Free Workshops Available
In the spring of every year, the NWRSC Solid Waste Service holds backyard composting workshops in various locations in northwestern New Brunswick. These workshops are free of charge and for the general public.
Become aware of the next workshops by visiting the calendar on this website during the months of March, April and May or contact the Solid Waste Service at (506) 263-3470 or 1-800-561-0456. You can also subscribe to our mailing list to be reminded of the dates of the next workshops.
In 1992, the NWRSC Solid Waste Service (former COGERNO) implemented a regional awareness program for backyard composting. Since, many composting workshops have been held in the region. Through this initiative, more people have been introduced to the process of composting and thus avoiding many tonnes of organic materials to end up at the landfill site.
What is Composting?
Composting is an important form of recycling that can be practiced throughout the year. It is an easy way to reduce the amount of household garbage by 30% to 50%.
Composting is a natural decomposition process through which organic materials (ex. fruit and vegetable scraps) are transformed into a rich soil-like product that is called compost. Microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, are largely responsible of this process and need three important things to survive in the compost pile: organic material, air and moisture.
Composting is a natural cycle where no wastes are produced.
- A small quantity can be added to garden and lawn soils or around shrubs, etc.;
- Improves soil quality and provides certain nutrients to plants;
- Improves soil structure:
- Improves water and nutrient retention in
- To reduce waste at the source;
- To save money;
- To produce a natural compost at home;
- To improve vegetable garden and flower bed soils;
- To reduce pollution caused by transportation of organic materials to landfill site;
- To recreate the natural cycle and thereby creating an exchange with the earth;
- To learn and experience a wonderful challenge!
How to Start?
- Find an easily accessible partly shaded area or sunny area (near the back door, the veranda, or the vegetable garden);
- If a sunny area is chosen for the compost bin, decomposition will be accelerated but the compost will have to be moistened more often.
- Place the bottomless bin directly on the ground to let soil decomposers such as bacteria, earthworms and insects enter the compost pile (do not install bin on concrete, rock or asphalt);
- Place the bin on a well-drained soil;
- Make sure that the compost bin is near a water supply (faucet, rain water recuperator);
- Spread a few scoops of earth to ensure the presence of microorganisms (optional);
- Start piling your organic matter in your compost bin.
The Compost Recipe
To obtain a quality final product, which is compost, keep in mind the three basic ingredients: food, water, and air.
Remember: If one of these ingredients is missing, the composting process will not be as optimal.
Simple Rule to Obtain Good Compost
Add approximately 2 parts brown materials for 1 part green materials (in volume).
Keep it simple: Composting rapidly becomes a matter of instinct, as for a cook who prepares a meal without a recipe. Do not measure, go at it with your instinct!
What to Compost?
Green Materials (Nitrogen Rich – N): important: it is recommended to cover these materials with brown materials to limit or prevent the presence of fruit flies in the compost bin.
- Fruits and vegetables: peels, seeds and pits are accepted. Do not add too many citrus fruits (oranges, lemons).
- Naturally cooked vegetables (without oil, grease, salt or sauce)
- Corn cobs: cut in small pieces and not too many at a time. Will decompose slowly.
- Fresh plants and flowers: avoid plants that have been sprayed with a pesticide… Avoid adding weeds that have gone to seed. There is no problem with adding stems, leaves and young blooming flowers.
- Egg shells: ideal, because they lower acidity in compost.
- Fresh grass: do not add a large quantity all at once – Risk of vile odors. It is preferable to leave fresh cut grass clippings on the ground instead of picking them up. This is called grasscycling.
- Non-treated hair
- Animal hair
- Natural legumes: avoid if sauce or oils in mixture.
- Natural cereals: rice, wheat, oat, barley, millet, corn and all types of flour that can be produced from these grains.
- Pasta without sauce
- Tea leaves or bags / herbal tea: bag will also decompose.
- Ground coffee (spent coffee): add the filter since it is considered a brown material.
Brown Materials (Carbon Rich – C)
- Dry tree leaves: shredded leaves – To use also as mulch in garden rows and flower beds.
- Dry plants and flowers
- Dry grass
- Twigs: must be very small
- Wood chips/sawdust: clean wood – no stain nor paint. Do not add a large quantity all at once since they have a high carbon content.
- Coffee filter: preferably unbleached
- Nut shells
- Peat moss: try not to buy this product as it is a non-renewable resource that takes thousands of years to grow.
- Non colored newspaper or shredded cardboard: to use as a last resort when no brown material is available. It is preferable to recycle these fibrous materials.
Materials to Avoid in Backyard Composting Bin
IMPORTANT: Avoid all use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers on your lawn or garden; your compost will benefit from this!
