When the paddock was established in 2011, we knew that compost was important, but it has taken a long time to get to where we are. Today we have a system of bins and signs, a weekly food waste collection program, bays for garden scraps, and a bunch of amazing volunteers who have become friends.
But why community compost? What is Food Scrap Friday, and where did it come from?
For families at Camdenville Public School, Food Scrap Friday is an easy way to recycle food waste from home into soil-enriching compost. They simply bring their kitchen scraps to the paddock on Friday mornings, where volunteers collect them for composting. Food Scrap Friday brings the paddock and school communities together to keep food waste out of landfill, recycle nutrients into compost, and spend time together in the paddock.
We first started thinking about community compost in 2015. At the time we had compost bins all over the paddock, but most were under under-used. They were too dry or too wet, full of weeds, or were simply not filling up – and thus never being emptied. At the same time we had people from the neighbourhood asking about whether they could bring us their scraps.
Marrickville council was reporting that as much as 38% of waste in household red bins was compostable, so there was a general consciousness-raising around the community. People didn’t necessarily want to be gardeners, but they wanted to reduce their household waste, help keep food out of landfill, and contribute to the paddock.
So we started to think about how we could bring these communities together – paddock, school and neighbourhood – but it had to be simple. We couldn’t just throw the paddock gates open every day. And we also couldn’t put all the burden on one person.
The answer came from the children. At Camdenville Public School, ‘Waste Free Wednesday’ was encouraging kids to pack waste-free lunches once a week. It was this kind of ‘event’ that proved to be the answer – a morning when volunteers could be on hand in one place, and people from the school and community could drop in their scraps for composting.
The result was Food Scrap Friday. We started inside the Wells street gates of the school at 8.30 on Friday morning. The location was perfect – high visibility, excellent traffic, a captive audience of children and parents – and things took off immediately. From about half a bucket of kitchen waste on our first day, the program collected just under three tonnes in the first year. Eventually as many as 40 families were contributing. And then we got noticed by ABC Gardening Australia.
But with success came challenges: How do you move 200kg of stinky food waste from one side of the school to the other? How do people save their scraps without using plastic bags? How do we know which compost bins to use? What else do we need to make good compost? And what about those pesky rubber bands and fruit stickers?