Why recycle garden waste?
Garden waste collected at the kerbside is taken to a composting site where it is turned into a nutritious soil conditioner which increases the nutrients and improves a soils structure to help plants grow. This can then be used for agriculture, land reclamation and as an ingredient in some multipurpose composts you can buy at a garden centre.
How is garden waste recycled?
When the garden waste arrives at the composting site any material that is not compostable is removed, the remaining waste is then shredded and then laid out in a long pile to decompose, usually in the open air.
The process at a composting site is similar to that that takes place in home compost bin, but is actively managed to speed up the process. However, due to the amount of material the temperature reached is a lot higher than in a normal household compost bin. Temperatures can reach up to 60°C. These higher temperatures mean that the enzymes and bacteria are quickly put to work resulting in finished compost in just a few weeks.
The material is turned frequently to provide much needed oxygen to micro organisms that help decompose the material. High temperatures kill off any harmful microbes, weeds and plant diseases.
The final part of the process involves screening the compost to remove any remaining contaminants and to grade the material for various end uses. Any compost that is still oversized or hasn't decomposed enough, can then be put back through the process until it has composted down sufficiently.
The whole process takes between eight and 16 weeks, depending on the final use for the compost.
How is it used?
Compost can be applied in a range of end uses, within full-scale agriculture, landscaping, gardens and brownfield sites. It can be used as a soil improver, mulch, topsoil constituent, turf dressing, and growing medium constituent.
Good to know
In 2017 garden waste made up 17.2% of household waste and recycling in the UK. Around 94% of local councils collect garden waste and more and more people are now recycling their garden waste.
How to recycle garden waste at home
Most types of garden waste can be recycled, including bark, flowers, grass and hedge cuttings, leaves, plants, small branches, twigs and weeds.
If possible, consider setting up a compost bin to recycle your garden waste at home.
If you can't compost at home you can take it to your local garden waste recycling point or put it into your garden waste collection scheme, if you have one. Check with your council to see if you can recycle garden waste locally.
Although composting sites have measures to remove contamination, it is important that plastics and large stones are kept to a minimum in garden waste collected for composting, in order to ensure that a quality product can be made.
It is also important that grass cuttings where herbicides have been used aren't put in the recycling bin.
Open air windrow composting is generally used for garden waste materials only. Catering or animal wastes should not go in your garden waste bin.