directly onto the soil. This allows worms and other soil organisms to enter the bin. Leachate formed by moisture and by-products of the compositing process can drain into the soil.

Ideally the position should allow for the compost bin to receive some direct sunlight. If this is not practical, the composting process will still progress, just more slowly, if the bin is located in a shaded site.

For a lot of people, space can be a problem. Rather than have one big compost bin try creating smaller ones.

Step 1

Prepare an area of the garden, that you think will make a great spot for a particular type of plant, fruit or vegetable. Dig a hole big enough to fit a cardboard box in.
Place the box into the freshly dug hole and using a garden fork, make lots of holes in the base of the box. Keep hold of the soil that came out of the hole for using later.

Step 2

After a few days, take your kitchen scrap collector bin (a large ice cream tub for example) and pour its contents into the box that has been sunk into the ground. Then add some carbon to the green waste, in the form of straw, shredded leaves, paper (non-glossy, not chemically enhanced).
Mix this all together in the bottom of the box. Retrieve the soil that was removed from the hole Pour a layer of the earth over the waste material until it is covered completely. Once the layer of waste has been covered with soil, water it well.

Step 3

Over the coming days and weeks, keep adding layers of waste materials, soil and watering them well, until the layers reach the top of the box. 
In 2-4 weeks from the start of the whole process, your box will be ready for planting up. 

If you have no bare soil to place a composter on, why not get a wormery? It is a great way to involve your children in composting as they love to look at the worms chomping through the fruit and vegetable peelings! 

For more information on how to get started including some useful FAQs please click the links below.


Bokashi composting, is a new way to deal with kitchen scraps.

Step 1

To get started you need a special bokashi bucket that has a tight lid, and a spigot at the bottom to drain off liquids. You will also need an additive that will be mixed in your bin. It is normally referred to as bokashi bran or Effective Microbes.
The process is fairly simple. Put your food scraps in the bokashi bucket and sprinkle some bokashi bran on top. Squash it down tight to get the air out and close the lid. Each time you have more scraps, add them to the bucket, add bran, and squash.

Step 2

After a few days, liquid starts to form in the bottom of the bucket. This needs to be drained or it will start to stink. The liquid, ‘bokashi tea’ as some gardeners call it, can be used to fertilize your house plants or your garden plants.

Step 3

After a few weeks, when the pail is full, you take the contents outside, and either dig it into your garden, or add it to your compost pile.