Are you interested in setting up a composting program at your school but aren’t sure where to begin? Here are some tips and tasks you will want to consider when thinking about composting at your school.
General Composting Tips
Here are some general tips to help you get started composting at your school:
Compostable materials are broken into two types, “greens and browns.” Greens are the wet materials like fresh vegetable and fruit scraps while browns are the dry materials like leaves or straw. Materials like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products should not be composted. For more information on what you can and cannot compost, click here.
- Always completely cover your fresh food scraps with a layer of leaves . This is an important technique that helps create the ideal conditions for decomposition, while helping to control odours, discouraging pests, and managing the moisture content of the pile. For more information on layering your compostable materials, click here.
- Proper moisture is needed to promote the activity of micro-organisms within the pile. Ideally the compost should be about a damp as a wrung out sponge.
- Oxygen is equally important in keeping the micro-organisms in your compost pile. Without oxygen the pile may begin to compost anaerobically, producing an unpleasant odour. Aerating the compost pile once a week will promote help you avoid any problems and accelerate composting process. For more information on moisture and oxygen in your compost pile, click here.
- There are some materials, specifically bread, which are compostable; however, in a classroom setting it is suggested that these materials are not composted. This is to keep the rules simple for students and prevent scenarios where entire sandwiches are added in the compost bin.
- Collect food scraps from classrooms in a collection pail (4 litre pail)
- Collect the food scraps from classrooms in a larger pail (5 gallon/23 litre)
- Dump food scraps in the appropriate bin (bin # 1 – see above)
- Cover the food scraps with 2 to 3 times the volume of leaves or other brown materials*
- Wash collection pails (this may not in all cases be necessary every day depending on how it is managed and what is collected)
- Aerate the piles (turn, stir, etc.)*
- Check moisture content (add water or stir as required)*
- Check the moisture of the pile*
* Not required to do in winter.
Managing the compost pile
- Due to the larger volumes of waste that an entire school must handle, you should consider a multi-bin composting system. A good place to start is a 3 to 4 bin system although depending on the volume of waste being generated, you may need more bins. This however can be always be added later as your composting program grows.
- The advantage of the multi-bin system goes beyond simply volume and will also ease the management of the system. Having more bins will allow composting to progress through the movement of materials from bin to bin as they mature.
- Not sure how you are going to get a bin system built? Why not check the local high schools in the area and see if they have a wood shop that might take this on as a project. You could also recruit support from parents that possess the skills to build your bins.
- It is recommended that you start by filling one bin completely (bin # 1). Make sure to monitor moisture and air as you build this pile.
- Once bin # 1 is full the contents can be moved to the next bin (bin # 2). This allows for the materials to be thoroughly mixed and aerated as they are moved.
- New materials can now be added to the original bin #1 while the materials in the second bin are simply managed for moisture and air until it is time to again empty bin # 1. At this time bin # 2 can be moved to the final bin (bin # 3) and allowed to simply mature. You still need to manage bin # 3 for air and moisture.
- When bin # 3 is mature, it can now be fully harvested . It is recommended that compost be harvested in the fall and either let it stand until spring or spread on garden areas before the winter. This will ensure that the compost is fully mature and will not have any ill effects on the plants it comes in contact with.
- Depending on how you manage your compost pile (air and water), you should have mature compost in 6 months to a year. Want to know more about harvesting and using your compost, click here!
- Don’t forget to store leaves in the fall so that you will have them for the following spring and summer seasons. Remember that in winter you really don’t need to add leaves to your compost pile. Want to know more about winter composting, click here.
Typical multi-bin system: (left to right): Maturing or finished compost (bin # 3 above), recently filled bin managed for moisture/air, new materials being addedly begun compost pile, and storage of “brown” materials
Composting Presentations and Support
If you still have questions or need support with setting up a composting program at your school, we are here to help! Visit our school services page for more information on what we offer and to book a presentation or consultation.
Still more questions? Call our Compost Info Line:
204 925 3777 or Toll Free 1 866 394 8880