If you want to start composting in a school or early childhood facility, Compost Collective can help. You’ll find plenty of information here about what to consider when choosing the right system for your school’s needs and how to get help from our experts.
Composting in schools helps keep food waste out of landfills, which is acknowledged as one of the best and easiest ways to combat the climate crisis. It may also help reduce rubbish disposal costs, by reducing how much your school sends to landfill.
The most important thing is to ensure that everyone in your school community – teachers, caretakers, students and whānau, are fully supportive of composting.
The good news is that with composting champions on board, and a clear vision of what your school wants to achieve, composting will soon be a simple and easy part of your school’s everyday routine! Just follow our guide to getting started.
Do you have a suitable space for a composting system and which one should you choose for your school? There a few things to take into account when considering which system will be right for your school’s needs.
Worm farms need:
- Shade – worms don’t like to get too hot.
- Flat ground – worm farms need to be on level ground.
- Secure – worm farms shouldn’t be easily accessible to the public, to avoid the wrong things being added.
- Accessible – to teachers and students who will be feeding and caring for the worms.
Bokashi systems need:
- Shade – ideally, Bokashi bins should remain at a consistent temperature and be shaded from hot sun.
- Flat ground – if you are considering large scale systems, these need to be on flat ground and near a garden.
- Secure – Bokashi bins shouldn’t be easily accessible to the public, to avoid the wrong things being added.
- Accessible – to teachers and students who will be adding to and caring for the Bokashi system.
- Garden space – once a Bokashi has finished fermenting, the solids need to be dug into the ground or added to a compost bin. Think about weight and ease of moving the bin to empty it.
Cold (traditional) composting systems need:
- Bare land – compost bins need to be in contact with the earth/dirt (not sitting on concrete or other hard surfaces).
- Sunshine – compost bins work best in sunny spots, as this helps break down the material.
- Secure – compost bins shouldn’t be easily accessible to the public, to avoid the wrong things being added.
- Accessible – to teachers and students who will be adding to and caring for the compost.
- Garden space – once your bin is full and you have mature compost, you need to be able to use the end results, ideally by adding to gardens.
Think about all these considerations when starting to plan what type of system will work best for your school. It’s also important to think about the amount and type of food waste your school generates. More on that next.
Food waste sources
Where will you get your food waste from in your school? Potential sources include:
- Classroom food waste
- Staffroom food waste
- Canteen food waste
- Orchard or garden waste
Are there other areas or activities in your school that produce food waste? If so, make a note of these in your planning.
We recommend taking a staggered approach, by choosing one area to focus on first, and test your processes for collection etc. Taking on too much too soon can leave you feeling overwhelmed but once you have a good system going, it’s much easier to increase the volume you are processing.
How much and what sort of food waste does your school generate?
You’ll need a good understanding of how much food waste is being produced each day and the type of food waste that’s coming from each area, such as cooked food, citrus, bread etc. Knowing this will help you choose the best system for your school.
For example, worms don’t like citrus, bread or cooked food but love fresh fruit and vegetable scraps/trimmings and shredded brown paper. Compost bins can’t take cooked food or meat (unless treated with Bokashi first) but love brown shredded paper/cardboard and fresh fruit and vegetable scraps/trimmings. Bokashi bins don’t like paper or liquids, but are great for dealing with bread, cooked and processed foods and citrus.
So how do you find out how much and what types of food waste are being generated in your school? Read on to learn more.
Food waste audits
Auckland Council’s Sustainable Schools team supports early childhood centres, schools and youth to foster principles of kaitiakitanga and sustainability through student-led action. They have local advisors who can help you do a waste audit in your school. Contact your local advisor here.
We also have a simple do it yourself guide to running your own food waste audit here.
Compost Collective has local tutors who can help you with support and advice to get your system up and running. Find your local tutor here.
You’ll need to have information ready about a suitable place for your school’s system to be set up and what type(s) and how much food waste you expect to be able to put through the system. So please make sure you follow the steps outlined above, then get in touch.
Your local tutor can help you with next steps, including advice on what system or combination of systems will best suit your school’s need.
Compost Collective tutors can also help with education and workshops, to make sure everyone using the system knows what to do. It’s even possible to host a workshop for school whānau to introduce them to the three types of composting systems and how they can start doing this at home too.
Process – how will you get the food waste from where it’s generated to the composting system? Compost Collective tutors can give you some advice on good ways to do this.
Signage and bins – what bins will you use to collect food waste and how will you tell people what to add to them (and what not to add!). You can get students involved with this and there are plenty of resources available on the internet, especially here on the Compost Collective website.
Training new staff and students – when new staff and students join the school, they’ll need to be shown how to use the system. This is critical to the ongoing success of your school’s composting system.
You may be able to access one-off funding or grants to get your school’s composting system started. Options include:
Love Your Neighbourhood funding is a quick and simple way to apply for up to $500 to help with environmental and volunteer-driven initiatives, including composting systems in playcentres or schools. Please note this funding is provided thanks to the Henderson-Massey, Whau, Waitākere Ranges or Maungakiekie-Tāmaki local boards so projects must take place in these areas. Check your local board area here.
The Waste Minimisation and Innovation Fund supports projects that promote or achieve waste minimisation. Find out more about eligibility, how to apply and more here.
You can also find more funding opportunities at tiakitamakimakaurau.nz
Compost Collective has information about do it yourself compost systems here.