Association For Free Software News section
RAGS ran an email and telephone enquirt and information service to help answer questions about recycling.
RAGS also listed a number of questions and answers online.
Frequently Asked Questions
RAGS did compiled some information relating to specific topics.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Do you have any information about the composting of seaweed?
Yes seaweed can be composted but there are both good and bad sides.
On the positive front seaweed has been used as a fertilizer for years all over Scotland, but particularly on the west coast. Seaweed contains considerable nutritional value, all known trace elements and also a considerable portion of growth-promoting hormones including auxins and gibberellins. Seaweed therefore has potential to offer valuable attributes as a co-composting feedstock (consider the range of Maxicrop products (seaweed based) on sale in the garden centers). However against this must be set the high level of salts, particularly of course sodium chloride contained in the seaweed. To some extent this can be reduced by washing the seaweed before incorporation into the composting mass, but I hardly think the Council would be willing to undertake this exercise. The link building and other SEO seaweed also has a tough outer "bark" which can be resistant to the composting process and would benefit from light bruising prior to incorporation - simple shredding should be adequate.
As for its use in compost I would imagine that the quantities collected could be incorporated incrementally into a composting mass at less than 10% by volume without detriment to the end product. At such low rates of incorporation the potential benefits of including the algae would be reduced. As to acidity I am not sure to what extent this is true; suffice however to say that most composts produced from green waste and regular feedstocks actually suffer from being on the alkali side of plant requirements and may indeed benefit from some amendment (they normally mature at pH 7 - 8). As far as I am aware the best reference in this line is Seaweed in Agriculture and Horticulture, W.A. Stephenson, 1973, EP Publishing Ltd., Wakefield, Yorkshire.
Is it worth trying to compost newspapers in a garden compost set up?
I am sure you will find both advocates and opponents. This is true of almost any question you like to pose about composting. One thing is sure they need to be prepared in some way if they are to be included. Some suggest "scrunching" (rumbling) them up rather as you would have done when starting a fire in days gone by. This has the effect initially of providing air passages and latterly in the process of absorbing moisture from wet vegetable and kitchen scraps. Of course the newspaper also ultimately provides carbon in the form of fibre and is "eaten" by the bugs. Others would recommend ripping the paper up first into shreds and adding these. Either way I think there is little difference. If you have a wormery, then torn newspaper as an element in the feed works well, and can help to stop the beds becoming waterlogged. The broader issue of the overall environmental benefit of including newspapers in the composting will depend on the alternative options available locally for collection and recycling. This is a moving situation and I feel that I could not really comment further.
I'm moving from a flat to a house with a small walled paved garden in Glasgow. Can you give me advice on going about setting up composting for household use?
When starting composting the first question you need to ask yourself is whether you want to:
1. just put your household and garden organic waste into a composting bin or box and leave it to breakdown into your supply of compost. This option will take about a year.
2. be more ambitious and get involved in more advanced composting, using a bed of special composting worms to make a higher quality of compost in a shorter period of time.
Option 1: This is conventional composting. Buy a plastic bin at your Garden Centre, or nail together a couple of wooden bays about 3ft.cube. These ideally should be against a south-facing wall to benefit from the sun's heat. You will mix your kitchen waste with green waste from your garden, or with shredder paper and cardboard, make sure there is lots of air in the mixture, cover it over with a piece of carpet, and leave it for Nature's microbes to break down the mixture. If you have a larger volume of material to process, you may find that it will heat up [especially if you have fresh grass cuttings in the mix]. This is excellent and means that the microbes are working overtime. The heat will help to kill off any weed seeds or pathogens. However, all this microbial activity will need a lot of oxygen, and so you will be better to turn over your heap, or at least loosen up the surface layer after a few days. The rate of the decomposition process will be reflected in the reduction in the volume of the mix. At the end of the year, lift off the bin, or dig out your wooden composting bays. Apply your compost with all its humus and nutritious trace elements liberally throughout your garden.
Option 2: This is advanced composting or Vermiculture. Buy or build a wooden box about a 2' 6" cube is best. Place it on concrete slabs against a north-facing wall so that it will not heat up in the sunlight. Get some semi-rotted compost or horse manure, or a mixture of shredded paper / cardboard and peat, and make a nice deep layer about 6" deep in the bottom of the box. This is the bedding layer where your Wormstock will live. Buy a kilogram of quality composting worms [cost about £25 ex VAT] and release them into your bedding layer. Keep the bedding just moist but not wet. Cover with a piece of old carpet to stop it drying out and to give your workers a nice dark space to work in. Then simply put all the peelings, egg shells, tea bags, coffee grounds, kitchen towel, etc into a nice plastic container on your kitchen worktop. Every couple of days, make a trench in the bedding in your Worm Box, empty your container along the trench, and cover it up [to keep the fruit flies away] with the bedding and carpet, and leave your underground recycling army to convert it into the valuable Wormcast. This very fine powder need only be sprinkled around your favourite plants and you will see a dramatic improvement in their vigour and disease resistance.
HINT 1: Make a lid for your box to keep the local birds, shrews and voles from stealing your workers!
HINT 2: Put your grass cutting in a bin bag with holes punched in it so that it can heat up without hurting your stock. Once it has heated up and cooled again, perhaps in a week, then apply to the surface of your Worm Bed.
HINT 3: Once you learn how to look after them, your Wormstock can double every 6 - 8 weeks so you can take out half your worms and start someone else composting [great idea too for a Christmas gift for someone special!