Hot Composting Arrives in Russell!


The Russell Community Gardens are in revival supported by the installation of a new hot composting system. It was donated by Richard Wallis of New Zealand Box On the first weekend of May local volunteers demonstrated efficient and fun community action in helping Richard put the composting system together and start it cranking. The three  bins each hold 1.5 cubic metres and have hardwood sides with slats fitting into notches in the powder coated aluminium struts.

Malin Vilkki has been working hard to restore the gardens to their previous productiveness.  The arrival of the new compost bins marks a turning point in the life of the gardens. “They have fed the community for 11 years and are here for everyone,”  she says. The compost system means the garden will build up to produce more veges with all its green waste going back into the beds.

The new compost system is an initiative of Russell Recyclers. Their chairperson John Maxwell  explained that it’s part of the plan for Russell to become self sufficient in reusing its own waste. “Our aim is for a kerbside collection of food waste processed here alongside our recycling.” He adds “ The hot composting system is a great green waste and scraps solution for schools, community gardens and enviro businesses.”

The hot compost at the Russell Community Gardens will take only the green waste from the gardens since the site there has particular values. “It is a Department of Conservation Reserve and every five years the Community Gardens Trust needs DoC’s  permission to keep using this land,” says Malin., “If the system is to work, we need to know exactly what goes into it,” John adds.

The benefit of the internal heat of a hot compost (something like 80 degrees - 62 degrees is ideal) means meat and bones can go into it. “ If it has ever been living it can go into this compost,” Richard explains. “Compostable cups and plates will only break down in a hot compost.”   As a guide, each bin such as those at the Russell Community Gardens could compost the waste of around 120 households.

Richard  and the volunteers put the compost system together in a few hours, bolting the aluminium struts together and installing two  layers of fine mesh avian wire over a wood chip base to keep rats out. The internal walls of the bins slide out so it's easy to rotate the compost materials.  Crumbly dark compost can be ready from 10 weeks, especially if willow or poplar are included since they break down quickly. Gorse and kikuyu are useful additions for nitrogen and carbon.  A layer of wood chips on top keeps flies away and then sacks under the bin lid to insulate and help raise the heat.

New Zealand company McKechnie Design,New Plymouth, manufactured the aluminium and Bunnings in Kerikeri donated the boiled linseed oil for protecting the timber for the bins.  New Zealand Box’s first hot compost system was installed with Home Grown Waiheke and since then Richard has put in over a hundred throughout the country including at Kaitaia and at Eden Park, where all the  green waste is handled through hot composting.

This modern hot compost system stands on the shoulders of Sir Albert Howard who started New Zealand Box  in the 1940s. The composting model was so effective it was adopted internationally.