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Three bins installed at Hastings & St Leonards Compost Community’s first site in the grounds of St John the Evangelist church.

Community composting is coming your way!

For those living in blocks of flats, or who for some other reason are precluded from the pleasures of composting, help is on the way. The newly established Hastings & St Leonards Compost Community has just established its first composting hub for communal use and is now working to open up new sites across the town. Nick Terdre reports.

In these environmentally conscious days, making the most of fresh food waste to create compost to enrich the soil and enhance the growth of food and other plants is one of life’s pleasures. But not everybody has access to composting facilities – if you live in a block of flats, for example.

And for the same reason a lot of food waste literally goes to waste – destined for a landfill site where its value will be lost.

Inspired by what is happening in Brighton and Hove, the Hastings and St Leonards Compost Community has been set up to bring composting to local communities in the town, providing an outlet for those whose composting drive is frustrated. Even if you only have some window boxes or potted plants, some home-made compost will be beneficial.

The concept of community composting proved highly popular when introduced by Brighton & Hove Food Partnership, Rachel Holtom, one of the Hastings group’s founder members, told HOT. Enjoying the involvement of the city council, the partnership now has nearly 40 sites operating across the city, mostly with long waiting lists.

Spark of inspiration

The idea of starting a similar scheme in Hastings came from Rhiannon Flood, who told HOT how it came about. “Back in September 2019, I made a personal pledge to recycle my compostable food waste and was determined to stick to it. After a year or so, I got tired of cycling to a friend’s garden with my container of food scraps precariously tied to the back, and later of driving all the way to another friend’s allotment.

“So I emailed MP Sally Hart to ask why there is no kerbside food waste collection here in Hastings. Long story short, I realised I’d have to start my own community composting scheme – envisaging hubs all across Hastings and St Leonards so that anyone without access to a garden or allotment could recycle their fruit and veg scraps.

“It wasn’t difficult to find like-minded residents, as well as some very supportive councillors, who wanted to join me in making this happen. We’ve managed to raise enough funds to install bins at our first site, at St John’s Churchyard, where we will have our public launch event this Saturday (24 July) 3–5pm.”

A visit to Brighton convinced her fellow founding members that the idea would be a goer. They were shown around by Tim ‘the Bin’ Andrews, who developed the modular designs for the bins, which are well aerated but rat-proof and weather-proof, and builds them from recycled wooden pallets.

Tim (back to camera) leads the way in assembling one of the bins.

With easy access from the top and the front, and made of sustainable materials, Tim’s bins are a cut above the standard, plastic, commercial product.

Hastings Composting Community’s first site – with three bins built and assembled by Tim – is located in the grounds of St John the Evangelist church on Brittany Road in St Leonards-on-Sea with the kind permission of the rector, Fr David Hill, who blessed the bins when they were set up last weekend.

Participants invited

Residents of three nearby blocks of flats – Finch Mansions and Mardan Court, opposite the church, and Lazonby Court around the corner in Dane Road, have been invited to become participants, delivering their food waste and having the right to a share of the compost which eventually emerges.

Drawing on Brighton’s experience, about 30 participants – whether individuals, couples or families – is about the right number for a site. As running costs are minimal, membership is free. All will be given an introduction to how the scheme works.

As reported by Rhiannon, a launch event will be held in St John’s church hall next Saturday, 24 July, from 3 to 5pm, which will be attended by the mayor, Cllr James Bacon. Would-be participants are invited as well as interested members of the public. The scheme, which has so far cost some £800, has largely been funded by Transition Town Hastings, with some smaller contributions from other donors.

Why three bins? At any time one bin is available to receive food waste – this is fitted with a combination lock, so that only the participants can use it. The other two bins are locked with padlocks. When the first bin is full, it is padlocked to allow the composting process to take place in peace, while the second bin is fitted with the combination lock and opened up for food waste. When that is full, the third bin comes into operation.

By the time the last one is full, composting in the first bin should be complete. The process takes six months or more, says Rachel, though it goes faster in warmer weather. The compost is then shared out and the cycle begins again. Two monitors keep an eye on things to ensure all is running smoothly and, if necessary, to give the waste in the current bin a helpful turning over. Worms may need to be added at the beginning to get the process going.

Once the initial site is up and running, the group will turn its attention to a new bout of fund-raising for a second site, which will be over in Hastings. The scheme ticks lots of boxes on the funding bodies’ wish-list, so Rachel is hopeful that their applications will be well received.

Dos and don’ts

So what can you chuck in the compost bin? Participants will receive strict instructions on some do’s and don’ts. There needs to be a good balance between greens (fruit and veg and other organic waste material ) and browns (paper and cardboard), Rachel says. Fruit and veg peelings are of course the base load, but not permitted are cooked food, or meat, whether cooked or raw, or dairy products – these attract rats. Fruit stones, especially large ones such as avocado, are not advisable as they take ages to decompose.

Coffee grounds, rabbit poo and small amounts of grass cuttings can go in, as well as dust from vacuum cleaners. But if you want to dispose of used tea leaves, first remove them from the bag – these contain plastic and take ages to decompose. Tree and plant leaves are not welcome as they also take a long time to break down.

Egg shells also attract rats and take a long time to decompose – if you want to put them in the bin, cook them first to soften them up.

Corrugated cardboard is magic for worms, providing tubes through which air and worms can circulate. Newspaper is also acceptable but in small quantities, and not in thick layers. Glossy cardboard is a no-no.

The requirements for a community composting site are modest, so it should not be too difficult to find likely locations around town. Tim’s bins come in three different sizes, ranging from 380-litres capacity to 700, but even the largest size takes up a footprint of only 4.4 x 1.9 metres. The ground should be level and clear, providing easy access to users.

To register interest contact Hastings & St Leonards Composting Community by email (info@hastings-compost-community.org) or visit the relevant page of Transition Town Hastings. Or attend the public launch at St John’s Church Hall, Brittany Road, St Leonards-on-Sea TN38 0RD at 3 to 5 pm on Saturday 24 July.

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Thank you for your continued support!

Posted 21:24 Wednesday, Jul 21, 2021 In: Grassroots

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