Buy a bin FAQs
- I don't have a garden or any outdoor space. Can I compost indoors?
- Does composting reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses released compared to landfill?
- I wish to buy a compost bin made from recycled materials, how long are they expected to last?
- How do you calculate the size of compost bin to suit you best?
- My compost bin will have to be placed on hard paving. What do you suggest?
- Most of our kitchen waste is vegetable peelings, meat, bones and fish. What system would you recommend in a small garden?
- I do not have a garden to house a compost bin. What alternative do I have to recycle my kitchen waste?
- I would love to compost my household waste but only have a very small decked area. Is there any way that I can use a compost bin?
- Can I use an old rubbish bin as a compost bin?
- I haven't started composting yet and was just wondering if there were any reported health risks associated with it. I've heard about a possible link between composting and aspergillosis?
- I only have kitchen waste to compost. What is my best option?
- Do compost bins attract rats?
- I would like to start composting, but I'm worried about attracting foxes to my garden. Is this likely?
- I am looking to add a compost bin to my Bokashi system. As the Bokashi system is anaerobic, will the contents be safe to put in an aerated compost bin?
- Should I compost all kitchen waste or limit my composting to garden waste?
- Where can I buy composting accessories?
Buy a bin FAQs
Unfortunately, it is difficult to compost if you are without an outdoor space. In theory, wormeries can be used inside as they should be odourless and hygienic. In practice it is not usually recommended. The worms could escape from the wormery and, in the summer months, can attract small fruit flies.
Some councils offer a separate collection for food waste. It may be worth calling your council to see if this option is available in your area.
Yes! Carbon dioxide and methane are greenhouse gases which are released when organic material is added to landfill and begins to decompose. These gases can be avoided by correct composting of organic material.
By adding equal amounts of 'brown' (crumpled up cardboard, shredded paper, screwed up newspaper, etc.) to a compost bin in layers or mixing it in with 'greens' (vegetable peelings, grass clippings, etc.) you are encouraging aerobic decomposition, as the 'browns' provide structure within a compost heap, helping to open up air pockets within the material. When aerobic bacteria are at work, you should notice that your compost bin feels warm. Mixing or turning the heap every few weeks will further encourage these aerobic bacteria, helping to speed up the rate of decomposition leading to quicker compost.
Many of the compost bins you will find on the market are made from bottle-derived material which has been recycled. They are flexible, impact resistant and the material is not brittle. They should last outside for more than 20 years without any problem.
It is quite difficult to judge the size of compost bin required as it will depend on the quantity of fresh fruit and vegetables eaten and the type of garden you have. Generally speaking, a 200-300 litre bin is a good size to start with.
Some designs of compost bin are promoted for use on concrete. Ensure you put a generous layer of soil in the base to get you started. This will contain worm eggs and lots of minibeasts that will start to colonise within the compostable material. You should also add a layer of twiggy material. This will help keep the air flow at the base of the bin.
Most of our kitchen waste is vegetable peelings, meat, bones and fish. What system would you recommend in a small garden?
If your meat, bones, fish and cooked food make up a relatively small proportion of your waste then I would stick to conventional composting and throw these items in the dustbin. With conventional composting, only uncooked fruit and vegetable waste can be composted. Meat, fish, bones, dairy products or cooked food cannot be included.
If these items make up a larger proportion of your waste then you would be better to look at the three systems that can accept these sorts of food waste; Green Johanna, Green Cone and Bokashi.
I do not have a garden to house a compost bin. What alternative do I have to recycle my kitchen waste?
The first thing to do is find out is whether your council operates a food waste collection. Unfortunately, unless you have an outside space to site a compost bin or wormery, your options are limited.
I would love to compost my household waste but only have a very small decked area. Is there any way that I can use a compost bin?
I wouldn't recommend using a compost bin on a decking area as any liquids draining from it may stain your decking. The only solution would be to build a raised bed on top of the deck. There is further advice on how this may be successfully achieved in the 'Choosing your bin' pages of this website.
Another option to consider is a wormery; although these do require a little more effort than a compost bin. A wormery is a container housing a colony of special worms, which digest the same food waste as a compost bin. Small amounts of garden waste can also go into a wormery, together with some cooked food scraps. Wormeries produce a limited quantity of compost and a liquid, which forms a concentrated plant food. Wormeries are usually considered as an alternative to compost bins where space is limited. They are self-contained and require no access to the soil.
An old plastic dustbin can be used as a compost bin. If used upside down with the bottom cut out, leave an edge of an inch or so to provide some stability. The lid can be placed over the bin to keep the rain out and heat in - you may need to weight the lid.
If the bin is used the right way up, drainage holes will need to be made in the base of the bin to allow liquid to drain out. Used this way it will also need to be completely emptied to get at the mature compost at the bottom, whereas used upside down it will be relatively simple to lift the bin off to get at the mature compost.
As with normal compost bins, the best place to site the bin would be on soil to allow for drainage.
I haven't started composting yet and was just wondering if there were any reported health risks associated with it. I've heard about a possible link between composting and aspergillosis?
