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Why compost your organic waste?

Statistics from Waste Online


The alternative to landfill, incineration, whilst reducing the mass of the waste, does not dispose of it altogether.

About 30% of the original mass remains, it still needs to be landfilled, and is still a waste of resources.

Compost forms as a result of the natural breakdown of organic material derived from living animals and plants.

The 'breaking down' is aerobic i.e. an oxygen using process performed by the bacteria, fungi, insects and animals, which inhabit soil.

In a compost heap these organisms generate heat as they decompose organic matter and break it into fine particles.

Composting - Building DIY Book cover

UK gardeners use nearly 3 million cubic metres of peat-based planting and growing compost annually. Very few of the UK's peat bogs now remain. Peat is not sustainable, and is a major greenhouse gas sequestering material. The use of peat also releases huge amounts of CO2 and methane into the atmosphere as well as destroying a natural habitat.

So ask for green alternatives, or make your own.


Composting is nature's own and oldest method of waste disposal and soil fertilisation.

Traditionally, gardeners have created their own compost using leaves, grass, shrub clippings and other useful organic materials found in the garden. Applying compost to soils provides an excellent conditioner and mulch, which fertilises and provides soil structure, retains moisture and can restrict weed growth.

Man-made compost is an alternative to the peat-based compost extracted from important natural wildlife sites. In recent years there has been interest in the creation of garden compost from organic household waste, as a result of the growing awareness of the environmental problems created by the traditional disposal methods.

Source: Analysis of household waste composition and factors driving waste increases - Dr. J. Parfitt, WRAP, December 2002.

The natural composting process will give natural soil improvement:

What to do

It is quite fun making compost, as the leftover organic scaps, including tea bags and small bits of paper for texture, end up doing something useful, and in a very small way help the planet, mainly by preventing methane production in landfills. There are many guides to composting online.

Many compost bins, cubes and wooden systems can be bought and will make the process easy and fruitful. Alternatively, scraps can be piled up in a corner or behind shrubbery, which works but is not a good at creating proper humus.

Simple composting

Ingredients are organic waste with some paper strips for structure. Tea bags are fine, anything plant based as animal waste will attract rodents.

Simplest of all is to dig a hole and put it in.

Or buy a compost bin, which is like a dustbin, usually with a slot at the bottom for the humus to appear.


With added worms! This is faster and means you can also break down cooked organic material, which is not recommended for simple composting. 'Worm tea' or liquid fertiliser will also appear in your wormery.

Wormeries come in many shapes and sizes.

Indoor composting

Bokashi is a smell free indoors system that can compost meat, fish and dairy products. After a few days, the waste is ready to be put in an outdoor composter, or simply dug into the garden. Can attract flies, especially fruit flies.

Food waste digester

A food waste digester can process meat, fish and cooked food. It is quite a complex system and suitable for larger gardens.

For more advice see The Royal Horticultural Society composting advice: