Our Composting Round-up

Our Composting Round-up

Sent Thursday, March 18, 2010


Welcome to the Green Guide, the monthly newsletter published by

Greener Museums. Many of my readers have asked for more

information on composting so that is what we will focus on in this

issue’s feature article. But before we get into that I want to

reiterate that the best way to prevent food waste from going to

landfill is to reduce food waste in the first place. We waste food.

A lot of it. A 2008 report authored by the Stockholm International

Water Institute, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the

International Water Management Institute showed that tremendous

quantities of food are wasted after production – discarded in

processing, transport, supermarkets and kitchens. In the UK alone,

some 8.3 million tonnes of food is thrown away. That’s £10 billion

pounds (nearly $20billion, depending on the exchange rate) that’s

going to waste. In the US, a 2004 study by the University of

Arizona showed that almost 50% of food harvested in the US is

wasted. So while we’ll focus on composting in this issue, I urge

you to remember that the best first step in reducing food waste to

landfill is to reduce food waste in the first place.



To your greener future,

Rachel Madan, Director of Greener Museums



Here’s what’s in this issue:


* Feature Article: Compost Round-up

* Upcoming Events: Your chance to meet me in person!

* About Rachel Madan


Best wishes,

Rachel Madan


Director of Greener Museums



Feature Article: Our Composting Round-up


Composting offers a great way to stop unnecessary waste going to

landfill. When biodegradable food is sent to landfill it leads to

the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and can lead to

contamination of soil and water supplies. The energy and nutrients

in the food are completely wasted when food is disposed of in this

way. Reducing waste sent to landfill can also save your

organisation money if you need to pay for waste collection or are

charged taxes on waste sent to landfill. So what can you do? I’ll

review three options- Food-waste collection services, Wormeries,

and In Vessel Composting


Food waste collection services

If you produce too much food waste for on-site composting or don’t

have enough outside space the most convenient method will be food

waste collection. Some local government councils already provide

this service so as a first step contact them to find out what they

offer. Even if they don’t, knowing that local organisations are

interested may give them the push to start providing the service.


For example, in the UK food waste collection already exists in many

local councils (including London City Council, where I live!). You

can also try searching for a local food waste collection companies.

In the US, try searching on http://www.findacomposter.com. I did and found

203 local composting facilities that would take food waste. In

choosing a service provider consider their environmental policies

and try and reduce unnecessary transport by contracting a company

that is as local as possible. Also look into the full range of

services they provide. Some food waste collection companies may

just provide a collection service while others may offer additional

services such as conducting an initial food waste audit to identify

waste streams.


Composting on-site with worms

Vermicomposting (composting with worms) is effective in various

size domestic or commercial situations with the benefits of being

comparatively low cost. It’s also fun and wriggly. Food waste is

added to a bed of material that contains sufficient worms to digest

the organic matter. Worms will consume between 50% and 100% of

their own weight in food per day and due to the rapid digestion

process well-maintained wormeries are clean and odourless.


Using a wormery is an excellent way to convert food waste into rich

compost as well as concentrated liquid fertiliser. Worm bins and

the worms themselves are available from many companies and the

company can provide details of what you will need for the size of

your organisation and what can be fed to the worms they provide.

Worm bins can provide an excellent educational aid and are

well-suited to science museums, natural history museums, children’s

museums, heritage sites, and gardens.



In Vessel Composting

In Vessel Composting (IVC) can be used to treat a mixture of

organic and garden waste in an enclosed environment with

temperature control and monitoring. Small scale IVCs can be used

for organisations that produce food and garden waste. Certain

regulations and legislation may need to be complied with but the

benefit of these systems is that they are low maintenance and take

only a few weeks to produce good quality compost.


If space is an issue, an alternative is to consider partnering with

other local organisations (like schools and restaurants) to create

a community facility. The compost can be used by partners’

vegetable gardens which they could potentially serve in their own

cafeterias. IVC can also be used in conjunction with food waste

collection. For example, Preston City Council in the UK has a food

waste collection, which is then taken to In Vessel Composting for

processing. Ohio State University in the US is using IVC to compost

food from several dining facilities with the aim of composting pre-

and post-consumer food waste from all of their campus eateries.


Moving Forward

Once you have decided on the appropriate method of food recycling

you will need to get the support of management and other staff,

including garden maintenance staff where applicable. Explain the

benefits and make it as user friendly as possible. You will need

to take into account the initial cost outlay as well as staff time

on the project. This will mostly involve proper waste separation,

monitoring progress and emptying the kitchen waste bin to the



Once the programme is up and running you, help staff and visitors

to know what is compostable through posters. Also encourage staff

and visitors by highlighting what progress your museum is making in

reducing waste.



Upcoming Events: Your chance to meet me in person!



Towards Greener Museums: Sustainability & Environmental Strategies.

I’ll be speaking at this one-day seminar looking at positive

solutions to reduce and mitigate the environmental impact of

museums and cultural organisations. The event will both look at

practical steps museums can take to reduce their carbon footprint

and also the role of museums in contributing to learning, raising

awareness & greening their communities. March 24th, 2010 in London.



Conference: Narrative Space, an International Conference Exploring

Museum Architecture and Design. I’ll be participating in the panel

discussion ‘Museum Making as a social practice.’ This panel

discussion will examine the economic, environmental and social

sustainability of museum making. April 20-22, 2010, School of

Museum Studies, University of Leicester, UK



Museums and Heritage Show, May 12 + 13, 2010, Earls Court,London

I’m curating the Greener Exhibits Theatre: Bigger Impression,

Smaller Footprint. Do you think that sustainability is a good idea,

but not sure how it fits in with your exhibit programme? Do you

think a sustainable exhibition might be more expensive to put on,

and not as good quality? Are you puzzled by what a “sustainable

exhibit” might be? Are you just beginning to tack sustainability in

your organisation, but unclear as to the next steps? Then the

Greener Exhibits Theatre is the place for you.