There have been studies on a possible link between aspergillosis and people exposed to high concentrations of aspergillus fumigatus, which can cause it, such as those that work at large scale composting facilities and those that live nearby. Aspergillus fumigatus is classed as an opportunistic pathogen because it will only infect an individual whose immune system does not work properly.
Based of the available evidence and following standard practical recommendations for home composting, the risk of exposure to elevated levels of bioaerosols containing aspergillus, is regarded as extremely low. Reactions to any heightened levels of exposure appear to be limited to individuals with low immune systems.
If you have any concerns about your own exposure the following is recommended:
- Use a compost bin rather than a loose heap for making compost.
- Ensure that the material in the bin is kept moist (60% -70% moisture). High moisture levels reduce the potential release of dust particles and bioaerosols.
- Maintain a ‘cool composting process’ i.e. adding only small quantities of material at a time to the bin.
- Don’t turn or agitate the compost to aerate it. Instead, ensure that material is sufficiently aerated by always adding an appropriate mixture of materials (green and browns) to the bin.
Additional steps can also be taken by using a dust mask or other respiratory equipment when handling the material or removing the compost from the bin. When you are handling the compost, it is also good practice to position yourself up-wind from the material so that any dust or bioaerosols released are blown away from you.
As you don't have garden waste, a wormery could be your best option. The worm cast, the compost produced in the process, and the diluted liquid feed created can both be used in potted plants or tubs in your garden.
Some people worry that having a compost bin could attract rats. However, this is not the case. There are many reasons why rats may be already in the vicinity of your garden. For example if you live near water, farm land/open countryside or derelict buildings, you are likely to have rats living around the local area. They may be attracted into your garden, like other animals, to look for a dry place to shelter or to find food. One common source of food is leftover food on your birdtable.
A rat is only likely to seek out a compost bin in the garden if incorrect waste items have been composted, making the bin a source of food as well as a shelter. For this reason you should not compost cooked foods, dairy products, meat, fish or bones.
If you are still concerned about rats, there are various ways in which you can discourage them from wanting to visit your compost bin:
- Be an active composter. Rats are shy creatures and don’t like disturbance, noise or changes in the physical environment in the garden. Regularly adding a good mix of materials to your compost bin and perhaps even aerating the material now and then will ensure that the composting process works effectively and the frequent disturbance inside and around the bin will act as an effective deterrent against rats.
- Ensure that you don’t add any cooked or processed food waste, meat, fish or dairy products.
- Rats prefer a dry environment to shelter in. Adding a balance of ‘greens and browns’ should ensure that the compost does not provide a dry habitat – the contents of an ideal compost bin should be about as moist as a wrung-out sponge. If your bin does get too dry add some water. It will help the composting and deter visitors.
- Use a compost bin with a lid rather than a loose heap for making compost making it harder for rats to gain access in the first place.
- Site the bin away from walls and fences and anywhere that can be a sheltered ‘runway’. Rats don’t like to cross open spaces and won’t want to be regularly exposed to get to a bin. Similarly, don’t tuck your compost bin away in a part of the garden you rarely visit. Put it somewhere that you regularly walk past the bin, not only will it discourage rats but it will remind you and encourage you to be an active composter.
- Plastic bases for compost bins are available commercially and are a further deterrent, but it is more effective to wrap wire mesh around the bottom and underneath the compost bin to prevent rats getting in (but still allowing worms to enter the compost bin and providing drainage). Chicken wire double or triple folded is adequate but plaster mesh (expanded metal) is the better solution. It’s thicker than chicken wire so harder to chew through and can be obtained from any builders merchants.
- If you follow the advice above you should be able to deter rats from ever entering a compost bin. However, if you still have concerns you should contact your local authority to find out what assistance they can provide under their environmental health policy.
- Also remember, that it is always a good idea to wear gloves when handling compost and soil.
This information is consistent with advice provided by Garden Organic, the National Charity for Organic Growing. The Garden Organic advisory team have not seen any noticeable increase in the number of queries they receive relating to problems with rats when home composting, despite the sharp increase in home composting in the UK in recent years.
I would like to start composting, but I'm worried about attracting foxes to my garden. Is this likely?
As long as you don’t try to compost cooked food leftovers, meat, fish or dairy produce and keep the lid securely closed then foxes shouldn’t be attracted to the compost bin.
I am looking to add a compost bin to my Bokashi system. As the Bokashi system is anaerobic, will the contents be safe to put in an aerated compost bin?
It is absolutely fine to add the contents of your Bokashi unit to a compost bin. The anaerobic process which takes place over the two weeks prepares the waste for either digging into the garden or adding to your compost bin. The two work well in parallel, enabling you to compost all your kitchen and garden waste together.
Our website contains a good list of what you can compost. It is important that you mix an equal amount of 'green' and 'brown' items. This provides a balanced mix of carbon, nitrogen, air and water which, together with worms and other soil based organisms, will produce the required conditions for successful composting. Do not put cooked food waste into your bin as this may encourage unwanted visitors.
You will be able to purchase kitchen caddies, caddy liners and accelerators at most supermarkets, garden centres, DIY stores and from various internet sites.