Composting is the most general term we use in relation to rotting down organic matter in an environmentally friendly way, or the natural process of recycling organic matter into a rich fertiliser. We use this term to describe home composting, commercial composting and worm farming. Though they are different processes, they all start with organic matter and end with fertiliser.
Home composting describes a compost system you would set up in a backyard, school or community garden.
Setting up your home compost
Check out our Fact Sheet on home composting and worm farming.
How does composting work?
Composting is the breakdown of organic matter. Firstly, chemical breakdown (enzymes) occurs, which causes the heap to heat up as chemical bonds are broken realising energy. Secondly, bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes become active- they also contribute to the heating up of the pile. Larger organisms, like worms, slaters and millipedes become more active as the heap cools.
What can I put in a home compost?
This will vary from council to council.
Find more details in our compost Fact Sheet
Frequently Asked Questions
It is possible to compost pet poo at home, with a few conditions. Here are a few tips to ensure efficacy and safety.
You can purchase or make your own system- you'll need something like an underground worm farm. I used a "worm buffet" system. If you have tools, space and an old bin with a lid that clips on, you can remove the bottom and drill holes around the cylinder. There are specific pet waste systems, but these can get quite expensive. Up to you, your budget and space!
You will also need an enzyme starter; you can buy specific pet waste enzyme starters from pet shops and hardware stores. We'd also recommend a pooper scooper.
Choose a location your garden away from any vegetables or crops that may find their way into your house. This is to avoid any possibility of cross contamination of bacteria, parasites or other nasties. This is especially true of cats, who's faeces can carry toxoplasmosis. If you are composting cat waste, you will also need to research your kitty litter compostability.
If you have the space, you may want to install two systems, so when one is full, you can leave it to compost down nicely and start another. When the material is composted down, fill the hole in with soil and start another site!
No, these likely won't compost properly in a home composting system.
When it comes to plastics, there is much confusion surrounding the terms 'biodegradable', 'degradable' and 'compostable'. We have provided a guide to the various terms on our BusinessRecycling website.
There are official standards for products to be certified 'biodegradable' and 'compostable', and we need to make sure an item is Australian Certified Compostable before we dispose of it through composting.
For a material to 'biodegrade' it needs to have the availability of oxygen to do so. If a 'biodegradable' material is put into landfill this is an anaerobic environment (lacking oxygen) and cannot biodegrade as it should, though it may break down faster than normal plastics.
Compostable should mean it will break down in your home compost bin.
Degradable plastic refers to a plastic that has added chemicals to enable it to breakdown faster. However, this essentially means it breaks down into very small pieces of plastic which are still a big issue from an environmental perspective, so it is somewhat misleading.
Ultimately, it's better to avoid all single-use plastics whenever possible and reduce the demand for such items to be manufactured in the first place.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, (PFAS), are a group of manufactured chemicals typically applied as a coating or treatment to products as they are resistant to water, oil and heat. They are used in products including non-stick cookware, water resistant clothing and footwear, cosmetics and food packaging.
A growing body of research is exposing PFAS as chemicals that should be avoided due to their persistence and mobility in the environment. PFAS are not broken down by factors such as sunlight, water, exposure to air or temperature variability meaning the vast majority of all PFAS ever produced are still circulating today. They have also been found in over 99% of people tested.
Government and industry are working towards phasing out PFAS in Fibre based food contact packaging.
Some councils offer Food Organic and Garden Organic (FOGO) services through regular kerbside collections. Check with your local council to see if yours is one of them.