A year in compost(ing)
2020 was a huge year for Capital Scraps, despite the global pandemic and other distractions (who could take their attention away from the car crash that was the US election??). For us, it was still a year of climate action, as intended. Hopefully 2021 will involve even more climate action, from our community and others. In the meantime, it’s useful to look back and see how far we’ve come. (also, I was way too busy to update the blog last year. So here is some of the action that you may have missed if you’re not a regular social media user!).
Following our first compost hub installation in late 2019 (thankyou Chris, Ken and board at Ainslie Church of Christ!! And Tony and Jake for helping Scott with the build!), we now have 5 hubs in our urban composting network (Thank you Sally from Made By Her Hands for building our Lyneham and Watson units!). Although the hubs are modest in size they are super productive and represent a combined composting capacity sufficient to recycle veggie scraps from 350 households or more.
But we’re currently only servicing about 40 households in Hackett and a few dozen more through our drop-off points. Our composters are quite hungry as a result! In September we were servicing 154 households across the Inner North of Canberra but these were very spread out, meaning high staff costs and financially unsustainable operations. We had a few more households signing on each week and may have theoretically eventually reached the numbers that we needed to remain viable but the mismatch between urgent action on climate change and slow uptake just didn’t pan out.
So we pulled back the service to put efforts into strategizing so that we can provide maximum environmental impact and determine the best way to apply our composting expertise. Quite a few have asked when we can collect scraps in various suburbs again, or if we might start collections in new areas. A simple enough answer that I like to give out is ‘we can start as soon as we have the numbers’. We’re happy to take pledges at any time. How does that work? Just email us (firstname.lastname@example.org), stating your suburb and which subscription you’d be willing to pay ($12 per month concession/apartment rate, $15 standard, $30 per month ‘pay it forward’ rate). Realistically though, we’re only going to remain viable if we can sign on a large amount of people and quickly. Rest assured that I am still working hard to try and make that happen. Meeting with potential collaborators, strata management teams, Government officials etc. and writing proposals and answering queries takes a lot of time. So as much as I’d like to just keep composting, I have to spend most of my time campaigning and persuading.
It’s emotionally draining sometimes. I know that Capital Scraps is world class in terms of community composting. And that community composting is the absolute best option for household organic waste recycling. I know that if we can get a few thousand households involved then we can be financially sustainable, providing rewarding work and supplying quality compost for urban agriculture, all in the aim of ending landfill gas. It’s actually one of the easiest things that we can do in the face of climate change. No new technology is needed, just a willingness to pay a little to get the work done, along with well trained staff who are fastidious about quality and who have an appreciation for the biological processes at play. It’s emotionally draining because even though I’ve talked to hundreds of people this year about composting, still only one or two really understand the great potential that we can bring to bear with a bit of collective effort.
But I am certainly buoyed up by the amazing community of contributors and volunteers and supporters that have joined us on this journey so far. Every single household that is filling buckets of scraps for us, taking the fruit stickers off, and remembering to put the buckets out on the right morning are absolute legends. It’s been a tough year for everyone, so it’s extra special that so many have stood by us and picked up new habits in the name of climate action. The dozen or so supporters who are paying the pay it forward fee are critical to our survival. If more followed their generous lead then I wouldn’t have to spend so much of my time campaigning and could get on with the worthwhile job of building and feeding more composters.
The highlight of the year for me was our working bee in Ainslie in Spring. The weather forecast on the day was bleak but in the end a few dozen keen beans joined us to get a mountain of work done in a few hours before the storm broke. Thank you all! We want to do this more often in 2021 for sure 🙂 And it’s truly inspiring to see that so many people want to help out. Some of you will know this but I’m not even that much of a dedicated gardener. I love to potter, and am fastidious to the max when it comes to the composting, but I don’t allow for the mental space to maintain a super productive veggie garden. But like a lot of us I absolutely adore seeing the efforts of others, whether that’s well tended veggie beds or beautiful ornamental gardens. Thing is, we have all the food scraps necessary to make enough compost to keep those kinds of efforts thriving. So I can see many reasons why many of you want to help us in our goals.
Fingers crossed that those with certain powers and influence can be persuaded by me and all of us that this kind of activity is worthy of a little more support. And we only need a little, because we know that by continuing to demonstrate the benefits (and superior management) soon everyone in Canberra will want to be involved 😉
WATSON RESIDENTS: PLEASE PLEDGE TODAY! WE ARE VERY CLOSE TO HAVING ENOUGH NUMBERS TO START COLLECTIONS IN YOUR SUBURB