Skip to content or view screen version

Green waste recycling

Keith Parkins | 12.02.2007 14:58 | Bio-technology | Climate Chaos | Ecology

Why burn carbon fossil fuels to cart green waste from gardens to a central depot to be composted, then burn more carbon fossil fuels to cart the compost back to the gardens, when it can be composted in situ in the back garden?

'Everyone should recycle, and gardeners can recycle more than most. Anything that was once plant or animal matter can be composted and returned to the soil that originally nourished it, providing nutrition for new generations of both plants and animals.' -- The Gaia Book of Organic Gardening

'Growing your own grub is sustainable as you can be - and you’re not at the mercy of some greedy corporation bent on controlling and profiting from your every mouthful to boot. Take a look in your local supermarket and the crap they want us to eat - it's a toxic food society, and you could be growing your own additive free, unpackaged, fresher, tastier grub – free of charge! We could, very briefly, also mention all the great exercise you get diggin' and a hoein' but, to be honest, getting up in the middle of the night to 'deposit' your garden of its population of slugs and snails can be a bit of a nightmare...' -- SchNEWS

'Garden compost is the best material for feeding your soil. When you recycle organic matter into your soil you are returning plants and tiny living creatures that once came from it, in the form of minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and sugars. These provide the nutrients plants and animals need to grow, then they in turn die, decay, and provide more food for future generations. So you are helping to maintain the cycle of fertility.' -- The Gaia Book of Organic Gardening

Why burn carbon fossil fuels to cart green waste from gardens to a central depot to be composted, then burn more carbon fossil fuels to cart the compost back to the gardens, when it can be composted in situ in the back garden?

This was the rhetorical question asked on Gardeners Question Time. What was seen as a daft policy was then strongly attacked. [Broadcast BBC Radio 4 on Sunday, re-broadcast Wednesday afternoon]

As one of the panelists said, it is easy enough to compost in your back garden, but if you are too lazy to build a compost heap, then dig a hole in your back garden and chuck it in the hole.

If we are to cut down our food miles, and what better way than to grow our own, then why are we generating 'compost miles' for something that should never have left our garden in the first place?

Whilst it is better that green waste is taken away to be composted, than trucked to landfill or an incinerator, it is far, far better, that it is composted in the back garden.

Around 60% of domestic waste is organic matter, much of the remaining 40% is packaging. When you compost in your back garden, not only do you significantly reduce the waste leaving your household, but you are helping to maintain the structure and fertility of the soil in your garden.

The reason why councils are encouraging people to put out green waste for collection, rather than compost in the back garden, is because it helps them to artificially inflate their recycling figures.

The Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, is one of the councils trying to encourage the local community to put out their green waste for collection, rather than encouraging back garden composting. Not that they are even able to meet their own pathetic targets.

More depressing, is that a dysfunctional local FoE group, BVFoE, has been backing the council in its dumb policy.

Burning of carbon-based fossil fuels is not the only problem carting garden waste back and forth. We are draining valuable nutrients from our gardens when we put our garden waste out to be collected by the council. Garden waste is not rubbish to be thrown away, it is a valuable resource. Not only should we be returning to the soil all what comes out of the soil, but we should also be adding all our green kitchen waste, to help build up the structure and quality of our soil, to return the nutrients that have been lost.

The people who put out their garden waste to be collected, are probably the same who are down at the garden centres, buying peat-based compost for their gardens!

If you grow beans, now is the time, ideally it was at the beginning of the winter, to dig a long trench about a foot wide, a foot deep, and the length of your row of beans. Line it with newspapers. Then toss into the trench all your garden and kitchen waste, slowly backfilling with soil as you fill the trench. It will then be ready for your beans in late spring. As the green waste decomposes, it robs the soil of nitrogen, stimulating the production of nitrogen by the beans. The increased fibrous material in the soil, helps retain moisture during our long hot summers. At the end of the season, cut the vines off at ground level, leaving the nitrogen nodules in the soil. And do not forget to collect the bean seeds for next year, with some spare for seed swapping. The following year, grow green, leafy plants like cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, which will flourish in the nitrogen-rich soil.

Beans to grow ....

Runner Beans: Scarlet Emperor, Painted Lady. Growing and seed saving is very much as for French beans. If saving seeds, only grow one variety of runner beans as they cross-fertilise.

French Beans: Purple Queen, Tendergreen, Kinghorn Wax, Lazy Housewife and Cherokee Trail of Tears.



Lester R Brown, Plan B 2.0, Norton, 2006

Cindy Engel (ed), The Gaia Book of Organic Gardening, Gaia Books, 2005

Kate Evans, Funny Weather, Myriad Editions, 2006

Heather Coburn Flores, Food Not Lawns, Chelsea Green, 2006

Gardeners Question Time, BBC Radio 4, 11 February 2007

Keith Parkins, Sowing Seeds of Dissent, Indymedia UK, 6 September 2004

Keith Parkins, Seeds of Dissent, September 2004

Keith Parkins, Allotments at risk, Indymedia UK, 20 October 2006

Keith Parkins, Shredded paper not recyclable, Indymedia UK, 21 November 2006

Keith Parkins, Recycling – a tale of two councils, Indymedia UK, 5 January 2007

Keith Parkins, Seedy Sunday Brighton 2007, Indymedia UK, 6 February 2007

Keith Parkins, Recycling – the good, the bad and the ugly, Indymedia UK, 7 February 2007

Keith Parkins, Recycling in the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor goes from bad to worse, Indymedia UK, 9 February 2007

Pauline Pears (ed), HDRA Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, Dorling Kindersley, 2001

Michael Pollock (ed), RHS Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Dorling Kindersley, 2002

John Seymour, The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency, Dorling Kindersley, 2003

Soil of the Century, SchNEWS, 2 February 2007

Keith Parkins
- Homepage:


Display the following 4 comments

  1. Liverpool — Agree
  2. What are councils encouraging? — A N Other
  3. Any options for me? — hippie
  4. worse than I thought — Keith