A guide to composting in South Africa

If you enjoy gardening the idea of creating free compost should be enough to get you curious, but the truth is that whether you are a green thumb or not, and whether you have a large garden or live in an apartment, we should all be composting our food waste and garden trimmings instead of allowing it to end up in landfills.

We’ve put together this guide with information and tips about composting in South Africa because we believe that if everyone new the importance, the benefits and most of all how easy it is to get started, more people would start composting at home. 

Importance & Benefits of Composting in South Africa:

The WWF have put together quite a few interesting articles around the issue of Food Waste and the effect thereof on our landfills and environment, but this one article in particular gave us a rude awakening to the scale if the issue as well as the real cost of not disposing of our organic waste correctly.

According to the article it is estimated that one third of all food produced in South Africa goes to waste, equating to about 10 million tonnes of the 31 million tonnes produced in 2017.

Fruit & Vegetables account for the majority of this food waste and although most of this waste occurs in the supply chain even before the produce reaches our homes, it is still estimated that about half of your household waste is food waste and is perfect for composting; making us all part of the problem.

That means that about half of our household waste could be used to benefit our environment, but instead most of us throw it in the trash to be sent off to landfills, where the food-waste component leads to the production of methane gas and carbon dioxide (greenhouse gasses).

And last but not least, composting your food waste will also help relieve the pressure on South Africa’s landfills which are already in crisis. In some parts of the Western Cape it is said  that landfills could be at capacity in less than a year. And Capetonians aren’t the only ones in trouble; according to an article in the Business Day:

“We are running out of landfill space in SA. In 2016, three landfill sites were closed in Pretoria. These are sites that were meant to have an additional lifespan of about 25 years”.

Tips and advice for Home Composting:

Before you start composting at home or at work, consider the amount of waste you will be composting as well as the space you have available to determine the best way to proceed.

  • If you have a large garden and would like to include grass trimmings and leaves you should consider creating a simple composting heap or even a worm farm.
  • For homes with smaller gardens where mostly food waste will be composted, a composting bin might be the best option.
  • For large businesses and restaurants it might be viable to use a commercial composter while small businesses and people who live in apartments can opt for a small countertop composter.
  • If You Care Compostable Food Waste Bags are a great lining for your composting bin and eliminate the need to regularly wash your bin, they have now also been certified as suitable for home composting and is approved for use in wormeries / worm farms as well.
  • For more information on the various options available you can also read this article on the garden & home website which includes a summary on the indoor and outdoor Bokashi products which reduce composting time and odours during decomposition.

What can be turned into compost:

A google search of what can be composted will deliver varied results, and the method of composting as discussed above will also play a role, and as a general rule there has to be a balance between the carbon or nitrogen or greens and browns that are added to your composting pile. We found the detailed breakdown of what can and cannot be composted in this article to be the most helpful, but we have listed some of the most commonly compostable items below which should be fine for any composting setup:

  • Garden waste such as grass cuttings, leaves, soil and twigs
  • Dead flowers and pot plants
  • Fruit & Vegetable Scraps & Peelings
  • Tea Bags and Coffee grounds
  • Bread and Crackers that have gone stale
  • Egg shells and Egg Trays in small amounts
  • If You Care Compostable Paper Products & Packaging
  • Paper and cardboard (Avoid printed and glossy paper)
  • Sawdust, Charcoal and Ash.
  • Eco-friendly take-away coffee cups & containers

Composting Facilities in South Africa:

Composting can be fun but it’s not for everyone. If you don’t have a garden or the time to maintain, turn and manage your own composting pile, you can still help the environment and reduce pressure on landfills by making use of the growing number of composting facilities around the country. You should be able to find a facility in your area, but for ease of reference we have listed a few options below:

  • Cape Town has a municipal compost plant in the northern suburbs, you can find more information here.
  • Zero to Landfill organics  and ywaste offer a collection service in Cape Town for your food waste and/or garden trimmings on a weekly basis and compost at their own facilities.
  • You can contact a local worm farm like Wizzard Worms in KZN or Earthworm Buddies in Gauteng.
  • Earth Probiotic, the company behind the Bokashi Bins has offices all over the country and also assist in those areas.
  • MyWaste.co.za created a handy widget that allows you to enter a location and the type of waste (including organic waste) you would like to recycle and then gives you results within your selected radius.

We would love to add more composting facilities to this list, so if you know of any facilities in your neighbourhood, please contact us so that we can include them.

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