- Meat and bones
- Shellfish and fish: the compost pile in a household bin cannot reach temperatures high enough to break down harmful bacteria (pathogens) that meat and fish may contain.
- Fats and milk products
- Leftover food containing sauces, fats (for example: stir-fry)
- Pet wastes and litter: may contain harmful bacteria.
- Weed that have gone to seed (for example: dandelions gone to seed)
- Diseased plants or plants affected by a virus
- Rhubarb leaves: natural insecticide. Rhubarb stems may be composted.
- Wood ashes: very alkaline
- Lime: add egg shells instead.
- Evergreen tree needles (for example: pine tree needles – very acidic)
- Materials contaminated by chemical products (for example: chemically-treated wood, plants treated with pesticides, etc.)
- Vacuum cleaner bag content: may contain plastics, heavy metals, etc.
- Lint from the dryer
- BBQ briquets
The compost pile should always be as moist as a damp sponge. No water should come out of a handful of compost that you squeeze.
If the compost ball crumbles, the compost is too dry. In such a case, decomposition will take place very slowly. On the contrary, if compost pile is too wet, there will be less oxygenation and it will release a strong rotten odor. It is therefore important to check regularly the compost’s moisture content and to rectify it when needed.
If compost is too dry → Water abundantly with rain water (saving drinking water). In order to recover rain water so that it is readily accessible, install a rainwater tank on your property. Important: As a security measure, install a screen over the opening of the tank, preventing insects to reproduce themselves in stagnant water.
If compost is too moist and releases an unpleasant odor → Add brown materials (such as dried leaves, dry grass, etc.) and stir with a tool such as a garden claw or other garden tool.
Frequency: It is very important to provide aeration to a compost pile by stirring regularly (once every two weeks is enough) and by turning the pile completely at least once a year. Many tools are available to help us accomplish this. Once in a while, it is recommended to let the pile sit for a few weeks to allow the temperature to rise. After this period of rest, stir the pile and decompostion will be accelerated.
Tools: Many tools are available to help us accomplish proper aeration of the compost pile. For instance, a garden claw lets us stir the pile while relieving pressure on the back. Other garden tools can also do the job.
In winter: Stirring is not necessary during this cold season since part of the pile will be frozen and decomposition will continue slowly.
Why stir? In aerobic composting, it is important to stir the pile of compost to prevent anaerobic decomposition (in the absence of oxygen) which would entail methane emanation, a greenhouse gas harmful for the environment. Remember that aerobic bacteria need to breath oxygen to do their decomposition work properly.
Problems and Solutions
- If your compost pile releases a smell of ammonia, then brown materials should be added.
- If it produces a rotten-egg smell, simply provide aeration to the pile.
- If the middle of the pile is dry and hard, it must be moistened and stirred a little.
The composting process generates heat. In cold weather during winter, decomposition process is slowed down. Keep filling your compost bin with kitchen wastes (green materials). If you cannot access your compost bin because of the snow, fill covered containers, such as 20-litre pails, with kitchen wastes. Store these containers on your balcony pending spring. The materials will freeze because of the cold and no odor will be detected.
With the arrival of warmer temperatures in the spring, you will have small chores to accomplish. The first thing to do is to transfer the green materials on your balcony to the compost bin. Remember to alternate a layer of green materials with a layer of brown materials found in your yard (for example: dried leaves, twigs, soil, etc.). The important thing is to cover your pile with brown materials to prevent odors and fruit flies.
Next thing to do is to stir. Turn the pile of compost to allow the passage of air. This is very important to prevent odors and release of gas that can be harmful to the environment.
The compost pile will decompose more easily in the spring, since frost breaks down most cell structures of fresh plants. The process will be made easier with the return of warmer temperatures.
Types of Composting Systems
There are various types of composting systems on the market. One of the systems most commonly used in this region is a conventional system called The Earth Machine. It has a removable lid to let us easily add materials to our pile. It also has aeration holes to accelerate the composting process by providing oxygen to soil decomposers. At the bottom of the bin, there is a small door to let us remove the finished compost (resembling dark soil). This conventional system has no bottom and is placed directly on the ground. This allows soil decomposers to creep in the compost pile and help in the decomposition of organic matters.
You can also build your own system with a garbage container (garbage can). All you need to do is cut out the bottom to let soil decomposers enter the compost pile. Then, with a drill, make aeration holes one cm in diameter, at approximately every 15 cm, all around the garbage can sides. Your do-it-yourself system is completed!
