07 March 2008

Talking garbage

Curbside recycling and garbageI'm impressed with the way garbage is dealt with here. All recyclable packaging and containers are collected free of charge every other week and there's a weekly collection of 'real' garbage, which costs $2 per bag. You buy little blue labels in advance and stick them on the bags when you put them out. As the recycling is so comprehensive, we find we're only generating one bag of rubbish a fortnight - so we spend $52 a year (£26) for this service, which seems reasonable.

I've been composting all the vegetable waste we produce in two plastic compost bins that were here when we arrived, but it seems this isn't that common a practice here. Recently the County advertised in the local paper, asking people to apply for a rotating composter as part of a County-wide trial. I've always fancied one of those, so I applied and was thrilled to find out the other week that I had been selected to take part, along with 19 other households around the County (75 applications had been received in all). Last night there was a meeting about the trial and I got to collect my new toy.

Composting scale and tubThe Council don't currently provide a separate kerbside collection service for compostable materials, so a lot of it is going into landfill at the moment. It costs them $225 per tonne to dump things in landfill, so this trial is looking at ways of reducing that cost. As well as the composter, they provided us all with a green bucket for use in the kitchen and a scale to weigh it with. We have to weigh the waste that we put into the composter and record the amounts, until the end of October. Then these figures will be used to calculate the savings for the County. I didn't like to point out that I would have composted my materials anyway...

There were some interesting talks, including one from Doug Parker, who farms on an organically-certified farm in South Marysburgh. It was great to listen to someone who is so passionate about compost (which, by the way, is mainly pronounced to rhyme with 'post' around here). He had even brought some of his compost along for everyone to examine. Then two representatives of the manufacturers described the features of the composter. It's supposed to be pest-proof (which is good, as we had a rat living in our compost bin in Sale for a while), although they had heard of one installation in Vermont which was regularly played with by a bear.

Rotating composterThis morning Mike and I set up the composter and I placed it next to the back door (this involved shovelling out a big snow drift). It's made by Sun-Mar, who started out making composting toilets and this is built on the same principles. The rotating drum speeds up the composting process, so that compost can be extracted from the centre in as little as two to four weeks. Although it might have to get a bit warmer outside before that's achievable, I suspect. The retail price of one of these is $250. I've paid $50 to take part in the trial, but I think $30 of that is refundable at the end of it, so I'll get my composter for $20. Bargain!

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