Kate Bradbury explains how to compost the food and materials from your Christmas celebrations
Christmas is typically a time of great extravagance, when bins overflow with unwanted food, paper wrapping, cardboard boxes and even old “stuff” that has been replaced with new. It doesn’t have to be like that. There’s plenty you can compost at home to reduce the amount of food and other waste sent to landfill.
More expert advice for composting:
- How to build a compost bin
- Five steps to winter compost
- Keeping rats out of your compost bin
- Best compost bins
Here, Kate Bradbury explains how to compost the Christmas excess:
If you’ve cooked too much food it’s always worth trying to save it rather than let it go to waste. Invest in some Tuppaware boxes now and use them to store leftovers that you can reheat and enjoy the following day. Small amounts of meat (off the bone) can be fed to your dog or left for foxes. However, there will still be some food waste and a lot of that can be composted.
We gardeners all know that kitchen scraps and vegetable peelings all compost beautifully, especially when mixed in with grass clippings and woody waste from the garden. If you have a Hot Bin like I do, you can also add cooked food and things like cheese and small bones. You can also compost cooked waste, meat and or bones if you use a Bokashi bin, which 'pickles' the waste, aiding its decomposition before heading to the compost bin.
It’s estimated that 300,000 tonnes of card packaging are used during the festive season, which is enough to cover London’s Big Ben almost 260,000 times. A lot of it is recycled but not all of it. But cardboard is gold dust to us gardeners!
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Cardboard boxes can be flattened and used in no-dig systems – simply lay them on the ground, weigh them down with bricks or stones and cover with compost. Or you can tear them into small pieces and gradually add it to your compost bin, like I do. Earthworms seem to love cardboard and will quickly eat it and turn it into lovely rich organic matter.
Make sure you remove all Cellotape from the cardboard (you should do this before recycling anyway) and any traces of plastic packaging. Tear the boxes into small pieces and add to the bin, making sure you mix it with green waste such as vegetable peelings and grass clippings.
Now, while I wouldn’t compost any old wrapping paper, I can and do compost some. Anything that’s shiny or covered in glitter is a big no – this can’t even be recycled. And most papers are coloured with harmful inks that you wouldn’t necessarily want in your soil.
My best tip for wrapping paper is to open your presents carefully and then gently fold and reuse the wrapping paper the following year. That way it doesn’t end up in landfill and you save yourself money as well!
But plain brown paper, along with 'eco' wrapping paper that’s decorated using vegetable-based inks can be composted. The key here is to buy plain brown or eco paper and encourage others to do the same.
As with cardboard, add small pieces at a time and mix well with 'green waste' to ensure it breaks down evenly. You can scrunch paper into a ball, which will help to create airflow in the heap as well.