Some people prefer a larger system with more than one compartment. A solution for this is: Build a composting system using lumber. On the Internet, you can find plans and instructions on how to build a wooden composting system that meet your needs. Here are a few recommendations when using lumber for your composting system:
- AVOID the use of treated lumber (painted or stained);
- Instead, opt for natural cedar (Thuja occidentalis L.) that you will protect with a 100% natural finish such as boiled linseed oil (be careful not to leave a crumpled piece of cloth soiled with linseed oil because this type of oil is flammable);
- It is highly recommended to use galvanized screw nails or stainless steel screws to prevent rust;
- Build a bottomless compost bin with a lid;
- The lid or lids should have a light slope to facilitate waterflow;
- Be creative!
You can buy your compost bin The Earth Machine for as low as $55 (taxes not included) at the Rivière-Verte landfill site. Please note that the price is subject to change without notice. Call us first at (506) 263-3470 or 1-800-561-0456. Ask for a free Backyard Composting Guide.
This compost bin is made of recycled plastic and can be easily transported in a car since it can be disassembled into two sections.
If you have back problems or other physical impairments that prevent you from having an outside composting system or if you don’t have a backyard, there is a solution: vermicomposting (or worm composting). This composting technique is performed indoors with small redworms and requires only low physical effort.
For all details, consult the section on Vermicomposting of this website.
Where to Use Compost?
- When planting a tree;
- In seedling potting soil (same amount of soil and compost);
- In interior plant potting soil; it is better to use compost tea as a fertilizer which is free of insects (visit the section below called Compost Tea);
- In the vegetable garden;
- In flower beds (plants and shrubs);
- Add a little more than 1 centimeter (half inch) of sieved compost on the lawn (every 3 years).
When and How to Use Compost?
- When the original materials cannot be identified and the mixture looks like black soil, the compost is ready to use. It can also be transferred in a bottomless container and left to mature during a few months. It will then pass from a young stage to a mature one where it will reach its maximum value.
- It is good to use the compost every year. It prevents it from mineralizing and losing its efficiency.
- It is important to mix the compost with the soil.
- Do not add too much compost to the soil. Compost must be used in small quantities to make sure it is well absorbed by the soil and plants. If it is not absorbed properly, the excess of nutrients will be washed away toward the ground-water body or elsewhere, which brings about risks of water pollution.
- The rule for spreading compost on a lawn is approximately one centimeter layer every three years (1 kg/m2). For a garden, it is 1 to 4 cm a year (1 to 2 kg/m2).
- Remember: It is best to spread smaller quantities more often during the year than spreading a larger quantity all at once.
Compost tea allows to provide indoor plants with nutrients found in the compost without the inconvenience of insects. This tea can also be used as a fertilizer for certain seedlings.
Soak a canvas bag, a cheese cloth or an old pillow case filled with compost in a pail of water until the liquid becomes as dark as black tea. Let soak a few days. Use this tea to water your plants and see the benefits! Put the used compost back into the compost bin.
Brief Review of Composting Process
- The three important ingredients are the materials used, air and water.
- Ratio: Deposit in your compost approximately 2 parts brown materials for 1 part green (in volume).
- To get compost more rapidly, shred all materials that you put in your compost bin.
- Aeration: Regularly stir the compost pile to increase aeration and prevent odor.
- Humidity: The compost pile should be kept as humid as a damp sponge.
Backyard Composting Guide(By the NWRSC Solid Waste Service)
The NWRSC Solid Waste Service developed an introduction guide that offers plenty of information on backyard composting. To obtain a free copy of this guide, please contact us by phone (506) 263-3470 or 1-800-561-0456.
Click here to print the reminder tips on how to compost at home; the accepted materials and other basic rules. Hang it on your fridge!
Click here to consult the pamphlet on the composting program offered by the Solid Waste Service. Print only if needed!
The New Brunswick Department of Environment has published a complete guide that explains in detail the fundamentals of composting. You can consult free of charge this guide, titled Backyard Magic – The Composting Handbook, by clicking here. Think of the environment before printing!
Click here to visit the Compost Council of Canada website, an interesting link on composting.
Composting at the Work Place
With an open mind and perseverance, it is certainly possible to start composting at the work place!
It is possible to compost with an earth machine for example, located outside. However, if there is not enough space outside, there is an alternative: Compost inside! This method of interior composting is called vermicomposting. A whole section of this Web site is allotted to vermicomposting. For you to explore.
A good way to compost fruit and vegetable leftovers from your work place would be to bring them home at the end of the day and deposit them in your compost bin. Or else, a partnership could be developed with a school, a community garden or a nearby organization that takes up composting. Organic material generated at your office could be brought to one of these places every 2 or 3 days.
If you wish to start a composting program in the work place, contact us!