Composting in London – Is it an Impossible Mission?

peckham

Since I moved overseas and started travelling to different countries on a regular basis, I have been seeing the world in a different light. COLDPLAY ARE RIGHT ABOUT SOMETHING. We do live in a beautiful world and we who are able should try to do our part to take care of it.

I am therefore on a mission of sorts – to try and cut down on my environmental impact, in any way I can.

I started by swapping over single use and plastic items for stuff that was long lasting or recyclable. It consisted of doing some research online and a bit of shopping. Pretty simple stuff, in the end.

That done, I turned my attention to the area that I knew would prove to be hugely challenging.

Food.

Did you know that the United Kingdom throws out 7 million tonnes of food waste a year? And that more than half of this is food that is still fit to be consumed?

7 million tonnes. Just think of all that food rotting in landfill, which is something we are definitely going to have issues with at some point in the future. Yummy.

So in a nutshell, food waste = bad. How do we address this issue?

My parents have a compost and put everything they can in there. Bread and vegetable scraps go to their pet chickens and meat to our two dogs. They have a very eco-friendly set up going on and I love them even more for it.

Yet, they also have the slightly unfair advantage of living on an acre and a half and having their own vegetable garden. I live right in the city of London. In a flat. With no garden.

It’s estimated that by 2050, 66 percent of the world’s population will reside in urban environments. That’s a lot of people living in cities. Then take into account the fact that, the world population is projected to rise to almost ten billion by that year.

Scary figures.

As an individual, I was throwing so much food waste into the bin, on a daily basis. I therefore decided to move composting in London to the top of my list. I had the will… now I had to find a way.

What I really want is a worm farm. I am bereft without my dogs and need a pet, or hundreds. However, I live with friends in a flat that is not my own. My flatmates are lovely, reasonable people, but they weren’t all that keen on the idea of keeping a box of rotting food in the kitchen. To be honest, neither was I!

Composting food myself was an option that was off the table, until I lived alone or had a garden. Realistically, this is never going to happen so long as I live in London.

Meow

Meow

 

I then realised there may be drop off zones across the city for compost. Food markets seemed a probable bet. I searched and searched and either I suck at googling… or they just don’t exist in central London. I consider myself very good at using the internet, especially considering how much time I spend on it. I therefore concluded that there just mustn’t be any.

At this point, I began to get very frustrated with London. There is a lot I like about living here, but it is such continual hard work, especially where this mission was concerned. I had seen composting bins in some of the outer boroughs – why was it so hard to compost in the city? New York, a city I am very much enamoured by and often quietly compare London to, has a whole composting program going on. Is this regard, London seemed miles behind.

I had one last option left, before hitting utter despair.

Community gardens.

London is notorious for its parks and gardens, so surely there had to be an option nearby. My housemate pointed out that there was indeed a community garden down the street. I tracked down an email address and sent them an inquiry. Unfortunately, this was their reply:

I would love to say ‘yes’ to bringing compost to — but unfortunately we have a lot of waste from the other gardens around — which we manage and have effectively run out of space in — for anymore composting! I’m afraid I can’t think of any other composting sites.

Blast and damnation.

I wasn’t ready to give up. I extended my search to the south and eventually found a garden in my old suburb of Peckham. I emailed another inquiry and the answer was…

Yes, please drop by on a sunday. No meat, fish, dairy or bread products in the compost though.

Hooray! Mission accomplished.

My housemates and I have started keeping all our vegetables and fruit waste in bags in the freezer. We hardly ever use it, so there is plenty of room to spare.

Once we have accumulated a good amount, I will be journeying out to Peckham to feed their worms my scraps!

Another task ticked off what I can assure you is a very long list.

Posted by LC
September 22, 2015
LC

LC can often be found nursing a cup of green tea, with her head in a book. She is a writer, video editor and professional cheese eater. Her life's aspiration is to one day live on a farm in Tasmania with 11 dogs, a Shetland pony and several pygmy goats.

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Hope - September 23, 2015

Yay for compost!

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found it! - September 23, 2015

As I understand it, only about 20% of domestic food waste thrown away in this country is actual waste like peelings and such, the remaining 80% being food people just didn’t get round to eating before they deemed it to have ‘gone off’. Whilst composting is smashing, people should just learn to buy less and eat more. Perhaps if you ended up in London for longer than expected you could apply for a space on an allotment from your local council? Then you could grow, consume and compost to your heart’s content!

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    LC - September 23, 2015

    Yep that too and I agree it’s a problem! This is definitely a short term solution. Can you buy some worms please?

    Reply
Julie - September 24, 2015

An interesting topic – when I moved to the UK i was pleasantly surprised with how many people compost (the kind that can be put out with the rubbish). Most of my neighbours have small brown compost bins that they use and it’s much more prevalent here than in my previous home of NYC!

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    LC - September 24, 2015

    Thanks for your comment Julie. From my understanding, composting options vary from borough to borough. Some do a stellar job (Camden for example seem to be quite good with it), others not so much! We don’t have composting in our building, nor any gardens, so my council’s offer of subsidised Can-O-Worms or home composting kits seemed pointless. That’s why I turned to community gardens – it was just a bit of a mission to track one down!
    The NYC Compost Project do sound like they’re making a bit of a push now, opening up drop off points in all five boroughs, which can be found on their website. I would love for a resource like that to be made available here!

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Anonymous - May 7, 2016

Great post! I find myself in the same situation and have hopelessly tried to find places where they accept my compost. Could you tell me the name of this Peckham farm? Many thanks!

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    LC - May 9, 2016

    I know what you mean. Having a compost in the backyard has revolutionised my life. I believe it was Glengall Wharf Garden, I’ll pop their website URL below. When I emailed a year or so ago they were accepting food waste for their compost every Sunday. Good luck!
    https://burgessparkfoodproject.org.uk/

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Virginia Ruiz Albacete - April 24, 2018

Love it!
I have been looking for something of the likes for a while. Could you share the name of the garden you take your compostables to? 🙂

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    LC - April 28, 2018

    To be honest Virginia, I can’t remember what the garden was called! I kept my compost in the freezer and ended up moving shortly after writing this post to a flat with a backyard where we set up an outdoor composter. Sorry to not be more helpful.

    Reply
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