Composting in London: Is it an Impossible Mission?

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composting in london

Composting in London isn’t impossible.

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.

Read more: #FLYGSKAM: Should People Be Shamed For Flying?

composting in london

You can compost even if you don’t have a garden.

Enter composting.

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

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.

composting in london

The gardens at the Horniman Museum.

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.

Bokashi Bin

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.

Check Freecycle and Craigslist for bins as well.

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.

composting in london

Suburban London in the springtime.

Balcony pots

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.

For other content like this, read about what happened when I gave up shampoo for four months and plastic for a year.

There are plenty of benefits to going plastic free and here are some items that have helped me do so, particularly when travelling.

You can read my other posts on going plastic free here as well as my archives on London.

Have you had success with composting in London? Or have any ideas to add to this post?

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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.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Hope - September 23, 2015

Yay for compost!

Reply
    LC - September 23, 2015

    Yay worm food!

    Reply
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
      Found it! - September 24, 2015

      Will do!

      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!

    Reply
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/

    Reply
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? 🙂

Reply
    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
Jodie - May 31, 2018

Hey what garden is this in Peckham?

Thanks!

Reply
    LC - June 7, 2018

    Hi Jodie, I wrote this post years ago, stupidly didn’t write down the garden in question and so can’t quite remember the name! It might have been Glengall Wharf Garden, maybe contact them and see if they’ll accept food waste.

    Reply
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