How to make your own compost bin

Composting: a load of rubbish that makes sense

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 October, 2014, 5:27pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 October, 2014, 5:27pm

Like many affluent cities, Hong Kong has seen its waste grow along with its economy, and that has made waste management a seriousissue. Most people don't give it a second thought, and just throw eggshells and vegetable peelings into the bin during meal preparation.

This organic waste eventually makes its way to Hong Kong's overburdened landfills which, according to the Environmental Protection Department, will be exhausted by 2020 if waste levels continue to rise at the current rate.

One thing families can do to lighten the load is maintain a compost bin. By transforming discarded food into organic fertiliser, people can not only take a load off the city's waste, but they can also help return food to the production cycle.

Whether you are a regular cook, or a fully fledged urban farmer, it's hard to argue against having rich, organic plant food, home-made, healthy and on-demand from your compost bin.

Starting your own compost system is a trial-and-error process, but that's half the fun. First, designate a corner of your balcony or roof for the compost bin. Find a suitable lidded container - a 90-litre plastic bin is good, but you can also go smaller and use bins made of metal. Now you are ready to put in the good stuff.

In composting lingo, it is all about finding the right balance of "green" components, which are the fodder for nitrogen production, and "brown" ones, which are the fodder for carbon.

Green (wet) stuff includes vegetable and fruit scraps, teabags, and tea leaves. Avoid animal products, except eggshells.

Brown (dried) stuff includes dry leaves, shredded paper egg cartons, newspaper, tissue paper, cereal boxes and other such items.

To get started, layer your bin with roughly one part green to two parts brown until it is just over half full. Cover, and allow to sit for about a week to start the decomposition process.

Then, stir the bin once a day to circulate the air. This helps the bacteria break down food waste. It also keeps the bin from smelling.

In the winter, you can really feel the heat (up to 60 degrees Celsius) generated by chemical reactions in the food waste being broken down.

In a few weeks, you'll have free, organic compost to fertilise your garden.

The go-to sites for tips and solutions on composting are hkcommunitycompost.org and planetnatural.com/composting-101/ For further reading, look at Growing Your Own Food in Hong Kong by Arthur van Langenberg.

Angela Cheng Matsuzawa and Ann Cha are the founders of Punch Detox, a cold-pressed juice cleanse company