Confession time- I am a rubbish gardener. But whereas my gardening skills are lacking, my reuse of our kitchen rubbish by putting 生ゴミ (nama-gomi) back into the soil gives nourishment to the trees and soil. There is also better potential to grow plants for food once I become a more dedicated gardener.
In Hiroshima, our cleanup crew will start collecting kitchen waste as a part of the monthly cleanup efforts. So, bring your vegetable and fruit cuttings that would normally go into the garbage and we will compost it. I’m looking for a collaborator who has a larger farm who may want to help collect the compost once we start getting a lot of donations, but until then I will use it in my garden.
To donate your kitchen waste to a community compost, it’s a good idea to keep the compost material to vegetables and fruit waste only, no meat, fish or processed (cooked) foods or products. Also, no tissue or paper. If you are worried about your compost smell before collection, you can freeze it. We will have a bucket for compost collections at the cleanup events each month.
Composting is a great way to reuse kitchen waste as it biodegrades into good soil in gardens and farms. Composting will also reduce any home waste by 30%. So, just think if we all did it in our cities, countries and across the globe.
San Francisco requires all city residents to compost their kitchen waste which is collected alongside other types of garbage. Some areas of Seattle also collect compost from residence bins as part of waste-reducing zero-waste targets. New York has started voluntary composting efforts across the state with the campaign, “Make Landscape not Landfill”.
As an added surprise bonus, sometimes my compost gifts me with some edible wonders like these small potatoes that came from the compost pile. I’ve also been gifted tomatoes that have grown out of the compost heap without any effort on my part.
Japan has a few towns that run compost programs for residents and businesses as a part of its zero-waste targets:
- Kamikatsu town in Tokushima prefecture- managed by the Zero Waste Academy NPO
- Oki town in Fukuoka prefecture
- Minamata, Kumamoto has also adopted composting as a part of its zero-waste targets and is currently at 40% (60% goes to incinerator or landfill).
. 上勝 Kamikatsu town now reuses or recycles 80% of its waste (only 20% of its waste goes to the Tokushima incinerator or landfill).
I used to be sad if I didn’t have a chance to use all the fruit and veg that I bought, but now I feel better knowing it at least goes back to enriching the soil, trees, and plants in my garden.
There are a lot of outdoor composters in community gardens around Japan and I know that the organic farmers I have visited are actively composting as they rest certain fields to enhance productivity in the soil for future crops.
I decided to follow the example of Kamikatsu and purchase the model that they subsidize for residents. I found an electric composter from Panasonic second-hand on Amazon for a bargain price and it has worked well for over 8 years now. It can reduce raw garbage from the sink or vegetable and fruit cuttings into dry potpourri style compost in about an hour. It doesn’t use much electricity or take-up much space in the kitchen.
After visiting the zero-waste town in 2011, I was inspired to compost by the zero-waste town of Kamikatsu, Tokushima as the staff at the Zero waste academy NPO explained that they had a 100% composting rule in the town which quickly resulted in reducing total waste in the town by more than 30% once it was implemented. In the case of our household, we have reduced our total burnable garbage by 50% immediately after starting to compost all of our kitchen waste and table scraps.
The town government officials told me that the subsidy made a lot of economic and town management sense. By subsidizing ¥20,000 to each household who wanted a composter, covering more than half of the cost of electric compost machines, it made the 100% compost rule more easily adopted by residents. Many residents who do not have a garden space to compost were worried about how they would do it. The town officials pointed out that the cost of the subsidy was an investment as it was much cheaper than building a landfill or starting a garbage pick up service.
I hope to see more local authorities in Japan adopt a composting system of some sort. At least starting a composting system on a voluntary basis would start discussions and a wider understanding of this solution to societal waste management problems.
- My article here on the zero-waste academy tour of the waste sorting facility in Kamikatsu town.
- More about composting as a basic sustainable practice in these articles on Inbound Ambassador.