Retain our resources
Kitchen scraps are routinely sent to landfill but this results in large amounts of methane generation, contributing to climate change. Rather than being detrimental to our environment these same scraps are a great source of organic matter and nutrients that we can use to build healthy soil. At HCC we recognise the value in these scraps and make sure that we get the best out of them. By joining HCC and adopting other waste wise habits such as recycling any soft plastics you may notice that your bin is very empty! What once was considered rubbish can go on and do loads of good.
By supporting the HCC we are all making a commitment to sustainability, keeping in mind the best possible use of our available resources, and facilitating a circular economy. By combining our kitchen scraps and building highly productive compost heaps we can share with others the amazing transformation that occurs just by setting up the right conditions and letting biological processes do what they do best. We believe managing these processes is a worthwhile 'job for the future' that we're willing to do right now.
HCC has a focus on the process: How do we take kitchen scraps and process them so as to minimise the production of greenhouse gases? But the end product is also valuable. The resulting compost can be used to store carbon and restore nutrients into depleted soils. The improved soils in return can grow a huge variety of plants. Whether these are food plants or habitat plants or any other bit of greenery these will undoubtedly increase the mental health quotient of our communities in many ways. HCC is very happy to donate the compost back and to help grow community along the way.
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Keeping sustainability in mind, we like to use post-consumer buckets to collect the scraps. This means that we gather and use buckets that have already served one purpose and are on their way to being recycled. We can reuse them many more times before they actually need to be recycled. We rely on our members and wider community to supply these buckets so if you purchase a few litres of yoghurt occassionally then we'd be very grateful if you could drop off the bucket to HCC headquarters after you've emptied it.
We use 2-5L buckets which should be perfect for most households considering the quantities of scraps they generate. Also, with larger buckets the vegetable matter starts to break down in the bottom and leave a pool of slimy liquid. This liquid, if not open to the air, may start to ferment. Therefore it's better to use smaller buckets and to collect them more often.
If you'd like to use your own kitchen caddy (something more stylish than a yoghurt bucket?) that is fine too! In fact we can empty your own bucket or caddy and this will save us from having to wash a clean bucket for you each time. If you air out your bucket often and keep it relatively dry then there is no need to wash it often.
Over the course of a week, gather all of your kitchen scraps in the bucket. If you think of it at the time it's great to chop these up a bit, i.e. the thick base of a cauliflower might benefit from being cut into quarters (and it might help it fit into the bucket also!). Pretty much any fruit or veggie waste is ideal, as well as grain products like bread/rice/pasta etc. Paper is ok, but this will be more productive if torn into small pieces also. Eggshells are good, and tea and coffee.
The main thing that we don't accept is meat/fish/dairy. These are high in proteins and fats/oils that while they will break down in the heap they are likely to produce some unpleasant smells while they do so. The HCC composting process is open to the air and we need to be conscious that we operate in an urban area that we are trying to improve rather than the opposite! If you have a backyard and some meat that you need to dispose of you can always bury it!
Veggie scraps may start to break down in the bucket before we collect it (even though we collect often!) and for this reason we recommend leaving the lid off the bucket. This gives access to oxygen, the ultimate cleaner. The lids are primarily for use during transport. Some members choose to have a few small buckets, placing the first one in the freezer to keep it fresh till pick up.
Pretty much any kitchen scraps except for meat (including fish), dairy, oils/fats!
For a bunch of examples (non-exclusive) see below:
For more info see our FAQ page
As we've said earlier we want those scraps while they're still fresh(ish)! In Hackett we are able to swap out your buckets twice weekly. In other suburbs we can collect your full bucket once a week. On the set up pick up day or the night before put the bucket out in a prominent yet protected spot. We'll swing by (on a carbon neutral transport mode) and quickly swap the bucket out for a clean one. If you're using your own kitchen caddy we'll tip that out and carry on. If you're bucket isn't full you should put it out anyway! Every little bit helps and we'd rather have it fresh than wait another week. If you're going away it would be great to let us know so that we can alter out bucket run route accordingly.
Everyone forgets to put the bucket out occasionally! So don't feel bad if you do. There is always the option of dropping off your scraps at HCC headquarters if need be (contact us for address).
The HCC composting process relies on combining the right ratio of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich feedstock materials. These mostly translate as autumn leaves and veggie scraps, respectively! Therefore if you also have a nice big pile or two of autumn leaves then we'd love to take them off your hands. We keep a stockpile of leaves year round to balance out all of the kitchen scraps. By layering these different materials in the right amounts initially we can start the hot composting process. The critical element of the process then becomes the turning. Each composting bay is turned every few days. This is a lot more labour than your average backyard compost heap but it also results in a much more active and productive system. In just a few days there will be hardly any recognisable veggie scraps left. The great thing about this is that it's too quick to encourage pests. Even the rats and mice are no longer interested once those scraps have been 'cooked' and are starting to look and smell like soil!
You may wonder why we don't get a machine to help with this heavy lifting part of the process but there are some benefits by employing manual labour. One is that we can keep an eye on contamination. Unfortunately a lot of our produce comes supplied with lots of little bits of plastic, these are best removed from the compost so that they don't end up accumulating in soil. Another reason is that it saves on gym memberships and we find it rewarding work in many ways! Also, the HCC is all about providing low tech solutions to encourage careful use of our resources to avoid climate consequences. The greenhouse gases that we are avoiding by composting shouldn't be spent on manufacturing expensive and energy intensive infrastructure.
What about all the compost!?
The HCC focuses on diverting kitchen scraps from landfill. As long as those scraps are not making it into the regular bin then we're happy! A pleasant consequence of that is that we end up making compost :) Compost is wonderful stuff and a critical component of healthy soil. Soil is pretty much broken down organic materials and rock minerals. Our soils tend to be depleted in organic matter, the easiest way to add it back in is with compost. Adding compost to the soil is also a great way to store more carbon in the soil, rather than in our atmosphere. And it makes for much healthier plants! (which can also remove carbon dioxide from the air).
Even if you're not keen on gardening, we're keen to turn your kitchen scraps into compost. There are loads of people willing to use that compost to grow lovely plants in our local community. None of that organic material needs to go to waste!
Occasionally we will sift out the really good stuff from the compost (the compost 'fines'), which we refer to as black gold. Members are welcome to a share of black gold. Sprinkle it around any plant (including indoor plants) and give them a boost!
If you're putting in a new garden bed and want a larger quantity of compost get in touch and we'll put you on the (short) waiting list :)
With efficient compost production at the HCC we actually rely on the compost being used so that we have room for fresh scraps so if you take some compost to use you are doing us all a favour. Have a great time growing with it!
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