In a previous article posted on our website in June, we took a look at home composting, and highlighted good practice, along with concerns over the sustainable disposal of various forms of single-use plastic packaging, which often come with confusing “compostable” or “biodegradable” labels.
This time, we consider what happens to the green garden waste which is collected from the kerbside, or taken to Household Waste and Recycling Centres in Cornwall (all of which are now fully open for business).
So, where does this green waste go, and what happens to it? In these uncertain times, it’s refreshing to report a good news story!
Most of our green garden waste arising from brown bins and recycling centres across mid and west Cornwall, is processed here in the county by the Green Waste Company, who run two sites, owned and managed by the Richards family of Hayle.
One is located at Splattenridden Farm just west of the town.
Their other site is at Higher Brynn, Roche, near St.Austell. Biffa – who manage the kerbside service on behalf of Cornwall Council – transport the brown bin waste to the GWC, whilst Suez, who run the Recycling Centres – also under contract to the Council – take their skips containing green waste to the same sites.
Overall, the Green Waste Company processes the phenomenal amount of around 25,000 tons of waste each year, turning it into two principal grades of compost for use by a wide range of customers here in the county.
The process of turning our green waste into compost is a complex one. It involves significant degrees of shredding, aerating and screening.
There are a number of key elements in this process to guarantee a quality product, two of which stood out during a visit to the site in West Cornwall.
Firstly, before screening, it is necessary to leave the material standing for 8 weeks, so it can heat up naturally reaching a temperature of 65/70 degrees centigrade, which ensures that all the pathogens are eliminated. Crucially, this also involves turning the batch several times before sieving into two different sizes.
Second, is the need to screen the material thoroughly to remove the impurities – notably plastic. Plastic contamination is a major issue, and the company relies on a team of pickers to remove all plastic waste from the mix.
The process is extremely thorough and rigorous, and needs to be, to comply with the high standards set by the Composting Association. Regular samples are sent off to the laboratory for testing, and only when they have been passed for certification, can the batch be used.
Top quality gardening-grade compost, which is screened to 20mm, is a compost perfect for all gardens, and can also be used as an environmentally-responsible alternative to peat.
Agricultural-grade compost is a 40mm grade suitable, not only to give all crops a healthy start by improving the quality of the soil, but also helps cut costs by reducing use of artificial fertilizer and lime.
This is a wonderful example of the local circular economy in action. The products are used by landscape gardeners, farmers,and home gardeners alike, and have received glowing testimonials from notable organisations like the Eden Project and the National Trust here in Cornwall.
John Lanyon, the Head Gardener at Trelissick Gardens, has commented that the GWC’s compost
“is the most wonderful organic matter for your garden…….is the best organic matter we can get hold of for mulching our borders…….is simply a brilliant product and a good way of encouraging recycling of green waste materials at a local level”
The backstory of the Green Waste Company is a fascinating one. It was started in 1999 by the Richards family who, although successful farmers over five generations, realised they needed to diversify to remain sustainable, and saw turning green waste into compost as a real opportunity.
As a result, they have become Cornwall’s premier producers of compost from green waste. and the farm itself continues as a mixed enterprise of over 400 hectares. Their achievements were formally recognized in 2016 when they were adjudged Diversification Farmer of the Year by Farmers’ Weekly.
This award was more than justified. By its foresight and through its practical action, the Company is closing the loop here in our own backyard, by turning a local natural resource into a valuable soil improvement product, and at the same time, helping to keep our collective carbon footprint in check.
Satish Kumar would surely approve. In our previous article we quoted from his latest book – Elegant Simplicity – that
“in Nature there is no waste. In Nature everything is cyclical. Everything we take from Nature should be used and then returned to Nature in a form it can easily absorb”
By having our green waste recycled we are indeed following the laws of Nature, and thereby nourishing the soil on which we all depend for our survival.
When this pandemic has run its course, some readers may wish to visit the GWC to explore the technical side of composting in more detail, and experience the enthusiasm and commitment of the Richards family at first hand. Group visits can be arranged and are highly recommended, but at the time of writing have had to be put on hold.
Meanwhile, if you happen to be depositing your green waste at your local Recycling Centre, and are peering into the skip in front of you, just reflect for a moment that, when full, ten tonnes of waste will be shortly winging its way to the Green Waste Company to be turned into a lovely, rich and nutritious compost.
Many thanks to the team at the Green Waste Company for providing much of the material for this article. Visit http://www.greenwastecompany.com/ for more information and on other recycling services provided by the company
(This article is based on one which first appeared in the Feock Parish Magazine – August/September 2020)