Community composting hubs can be found dotted around Auckland, and no doubt you have one or more in your own neighbourhood. We got in touch with a few of the hubs that have received the Compost Collective Hub Fund to get some tips from them for anyone who is looking to start their own, or is simply interested in the great mahi the people involved with these hubs do, and wants to learn more about them. The first in our series is Soil Factory at Ponsonby’s Kelmarna Gardens, where we chat to Maddy Cull.
Tell us a bit about Soil Factory.
Soil Factory runs a community composting hub at Ponsonby’s Kelmarna Gardens. Local businesses and residents pay a monthly fee for their food scraps to be picked up from their homes and offices by bike. The food scraps collected are made into compost at Kelmarna Gardens, and used togrow more food at the community urban farm. The hub runs as a social enterprise with fees used to cover running costs, including the bike service pick-up, and proceeds directly contributing to their waste reduction kaupapapa and supporting Kelmarna Gardens as a non-profit charitable organisation working to connect people with nature and food growing.
What did you use the money from the Community Composting Hub fund to purchase?
We bought new tools needed for composting, as well as equipment to measure inputs and outputs for data collection.
What would success look like in a year’s time for your community composting hub?
We understand next year could be tough for us with Auckland Council’s food scraps collection starting up in our area. However, we see potential for both services to exist. We’ll be looking to target more local businesses to use our service and we hope that will help us continue to be a resilient and thriving hub in a year’s time. We believe community composting hubs are great for community-building, waste diversion and food sovereignty.
What advice would you give someone, or an organisation/group, at the start of their community composting hub journey?
Connect with an active community composting hub to understand what goes into running one and find out what tips they have from their experience. There’s a lot that goes into running a community composting hub and it is best to learn from those doing the mahi already, rather than re-creating the wheel. It is also extremely valuable for different community compost hubs across Auckland and the country to connect and communicate together to make a larger difference with collective action.
What would be full capacity for your hub?
1500 kilos of food scraps and other organic materials per month – the equivalent weight of three and a half grand pianos!
How have you grown in the three years you have been operating?
We have increased our annual amount of food scraps and other organic materials composted from 25,945 litres in the first year, to 32,483 litres in the third year. We started with one CarbonCycle composting box, and now have five. We now have 75 members, grown from 53 members at the end of our first year, reaching full composting capacity at Kelmarna based on infrastructure and growth of membership. We have recently opened a new satellite community composting hub in Grey Lynn’s Francis Reserve, run by Soil Factory that follows the same subscription-based model.
What would you say to someone starting on their composting journey?
Connect with other people composting to gain knowledge, be it in your local community as well as further afield. Be ready for a few mistakes and bad batches down the line, everything is a learning process. Roll with the punches, enjoy trying new methods and most of all have fun with it.
Where can people find you to join up?