Is there a need for at home composting in New Zealand?


Should You Compost At Home?

Posted in Farming and Growing, Food Systems on Oct 19, 2022


Are you aware that there is a massive excess of food waste entering our landfill in New Zealand. In Wellington alone, on average food waste makes up over a third of kerbside rubbish collected in the region. When food waste goes to the rubbish dump with the rest of our rubbish it decomposes and, without oxygen, it releases the harmful gases methane and carbon dioxide. If we can reduce this waste, we can reduce the impact food waste has on our environment - imagine the amount of methane gas produced from a large city.

Composting is the natural process of recycling organic matter, such as leaves and food scraps, into a fertilizer which can enrich soil and plants with organic natural nutrients and can be used for gardening, horticulture, and agriculture.

When it comes to unusable food waste there are ways to mitigate the problem. There are a number of people doing their bit in the community, let’s take coffee grinds for example, a lot of cafes will leave bags full of grinds for your garden, there is even a company in Christchurch that collects all the coffee grinds from the city and combines them with other raw materials to make the most beautiful organic compost. As a side note, some people swear by sprinkling coffee grounds in their garden to stop the slippery slide of slugs.

Other than shopping smarter there are a number of ways that we, as a community, can reduce our food waste and it’s impact on the environment. One solution that is gaining in popularity, is home composting as more people become aware of climate issues and want to do their bit to help the environment. Converting food waste into valuable soil to enrich your garden or the garden of others is a win win situation.

Starting your own at home composting is easy, you need a compost bin, an area to place it and voilà you’re away laughing.

Tips and tricks for your compost bin;

Be aware that compost piles can heat up so be sure to turn the pile regularly and do not place beside a building.

Let the worms do the work.

Buy a decent compost bin, especially if you are in a high wind zone or have animals that can push it over.

If you need to stabilize your compost bin, try things like tent pegs or standards.

Compost is full of mouldy food and garden waste. Some of this can produce dangerous mycotoxins (a fungi) which are highly dangerous to dogs and in some cases be fatal. Due to dogs being attracted to compost it is important to keep your compost in a secure bin and turned regularly.

Oxygen is important to allow the compost to decompose, turning is needed and you can always add bits of cardboard ripped up to add air pockets.

Use a compost activator. It helps to turn your garden waste, leaves, and grass into dark, rich, crumbly compost in less than half the time. You mix a small amount into water, pour it onto your compost and after 10 weeks of rotting your compost is ready to use.

What shouldn’t you put in your compost bin;

Wood or plants treated with pesticides or preservatives; the residues of the chemicals can unintentionally kill beneficial composting organisms.

Meat, Fish, Fats, Dairy, and oils. Not only will the smell of rotting food like this annoy you, but it will also attract numerous animals and rodents.

Weeds that have gone to seed.

Animal waste, both dog and cat poop should be avoided as it contains harmful bacteria and parasites that can cause human disease and can turn the end product of your compost into hazardous waste.

Black walnut leaves, twigs and roots contain a substance called juglone that stunts the growth of many plants and may even kill them.

Diseased or infected plants composted will spread these annoying problems throughout your garden.

Charcoal ash contains a lot of sulphur which can make your compost too acidic for most plants. However, it is fine to use the ash from your fire in limited quantities.

There are many different types of compost bins out there. You can build yourself a bin out of wood or you can purchase one from a hardware store, they come in all shapes and sizes so you can play your part in reducing the amount of food going to landfill within New Zealand.

Abbie Thomson
Abbie Thomson

Abbie hails from a farming background, having grown up on a large sheep and beef farm in Marlborough, this early farm life propelled her to work on a variety of stations across Australia. Our grounded food responder is also a commercial helicopter pilot obtaining her commercial licence in 2005 and flying throughout New Zealand and Australia. Understanding food systems is in her DNA from flying helicopters to protect crops from frosts to technical work doing GPS mapping for research centres. Abbie is an all-round superstar having had experience in hospitality and tourism and has spent many years in the viticultural industry from grass roots vineyard work through to cellar door with food and wine. Now back on her own small farm, Abbie has planted out her dream orchard and vegetable garden and she has a great love of organic produce (and understands the value of good compost) and a goal of being completely self-sufficient. The road to self-sufficiency means that Abbie spends her spare time developing her property so she is no longer farming rocks, she is also an avid animal lover and thoroughly enjoys riding her horses amongst the scenery of the Kaikoura coastline. She’s a bit inspiring, our Abbie.


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