• A desire for more opportunities to get involved in food projects led to the Kensington Project and community compost hub in Melbourne. (City of Melbourne)
Composting is the new way to get social, with communities across Australia coming together to feed the earth and recycle their food scraps.
By
Bron Maxabella

12 Jul 2018 - 2:38 PM  UPDATED 3 Aug 2018 - 8:52 AM

City of Melville council in Perth has given a community composting trial the go ahead to expand into Fremantle and East Fremantle. The trial involved 7000 households using the green bin to dispose of food waste along with their garden waste. In the first six months of the project, 66.5 percent of all household waste was recovered as compost or recycled, producing 1200 tonnes of high-quality compost.

Community composting is not a new initiative, but it’s rare for councils to collect food scraps as part of the green bin system. In most council areas across Australia, the green bin is for garden waste only. Fortunately this hasn’t stopped residents from coming up with their own community compost schemes.

Enthusiastic diggers

Residents in the City of Melbourne council area are launching a compost hub at Kensington Town Hall in August. The Kensington Project is run by volunteers, guided and facilitated by the team at non-profit urban community gardening facility 3000acres. It’s clear that residents in this area see the benefits of community composting and gardening.

“The garden committee has established links with the neighbouring community school and plans to use the garden as a springboard for more activities."

“The working groups were filled by expression of interest and there were more applicants than positions available,” Merrin Layden, project manager at 3000acres tells SBS. “Membership of the committee is steadily increasing and the first planting day event was attended by over 50 people.”

City of Melbourne council is using the Kensington Project to test a new model of food waste diversion and communal food growing.

“The project came about in response to community activity and desire for more opportunities to get involved in food projects in Kensington,” says Layden. “The garden committee has established links with the neighbouring community school and plans to use the garden as a springboard for more activities and events around sustainability and local food in Kensington.”

It's a compost revolution

The positive response from residents comes as no surprise to Justin Bonsey, program manager at the Compost Revolution. The organisation began as a NSW government initiative and is currently working with around 31 councils across four states to offer residents composting gear subsidised at up to 80% off recommended retail prices.

"There is increasing awareness of overflowing landfills, climate change, and the need to live more sustainably.” 

“I think more and more people are beginning to compost, worm farm, and bokashi because there is increasing awareness of overflowing landfills, climate change, and the need to live more sustainably,” Bonsey tells SBS. “Our discounted products from councils are a great way to help facilitate this but what we are really witnessing is a major shift towards responsible living that is actually incredibly easy and rewarding to do.”

Bonsey also points out that the increase in availability of worm farming and bokashi fermentation have made it easier for apartment dwellers to compost with limited space. The Compost Revolution product also allows councils to offer residents a full-service online composting program which may otherwise have been a costly initiative. Bonsey estimates that founding councils of the Compost Revolution are now saving $100,000 net per year in landfill costs, simply by providing their residents with discounted composting gear and online education.

“Overall, the program has saved councils approximately $1.7 million in landfill costs, diverting 7,400 tonnes of organic waste from landfill, and saving 14,000 tonnes of associated greenhouse gas emissions across over 34,000 participating households,” says Bonsey.

Compost opportunities for everyone

The Compost Revolution is just one way that Inner-West Council is encouraging residents to compost their food scraps. The council has been participating in the scheme since pre-amalgamation when Ashfield council joined in 2013.

The council also conducted community compost hut trials last year. The five month trial involved 120 households and Council estimates that the two huts, located at Tom Kenny Reserve and Petersham Road Reserve, diverted around 2.5 tonnes of waste from landfill.

The increase in availability of worm farming and bokashi fermentation have made it easier for apartment dwellers to compost with limited space.

“Community feedback was overwhelmingly positive and supportive of the project,”  an Inner West Council spokesperson tells SBS. While there are currently no further communal composting trials, “Council is considering the hut model as various waste strategies are further developed."

Inner West Council also has an ongoing food waste recycling project for residents in unit locks in certain suburbs. Residents collect food scraps in a kitchen bench top bin with supplied compostable bags. The bag are then deposited in the specific maroon-lidded food waste organic bin and put out for kerbside collection once a week along with the regular bins. The food organics collection services 5,000 apartments and collects 120 tonnes of food waste annually.

Schools get involved

Other initiatives include the Compost Collective, an ongoing project that encourages residents of unit blocks to create on-site composting facilities through a supplied compost bin and kitchen caddies; and Food Scrap Friday, A composting project based at Camdenville Paddock Community Garden in conjunction with Camdenville Public School. Families in the school community that cannot compost at home bring kitchen scraps to the school on Friday mornings to feed the compost at the community garden.

The Compost Revolution has diverted 7,400 tonnes of organic waste from landfill, and saved 14,000 tonnes of associated greenhouse gas emissions across over 34,000 participating households.

As more councils jump on initiatives like community gardening and the Compost Revolution, and programs like the City of Melville community composting scheme roll out, the future for composting looks very rich indeed.

Get in touch with your local council to find out what schemes are operating in your area.

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