18 June 2020
In Rotorua, between 300 and 350 tonnes of rubbish is collected each week. An estimated 50% of what is collected to go to landfill is organic waste.
As well as using Council’s recycling services, ‘reducing’ and ‘reusing’ are techniques that help divert waste from landfill, with the majority of these techniques able to be done easily at home.
Council’s sustainability and waste services team spoke with local waste minimisation champion Ian Blackman. Ian, who is now retired, has composted food scraps since he was a child. He says he has always recognised the value in organic waste and repurposes food scraps into natural fertilizer for his herb garden.
The 2000 plus estimated worms in Ian’s worm farm help break down food scraps faster, and he enjoys watching their numbers grow.
Where did your passion for composting and worm farming come from?
“When I was a child we had chooks and a compost heap. Food scraps were always seen as valuable for that reason. Although they could be thrown away, they were also filled with vitamins and minerals that could be used to help grow more food.
“With a desire to start growing our own vegetables and our understanding of the value of food scraps, I did some research and bought a worm farm to utilise food scraps better. I found that the food scraps exceeded the worms’ ability to eat the waste so I bought a rotary composter.”
How does your worm farm and compost systems work? Do you have any tips that you have learned that make it easy to do?
“I found that the small rotary composter was not big enough to cope with all the composted food I had available so I bought another one. I now have the perfect set up with one worm farm and two small composters. When the second composter is full, the compost in the first composter is ready to use on the garden. My worms have migrated to the compost bins (which was unintended!) but it seems to help with the composting process.
“To keep the moisture level right for the composting process I also used wood chips and sawdust from the dust extractor I have in my woodworking shop. All of the wood I work with is non-treated, clean wood and is mostly native wood such as matai, kauri and rimu.
“I have a stainless steel bucket on the floor in the kitchen with a wooden lid. It is emptied every 2-3 days and it takes mainly food items such as potato peelings, lettuce scraps etc. We do not compost meat products and we limit the amount of citrus we dispose of in the bucket.
“I need to assure you that there is no smell or bad odour around my composting area. In fact when the compost is ready it has a faint clean earthy smell which is really nice. Also there are no problems with vermin or flies. The composters and the worm farm are well sealed which prevents unwanted pests.
“I think that because we feed the worms mostly vegetables it is healthy. By the way, it seems to me that the worms go well on coffee. We make filter coffee every day and the coffee grounds and filter go into the worm farm and they seem to like it. I suppose the get used to the caffeine!”
Does composting and worm farming make a difference to how full your red-lid wheelie bin is at collection time?
“One of the big advantages of having a worm farm backed up by a composter, is that the Council’s red lidded bin has more room for dry rubbish and there is no smelly bin hanging around. Worm farms and revolving composters do not smell. Really!!”
What advice do you have for others to improve waste minimisation and recycling?
“Whether you are motivated by:
- having more room in your red lidded bin
- disliking the odour of decomposing food
- having rich compost for your garden
- caring about the future of our world
- recycling resources because it makes you feel good,
- starting a worm farm and/or a tumble composter is so easy it is laughable. Honestly, the cost is minimal and the chance of getting it wrong is miniscule. And, in the unlikely event that something goes wrong the web will help you find the problem and solve it.”
How does it feel to know that you are doing your part for waste minimisation?
“Once you’re into it, it is great fun and you have the sense that you are doing the right thing from a whole range of perspectives. Feeding your garden, utilising a valuable resource, reducing the amount of waste for Council disposal, and working a farm with lots of stock units - 2,000 plus worms. But I haven’t counted them!
Come on kiwis! We beat the virus. Next challenge is responsibly utilising the resources we have been blessed with.”
The nutrient rich waste product from the worms. (Also known as vermicompost).
Scraps of food, fruit and vegetables or plants and foliage.
How to start your own worm farm - https://lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz/worm-farms-101-everything-you-need-to-know/
How to start your own compost - https://lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz/composting-101/