This page has been created by SCN Members, Patrick & Kate & is based on their own experiences as they developed a ‘collecting’ relationship with their local cafe & a ‘composting’ relationship with their garden!
Want to make your community & the world a better place?
Why not set up a composting network in your local community, preventing food waste from going to landfill & creating a valuable resource for the garden.
What follows is a step-by-step guide on how to start a composting network in your own local area with tips & tricks to make the process as simple as possible. This is a guide only however as each community will have its own unique challenges & opportunities. It is based on our own experiences as collectors & composter & on what we have learned from our fellow Compost Network friends.
Step 1 – Decide how you will manage your food waste: There are a few different ways in which food waste can be turned into a resource in the home, the two main methods being composting & worm farming. Both methods turn food waste into a nutrient rich material (compost or castings) which will have your garden thriving in no time!
- Make sure that you have your system set up & ready to go prior to collecting any food waste. It is also a good time to think about logistics & ensure the compost bin or worm farm is in a convenient location for constantly adding material over a period of several months.
- Don’t have space or are renting? That doesn’t mean you can’t set up a network as your local community garden or school may be willing to take the waste and compost it.
Check the SCN website for tips & advice on the different options available for your food waste.
Step 2 – Get a hold of some buckets: You need something to collect your food scraps in, whether from your own kitchen or from the local cafe. Thankfully this is usually simple. We recommend you don’t rush to the shops & buy new buckets or containers as this only adds to our landfill problem.
Juice stores & restaurants that use yoghurt can be a great option as they produce many buckets which are perfect for collecting food waste. Buckets with lids are best, as they can be stacked, stop any unwanted smells & help keep out insects etc.
Ensure that you don’t skimp out on the quality of the buckets you choose as they must be strong & not allow any material to escape in the cafe or during transport. We have found that the ideal containers are stackable to minimise the space they take up in the cafe & have a capacity of between 10 and 20 L.
Step 3 – Introduce yourself to your cafe: Now that you have your buckets it’s now time to find your cafe or restaurant!
We recommend that you start modest & focus on a small cafe to begin with. You will be surprised how many coffee grounds & food scraps even a small cafe produces so over-commit & don’t bite off more than you can chew! The worst thing you can do is promise to collect all their food waste only to be up to your ears in scraps that you can’t handle!
Note: Try to put yourself in the shoes of your cafe – we’ve found that small cafes are also the least likely to be able to easily use existing ‘green waste’ collections. Council ‘green bins’ cost money as do those supplied by commercial waste contractors.
When you introduce yourself to the cafe staff let them know that you are willing to help them prevent their food waste from going to landfill by turning it into compost at your home or a local community garden. Keep it simple & focus on how this will benefit them:
- being a responsible corporate citizen
- reducing their impact on the environment
- keeping smelly food from their bins and…
- supporting a local member of the community.
Emphasis the benefits for them – they are likely to be less interested in the benefits for your own garden! In our experience it is always better to have this conversation in person rather than over the phone or email. Cafes are very busy places & they have much to worry about, let alone their waste. Avoid peak ‘busy’ times to ensure you have plenty of time for a good conversation. Buying something while you are there also shows that you are a team player & are willing to support their business in the process.
Step 4 – Start collecting: Now that the cafe has agreed to the collection it’s time to nut out the finer details such as:
- frequency of collections
- suitable days & times
- number of buckets required.
Conducting a short meeting in the cafe is a good way to do this. To ensure that the collection is a partnership & sustainable in the long-term, you will need to create a solid relationship with the cafe through honest and open communication. If you say you will pick up on a certain day you must follow through with this or at the very least, let them know in advance if you are unable to collect. Missed collections are a ‘no no’ as are returning buckets that haven’t been properly cleaned. This erodes trust & will lead to the cafe pulling the pin!
Step 5 – Growing the Compost Network: You can stop the process with your own collections if you like, but that’s not quite the philosophy behind a composting network.
If you do go at it alone, you may soon find that it is unsustainable as you can be overloaded with food waste that you can’t handle & your collecting arrangements may well become overwhelming.
A network of composters allows a community to work together to collect food waste & share the load. This allows flexibility in collections so that people can go away or have a break from collection without upsetting the cafe. Regular catch-ups as a team at a participating café or restaurant foster the community developed through the program & are an ideal time to discuss composting tips, any issues arising in the collections & any innovative ideas.
A network of community members passionate about the same goal is a powerful thing & you will soon find that you will make friends, increase your overall happiness & feel a part of making our environment a better place.
So.. Congratulations! You have successfully created a community of like-minded people who are making a real difference. Not only are you preventing thousands of tonnes of potential resources from going to landfill, you are building community spirit and empowering individuals.