When rubbish isn’t rubbish at all..

Well if like me you thought that all kerbside collected rubbish ended up in the landfill, you would be wrong. Local authorities are under increasing pressure to reduce the amount going to landfill and associated costs; finding alternative and innovative ways to reduce the amount being sent is critical.

In Leicestershire all of the collected kerbside rubbish goes off to a Mechanical Biological Treatment plant (MBT) in Cotesbach as a ‘last chance cafe’ to recycle any valuable resources before it heads off to the landfill and I was lucky enough to go and have a tour.

‘The principle aims of New Earth’s technology is to extract recyclable materials where they exist….diverting waste away from landfill and reducing exposure to landfill tax.’

I passed the first test by reversing into a car parking space and that set the tone for the tour, Health and Safety is very important to the company and they manage it with an obsession. We were duly given the Health and Safety briefing and kitted out with a high-viz jacket, hard hat, goggles, mask and gloves.

All kitted out

Our first stop was to see the Delivery area where all the waste is deposited first. Any oversized items are removed and bags are split and waste spread out. The size of space was amazing with the set up sorting through a tonne of rubbish every couple of hours. The waste is then lifted onto a vibrating plate and Sorting takes place.

The vibrating plate…vibrates, funnily enough, and sorts the waste by size. The smaller bio-mass rich particles go into the Bio-Stabilisation Halls and the other materials travel on into the another sorting area for more separation.


The recyclable metal and plastic materials are separated from the rest of the waste using various methods including a drum separator and magnets, again on a massive scale.


Once all the ‘recyclabubble ‘ material has been removed the remaining waste still doesn’t go off to landfill: it is suitable for use as fuel. Not any old fuel though.

Currently the fuel is transported to Europe for use in high efficiency Combined Heat and Power Plants’

‘New Earth is looking at building its own energy recovery plant in Avonmouth, Bristol’

Karen standing next to the ‘ma-hou-sive’ accelerator machines 

As previously mentioned in the Sorting stage, all the bio-mass rich particles are sent to the BioStabilisation Halls to be ‘composted’ down.


The Bio-rich particles or ‘fines’ as they are known are stored in long heaps in ‘ma-hou-sive’ enclosed halls allowing the compost to reach its optimal condition. They are kept in here for about 6 weeks and the heaps are turned regularly to help the compost decompose equally.

‘Ma-hou-sive’ turning machines are used daily to turn all the heaps over.

This compostable material cannot be used anywhere other than as a soil conditioner on brownfield sites, once it has been screened and reaches all the legal requirements.

Animal By-Product Regulations’ –  In order to meet ABPR requirements the material must reach a temperature of at least 60 degrees C for a minimum of 16 days while being turned every 48 hours. This is monitored by electronic probes inserted along the length of the heaps, sending data back to the automated control system’

This is the end result of the composting stage, looks like normal compost to me!

My Learning Outcomes:

  • Who knew so much went on behind the scenes once my kerbside rubbish has been collected
  • The whole set up at New Earth was clean, tidy and didn’t smell. Not what I was expecting at all.
  • The company tries to maintain the status quo within the location in terms of smells, environment and pests.
  • I didn’t see any rats whilst I was there (a bonus!)
  • Flies and maggots are sprayed frequently to keep them down
  • A fascinating visit that lasted over 2 hours and could have gone on longer
  • All this takes place to recycle and reuse as much material as possible before the final drudge is sent to landfill.

#waste #wastemanagement #recycle #newearthsolutions #biomass #biostabilisation #MBT #reduce #reuse #landfill



Why we should all be Composting…


Well I have had a dirty weekend away getting down and grubby with compost and worms (…and Karen!) What a fascinating weekend 🙂

Karen and I arrive at Garden Organic

When I signed up to become a ‘Master Composter’ I wasn’t sure what to expect and how they were going to fill two solid days of training  talking about compost, was beyond me. I can honestly say I enjoyed every minute.

There were about twenty of us willing volunteers being trained from all walks of life and three different councils, with a variety of reasons for being there but with a common aim: to pass the composting message on.

Kate, Alex and David, our knowledgeable & enthusiastic trainers for the weekend all work for Garden Organic and what they don’t know about composting and wormeries isn’t worth knowing.


Bed time reading!

Manuals, books and information sheets were handed out to all the volunteers to read, digest (excuse the pun) and refer to once we are let loose on the public.

The session started with Kate asking us to get to know our neighbour and find out an interesting fact about them. We then had to introduce our buddy and share the information with the rest of the group. Some amazing and very interesting facts came out including some one who had lived in the woods for a year, another had slept in a snow hole and someone had shared a hot tub with a famous boxer! Next up an ‘Introduction to Garden Organic and the Master Composter Scheme’ then we looked at ‘Why Compost?’ which concluded with a well earned tea break.


