Watching 20 tonnes of crumbly, black, steaming compost tumble out of the back of a lorry is very satisfying and reminded me of a daydream I had over a decade ago.
I was driving along a country lane looking at a large arable field and imagined tractors pulling trailers of black compost and covering the field in it. I had just spent 8 months volunteering at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales and had built a compost toilet (named Bek’s Bog). When I came home to work on the family fruit farm I converted the farm’s chemical toilets to compost toilets as I was horrified by what that weird blue stuff could do to the environment. I had also just finished reading the Humanure Handbook about building compost toilets and toilets around the world.
The black stuff in my day dream was our toilet waste being composted and spread on the land to complete the carbon cycle; instead of using drinking water to wash phenomenal fertiliser down pipes into the sea. Also, we use a huge amount of energy to create chemical fertiliser to spread on our fields… I’ll stop now as I can feel myself stepping on to my soap box!
Later on I became a compost advisor for Kent County Council, and really enjoyed advising people on composting. However there was always the nagging worry that it was all very well if you have a garden and the time and enthusiasm for composting, but what if you dont have a garden or the time or inclination? What about all that cooked food, smelly fish skin, chicken carcasses and unmentionables that could be composed?
Then Maidstone Borough Council come up with a plan, not for toilets alas, but our food waste. It’s beautifully simple. Food scraps are collected every week and sent to New Earth Solutions near West Malling, where it is turned into compost.
Last autumn a nice man turned up at the plot with a sample of their compost. Once I had finished our pile of compost from last year and the ground had dried out enough for the delivery lorry, I ordered our first load of food-waste compost. I cant wait to spread it on the flower beds! Compost dreams do come true.