Composting in London: Is it an Impossible Mission?
Did you know that the United Kingdom throws out around 15 million tonnes of food a year? Of this figure, it’s estimated that around half of the 7 million scraps are edible. Yikes.
Although composting should be the last solution in a list of ways to reduce your food waste, you should at the very least be trying to compost your food scraps, rather than throwing them in the bin, where they’ll get shipped straight to landfill.
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.
We need to do something about our food waste and we need to do it fast.
Composting is a wonderful solution if you have your own garden, as it provides nutrient rich soil, which you can then use to grow new veggies and plants in. Circle of life and all that.
However, London is a highly condensed city, with over 8 million people living with its urban centre (not counting those who call “Greater London” home).
Many of those living there will not have a backyard they can compost scraps in.
Luckily, there are a few options for those in this living situation.
Community Gardens are a great solution to many problems and are only growing in popularity, although sometimes I don’t think it’s quite fast enough.
In a city renowned for its parks, gardens and green spaces, there have to be some within your immediate vicinity that will accept your food scraps into your compost system.
However, you may have to shop around first.
Here’s an example. Back in 2015, I emailed a garden that was down the road from my flat and this was their response:
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.
Not particularly helpful!
I highly recommend getting in contact with your local council and seeing if they have a list of community gardens in the area.
From there, you can systematically go through the list until you find one that works for you.
Obviously, you can’t just go strolling down to the garden after every meal to dispose of your scraps. That would be nice, but many gardens have specific opening times and it’s only then that they allow people to drop off food scraps.
Here are a couple of solutions.
Freeze your food scraps
Have a bag that you keep in your freezer for food scraps and pop them all in there over the course of the week.
Once a week or fortnight, head on down to the local community garden and empty the bag.
This may be helpful, as it’ll allow you to visually see how much food you’re scrapping a week and with some research, you can devise ways to lower that amount.
If your freezer is too small, or you don’t have the time to go to the garden every week, you should look at investing in a Bokashi Bin.
These bins sit in your flat (often next to your normal bin) and you can chuck food waste into them.
You chuck a special mixthat you can buy with the bin on top, which ferments the waste. So, there’s no smell and the bins can store about a month’s worth of scraps, that then need to be buried.
I live in a flat in Australia these days and don’t have a backyard, so I use a bokashi bin for my food scraps.
You can read my review about them here.
There is an issue with community gardens. They may not accept all your food waste.
This is because many have composts that contain worms and worms are really picky about what they will and won’t eat.
So, you may find restrictions on composting meat, bread, citrus and onion.
I have liaised with my local community garden in Australia and they allow me to bury the mix from my Bokashi bin in some land next to the garden.
Talk with your local garden and see if some sort of solution can be achieved.
If not, dealing with some of your food waste in a compostable manner is better than none at all.
If you have a balcony, you can buy some pots and fill them with potting mix.
Bury your food scraps in the mix and you’ll end up with beautifully fertile soil in which you can grow flowers or herbs in.
Harass your local council for solutions
The onus shouldn’t be on just us to find a solution.
WE PAY COUNCILS EXORBITANT RATES TO DEAL WITH THESE SORT OF PROBLEMS. So, get on their case.
Email them and ask what they are proposing to do to help deal with food waste in your borough.
The councils themselves have options, such as providing green bins to residents for composting.
Or, ask that they work on instilling more community gardens, making them a priority in the area.
Just because you live in a big city, doesn’t mean that you can’t be environmentally friendly or move towards being zero waste.
Sometimes it just takes a bit of creative thinking or community action to help you along the way.
Have you had success with composting in London? Or have any ideas to add to this post?