Why Compost?

Good question…it isn’t all about allotments and growing things or about ‘The Good Life’ it is about WASTE, WASTE DISPOSAL and reducing the amount of rubbish going to LANDFILL.

Local councils are targeted to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and increase the amount of recycling by households (both of which costs money to the tax payer) as well as composting, re-using or upcycling. Landfill sites are becoming full so if we all started to compost it would reduce the IMG_1762[1]amount of waste going to landfill.

The average household can divert up to 150kg of waste from landfill as a result of home composting. This in turn reduces the amount of methane gas produced which helps reduce global warming.

Note: When waste is sent to landfill it does not break down as air cannot get to it to help it break down and more and more waste is piled on top which results in the production of methane gas.

Did you know councils pay on the tonnage they send to landfill it currently costs Leicestershire County Council £120/tonne of waste they send. Sending recycling to a plant also has a cost but it is a lot less than waste disposal and better for the environment. A lot of the ‘reuse initiatives’ mean that many items don’t end up in landfill, especially bulky items, so don’t incur a cost.

Composting is an inexpensive, natural process that transforms kitchen and garden waste into valuable and nutrient rich food for your garden, pots and tubs. It is easy to make and use. Check out this site for inspiration.


What is Compost?

Compost is the breakdown of organic material by oxygen. There are three stages to the composting process; degradation, conversion and maturation. Each stage uses hundreds of different organisms including bacteria, fungi, insects and worms to leave you with a rich earthy substance full of valuable nutrients that plants and soil need.

Top left: a compost bin cut in half, top right: real compost in a Johanna, Bottom left: Leaf Mould, Bottom right: real compost on a New Zealand bin

What can you Compost?

Back to the training – We played a game where cards were distributed: we had to put them into piles of YES, NO or CAUTION to see what we already knew about composting and more importantly what we didn’t! The was lots of debate about whether it was Yes or No happened in our team!

IMG_1944[1]The YES‘s can be further split into GREENS and BROWNS and an equal mix of both is needed as GREENS are the ‘wet’ materials which add moisture, nitrogen and rot quickly. The BROWNS provide carbon, fibre, allow air pockets to form and rot slowly.

GREENS include but not exclusive – vegetable peelings, tea bags, grass cuttings, cut flowers, nettles, comfrey leaves, rhubarb leaves and poisonous plants.

BROWNS include but not exclusive – cardboard, egg boxes, egg shells, wood ash, cotton wool and woollen jumpers (who knew).

The NO’s include cooked food, fat, coal ash, plastics, meat and fish scrapings, dairy products and dog faeces.

Those in the CAUTION pile include perennial weeds, Christmas trees, diseased plants and evergreen prunings (which you can compost but they need a bit more attention).

For a more comprehensive list go to http://www.recyclenow.com or http://www.homecomposting.org.uk which is the Garden Organic site.

What type of Compost bin should I get?

A whole array of different compost bins are available


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The Double New Zealand


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Beehive Bin



Who knew there were so many different compost bins available!

There is something for almost every garden and every pocket depending on your need. Whether you want a ”hot’ or ‘cold’ composter, a digester, a tumbler, a leaf mould, a wormery, one with a base, one without, natural wood looking one, cheap or expensive plastic one, instant or build one etc etc: the list is endless.

As groups we had to design our ideal compost bin…which ended up being my favourite made from upcycling pallets. I would like to have a go at making this design and putting it in my garden if I can ever get my hands on some pallets (before hubbie chops them up and burns them in the wood burner!)

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Our intrepid leaders – John for Leicestershire County Council and David and Kate from Garden Organic


Our group and my, IDEAL compost bin

Not enough space for a compost bin or live in a flat without outside space…no problem, a wormery could be the answer.


What is a Wormery?

Yes it is in the title, a wormery contains WORMS! and lots of them.

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The guys giving us the low down on using a wormery

Wormeries are small scale units so they are suitable for people with no room for a standard compost bin or for use with children who love getting down with nature. They can be kept inside or in warmer months, outside. The worms digest kitchen waste to produce both compost and a liquid fertiliser (or drain cleaner as one of the trainers, Alex told us).

Whilst you can buy wormeries, again in different sizes and costs, they are quite simple to make according to Alex who had made her own. She had bought three small black plastic boxes from Ikea one with a lid, drilled holes in the top two boxes to allow the worms to move about and liquid to drain down to the bottom box, bought some fishing worms and started to feed them with kitchen waste: nice and compact and very portable and more importantly cheap to make. You can see it in the picture above.

Compost! Compost! Compost!

Hopefully I have opened your eyes to the possibility of introducing composting into your life, garden, neighbourhood. I am now a ‘Master Composter’ and as part of the scheme I have signed up to dedicate thirty hours to promote, present and push composting.

