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City of Hamilton

Garbage and Recycling - Backyard Composting


Email:   info@hamilton.ca

Community Recycling Centres

27 Olympic Drive, Dundas (map)

37 Kilbride Road, Hamilton mountain (map)
(includes the Reuse Store)

460 Kenora Avenue, east Hamilton (map)

 

Composting is the process which turns kitchen and yard waste into dark, nutrient-rich soil called humus. Backyard composting is a simple way to reduce the amount of waste that we place at the curb each week. It provides direct benefits of the natural breakdown process by producing a valuable soil conditioner. The valuable mulch that is produced can be used to promote weed and erosion control, protects plant roots from sun/wind damage, conserves water, increases water retention in sandy soils, aids drainage in clay, and reduces soil diseases.

  • By returning nutrients back to the soil, compost reduces the need for expensive chemical fertilizers.
  • Composting turns kitchen and yard waste into dark nutrient-rich soil conditioner.
  • Diverting organic waste from our landfill not only saves valuable land, it also reduces the production of methane.

Purchase a compost box

Backyard composters can be purchased from the City by visiting a Municipal Service Centre. Please note: City Hall does not sell backyard composters. The compost box costs $41.60 + HST. They can also be purchased from a retail store, prices will vary.

Getting started

Place a thick layer of coarse organic material, such as straw, leaves and branch cuttings, at the bottom of the bin for air circulation. Drop yard trimmings in the unit. Dig kitchen scraps into the centre and cover with a layer of soil or leaves. Try to add equal amounts of green (nitrogen-rich) material such as kitchen scraps and grass clippings, and brown (carbon-rich) material, such as leaves and straw.

Helpful Hints

  • Alternate wet (kitchen scraps) and dry (yard material) waste
  • Chop or shred materials up before you put them into the composter
  • Keep materials moist like a damp sponge
  • The breakdown process will slow down in the winter and eventually stop once the pile freezes; however, it will resume in the spring
  • The smaller the material is, the more surface area is exposed, and the faster it will decompose
  • Download the Backyard Composting brochure

Handy Tools

Common Problems

  • Bad odour: turn to aerate;add dry materials to the pile ifit is too wet
  • Center of pile is dry: moistenand turn pile
  • Compost is damp & warm only inthe middle: add more materials &mix all ingredients together
  • Compost is damp & sweetsmelling; not heating up:add grass clippings or manure
  • Compost is frozen: decompositionwill begin again in the spring
  • Compost in not good quality:add equal portions of green andbrown materials to compost
  • Insects or rodents: do not addmeat, fish, or fatty foods to composter; cover with new soil
  • Compost is too wet: move to location with proper drainage; add dry leaves; aerat

What Goes In?

Place a thick layer of coarse organic material, such as straw, leaves and branch cuttings, at the bottom of the bin for air circulation. Drop yard trimmings in the unit. Dig kitchen scraps into the centre and cover with a layer of soil or leaves. Try to add equal amounts of green (nitrogen-rich) material, such as kitchen scraps and grass clippings, and brown (carbon-rich) material, such as leaves and straw.

Greens (nitrogen-rich)

  • Bread (no butter, oil)
  • Coffee filters
  • Coffee grounds
  • Egg shells
  • Evergreen needles
  • Flowers
  • Fruit peels
  • Fruit scraps
  • Grass
  • House plants
  • Leaves
  • Nut shells
  • Pasta
  • Rice and other grains
  • Tea bags
  • Tea leaves
  • Vegetable peels
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Weeds (before they go to seed)

Browns (carbon-rich)

  • Dryer lint
  • Hair
  • Hay
  • Manure
  • Mulched leaves
  • Newspaper
  • Paper packaging
  • Sawdust (non-treated wood)
  • Shredded paper
  • Straw
  • Vacuum lint
  • Wood chips

What Stays Out?

These materials should not be placed in your backyard composter:

  • Coal ashes
  • Contaminated matter
  • Cooking oils
  • Crabgrass
  • Dairy products
  • Diapers
  • Diseased or insect-infested plants
  • Fats
  • Fish scraps
  • Glass
  • Grease
  • Lime
  • Meats
  • Metal
  • Pet wastes
  • Plastic
  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Sanitary products
  • Walnut shells
  • Walnut leaves
  • Weeds with mature seeds
  • Wood ashes

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do I have to add a starter?
No. Composting will occur if you follow the practices of turning the compost, adding small amounts of compostable material, layering browns and greens, and adding moisture.

Can I put garden weeds in my backyard composter?
Maybe. Crabgrass should not go in because it will continue to grow. Putting weed seeds into the composter will eventually end up in your garden again, once you use the finished compost product!

Can I put hedge clippings in my backyard composter?
Some. Anything that is really woody will take a long time to decompose, so you should chop or shred it up and add it to your backyard composter in small quantities.

Does a composter smell?
A composter will smell if it is not receiving enough air or it is too wet. To prevent this, make sure you turn your compost regularly to aerate, and add dry materials (leaves) to absorb excess moisture. Finished compost has a pleasant earth-like smell.

Will my backyard composter attract rodents?
If your composter is free from meats, fish, fats and dairy products, and you turn your compost regularly to dig in the food wastes, rodents should not be attracted to your backyard composter. As well, if you cover your green (wet) material with brown (dry) material, it will prevent flies and mask any odour which might attract rodents.

How is compost created from the materials collected in the Green Cart Program and the Leaf & Yard Waste Program?
The organic material collected from the Green Cart Program is taken to the new Central Composting Facility on Burlington St. East. Once at the processing facility, the organic waste is blended with other materials at the site to create a correct blend of nitrogen, carbon and moisture. The finished compost is ready in approximately thirteen weeks. Samples of the finished compost are tested by independent laboratories against strict quality control standards that measure contaminants and the destruction of pathogens such as plant diseases. The finished compost is then blended into different grades.

Where can I get compost that was processed from the City's Leaf & Yard Waste Program?
Material collected in the Leaf & Yard Waste Program is composted at the City's Composting Facility in Glanbrook. Part of the finished compost is given back to resident's free of charge. The City hosts compost giveaways each year. Check your local newspaper for details.

How do I know when my compost is ready, and what do I do with it?
The compost is ready to use when it is dark, crumbly, and most of the original identity of the material is lost. Screen the finished compost to remove materials that have not decomposed completely (such as nut shells or twigs). When your compost is ready, put it in your garden! Dig it into the earth before planting flowers, use it as a mulch or top dressing around plants and trees, or give it to a friend.