Compost Awareness Week in Cambridgeshire

composting09:55 Tuesday 6th May 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[A]NDIE HARPER: It’s the start of Compost Awareness Week. This is a week of activities, events and publicity to improve awareness about using organic waste as a resource to produce compost. We’ve just been treated to a beautiful Bank Holiday weekend, and no doubt many of you spent the time in your gardens, but how many of you bothered to make your own compost? How many of you would have bothered to do what we did, which is when we moved quite recently, we filled two sacks up of compost that I had created in one of our two compost bins, and took it with us, because it was such good stuff? Well Mark Shelton is the Education Manager for AmeyCespa. Mark, good morning.
MARK SHELTON: Morning Andie.
ANDIE HARPER: Nice to talk to you. I remember when Donarbon ran the site at Waterbeach a few years ago, I spent a fascinating day there, I have to say, being shown around, and certainly the garden composting department was a busy one, and you could in those days go and buy garden sacks of compost. Does it still happen?
MARK SHELTON: We give it away free. It still happens, and we’ve actually got a visit today, so we are still showing people around, and people are still welcome to come. It’s free here at the Waterbeach site, and we also make the compost available free at our March and our Alconbury sites.

ANDIE HARPER: Because this is one of the real big developments when it comes to waste disposal and waste management, isn’t it? I know years and years ago people would have bonfires in their garden, or have ways and means of dispersing of their garden rubbish, but they had more space. Now we all live so much tighter together, something has to happen, and now we have the doorstep collection.
MARK SHELTON: That’s true. The original aim of Compost Awareness Week was to promote home composting, but as you say there are just some gardens that are not big enough, or some people are not able to make their own compost. So the green bin schemes were introduced to collect the food and garden waste. And for Cambridgeshire all that material comes here, we turn it into a compost, which is accredited. There is a standard now for compost called PAS 100, and our compost is accredited to that standard.
ANDIE HARPER: I knew there’d be a standard in it Mark. (THEY LAUGH) The thing is of course that you do have to be very careful about what gets mixed up with other waste, don’t you? That’s the same with everything really.
MARK SHELTON: Well we have yes. We send it away to independent labs to be tested as part of the accreditation, but yes, it has to be safe where the public come into the site, and obviously it’s common sense, wear gloves, wash your hands afterwards, just as with any kind of gardening. But yes, we do have it accredited to make sure it is as safe as possible.
ANDIE HARPER: Now you say that really the whole point of Compost Awareness Week is to encourage people to do it at home. I can remember in my father’s generation people used to build their own compost heaps with wire mesh, and posts, and then of course it was like wooden boards and all the rest of it. But it’s made so much easier these days with these plastic containers that you can get, and they either cost a few quid or in some cases they’re free.
MARK SHELTON: I think most of the councils in Cambridgeshire are doing offers on the plastic containers. It depends on the size of your garden. Obviously in a small garden you’d only want a container that holds about the same as a wheel bin, 240 litres. I think there are 240 and a 330 litre home compost plastic bins. But if you’ve got a largish garden or you run an allotment obviously you want something really made out of wooden pallets or something like that, because the wood acts as better insulation. But any kind of compost heap, you don’t really need to have anything around it. But yes, home compost if you can, but if you can’t, please put it in your green bins for the councils to collect, and we’ll turn it into compost.
ANDIE HARPER: And do enough people do it in their gardens? I mentioned that we had a couple of bins on the go, and we even took some of our compost with us. And when we move home again, that’s one of the things I will set up, because a: it saves you buying it, and I must say also b: and some people might think I’m a bit sad, but there’s something very satisfying about making your own compost. (THEY LAUGH)
MARK SHELTON: It is satisfying making compost, but I’ve never heard of anybody moving their compost heap when they move house though Andie. That’s ..
ANDIE HARPER: It was such good stuff you see Mark. It was so good.
MARK SHELTON: Well you can collect it here for free as well. If I could, we’re running some events with the different district councils around Cambridgeshire, and they’ve got events on all this week. If I could just give a quick plug for those as well. Huntingdonshire District has got an event at Riverside Park in St Neots today. East Cambs District have got one in Fountain Lane Car Park in Soham today. And then on Thursday again Hunts District have got one at Riverside Park in Huntingdon, and East Cambs have got one in the Tesco Car Park in Ely. And then on Friday Cambridge City Council’s running an event at the Beehive Centre in Coldhams Lane. So again there’ll be free compost available at all of those activities as well, plus also there’ll be demonstrations about how the compost is made and information about making compost too at all those events.
ANDIE HARPER: So no excuse at all Mark.
MARK SHELTON: No, it’s win. We’re keeping it as widespread across Cambridgeshire as possible, so people haven’t got too far to travel this week to get compost. But our free compost at Waterbeach March and Alconbury is available all the time including Saturdays.
ANDIE HARPER: Brilliant.
MARK SHELTON: Saturday mornings.
ANDIE HARPER: I shall drive past. It will be good to see you. Thanks very much for talking to us.
MARK SHELTON: Thanks Andie. That was grand.
ANDIE HARPER: Cheers Mark.
ANDIE HARPER: Bye. That’s Mark Shelton, the Education Manager for AmeyCespa. There you are. Nothing much is free nowadays. Why go to garden centres when you can pick it up for free? You helped to make it in the first place.