If you would like more information, have some questions or just a chat (about composting!) then get in touch and I will be happy to help r point you in the right direction.

Right I am off to Ikea to look for black boxes and the fishing shop for worms  🙂

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Fellow Master Composters



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This week it’s all about the food!


As I have mentioned before I hate waste of any kind so over the past few weeks I have been looking at ways to reduce food wastage.

A chance conversation with my very good friend Pippa and I am the proud owner of a ‘compost bin’ and I am as happy as a pig in mud 🙂

We were having coffee discussing the #LiveLagom project and I said I was looking at our food waste as part of the Love Food Hate Waste (LFHW) project and needed to reduce the amount of food I was throwing away as well as get a compost bin. Pippa said ‘I have a spare one, never been used; you are very welcome to it’. Well she didn’t need to ask me twice, the next day she was walking down the road with it under her arm (so to speak)

#Problem 1

Where to put the composter in the garden, that was accessible but out the way. After lots of reading up on the subject of COMPOSTING on the local council site  www.lesswaste.org.uk I decided to put it in between a tree trunk and a stone step that had a bit of dead space between it.

Compost bin in situ


In this position it will receive sun during the summer months as well as shade from the tree but more importantly it is in view of the back door so no excuse for not using it!

#Problem 2

The next step was to find something to collect the peelings, tea bags and other food material into whilst it was being collected in the kitchen. An old plastic mushroom box was just the job: it isn’t too large but holds enough very LiveLagom.

An old mushroom pot makes an excellent food collector


#Problem 3

Getting the combination right: I need to ensure I have a good mix of ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ material going into the compost bin or ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ to ensure the right texture is achieved. I didn’t know there was such a science to it!

Green waste provides plenty of bacteria and nitrogen to the compost and brown waste contains carbon. Too much green and I will end up with a sloppy mess, too much brown and I will house ants and woodlice. YUK! The other thing I need to consider is rats and mice especially as we live next to open fields. Double YUK!

Well I have made a start so watch this space to see how successful (or not) I am as I now need to keep filling the composter and wait then for about 6 months for the finished product!

So no pressure Pip but I’ve made a start, so can you and we can compare compost then! 🙂

I now need to go on a visit to the Leicester Botanical Gardens at the University to see their composting demonstration site and talk t the experts to pick up some top tips. http://www.carryoncomposting.com who knows I may become a ‘Master Composter’ yet 🙂



The Food Waste diary



If there is one thing that makes me mad, it is seeing food being wasted and going in the bin. Food is expensive to buy and produce and with all the talk of supermarkets, farmers and food wastage I knew we had a part to play too.

About 5 years ago I wrote the Love Food Hate Waste training programme for Leicestershire County Council so I knew about ‘sell by/ use by dates’ what to freeze as well as making other meals out of left overs. I have always written a list before shopping and I had an idea of what we would be eating for the week. I taught the programme so there was nothing I could learn right?…wrong!

#Problem 1

I kept a diary of all our family food wastage (before I started using the composter) for one week and was amazed at what we were throwing away. Bread (ends, toast and pulled off bits), bagels (gone mouldy), pasta (cooked too much),  bananas (I had frozen to use at a later date but my daughter had decided to use as a cold compress in the middle of the night!) cereals (too much poured out and ran out of time to eat it) juice that hadn’t been drunk etc etc… In total I estimated we were throwing out the equivalent to about £8 a week or £32 – £40 a month. Criminal.

#Problem 2

I deduced the problem was the family 😉 but I couldn’t change them!

Hubbie is gluten-free so cannot have the same wheat-based foods as the rest of the family and where in the past he would finish off bread/pasta/bagels etc this wasn’t happening. I tend not to eat bread and pasta but the teens love it.

Pasta cooking in the Ikea pans

The next issue was time…time to eat. Breakfast is a bit chaotic with everyone helping themselves and rushing out the door to get to school/work on time. The final issue appeared to be portion control, too much being cooked for the people eating. The teens were and are the biggest wasters of food in the family and I think part of the problem is that they don’t buy it with their own money so it doesn’t cost them.


#Solution 1

Get the teens up earlier! Obvious but not going to happen. I can save bread/toast/bagels in the freezer to use in a bread and butter pudding for when guests come over or use it in one of my cookery classes when I have collected enough or just limit the amount of bread I buy.

#Solution 2

I have a spaghetti pasta measurer from the LFHW project and need to find a measuring cup for other types of pasta and ensure the teens use it to control the amount of pasta they cook.

So lets see how much difference it makes over the next few weeks. I think the biggest thing I learnt was to make sure I revisit #foodwastage at least once a year to see what bad habits we have picked up!



Growing your own doesn’t have to be about gardening and working outside…a window sill works just as well. I have started growing carrot tops, onions, leeks, cabbage and I have even managed to get a lemon pip to start to grow 🙂 No soil needed!