Waste Prevention and Recycling - Tricks and Tips - 762 kbs  PDF

Organic Waste

Roughly one third of your household wheelie bin is made up of kitchen and garden materials. This type of waste is categorised as organic because it is derived from the earth and is easily biodegradable. Very often organic waste materials are divided into greens and browns.

Green Organic Waste

Green organic waste is usually wet or moist, it’s often green and has a high nitrogen content, as such it is a good activator for the decomposition process.

Brown Organic Waste

Brown organic waste is very often brown, it’s generally dry and has a high carbon content. In contrast to green waste this type is slower to break down.

A Compost Recipe

Green (Nitrogen rich) waste + brown (carbon rich) waste + oxygen + moisture + time = Compost

Organic Waste
Ground coffee Egg shells
Fruit leftovers Cardboard egg boxes
Salad off cuts Kitchen paper
Tea leaves/bags Light cardboard
Vegetable waste (cooked/raw) Sawdust
Percolator coffee filters Wood shavings
Bread, pasta, rice, dry cereals Shredded paper
Cut/dead flowers Newsprint
Herbivorous animal manures Floor sweepings
Grass and green leaves Shredded wood and prunings
Young weeds Autumn leaves, hay, straw

A Natural Process

Composting takes advantage of the natural process of decomposition and therefore is promoted nationally by Local Authorities as ⅓ of the domestic waste solution.

Start Today

You can commence composting at any time of the year.

Compost bins are available for purchase from some hardware shops, garden centres and online retailers.


Where to Start

  • Decide on a location for you composter, not too far from the house, with easy access.
  • Commit to reducing waste and tell others in your household of your plans.
  • Organise a caddy or small bin with a lid for kitchen organic waste available from Sligo County Council.
  • Install your composter.
  • Add a first layer of brown materials to the composter as a base.
  • Now simply add organic matter to your composter as you generate it.
  • Compensate wet kitchen waste with drier brown materials (see list below).
  • Have patience – organic waste may take 6 – 18 months to fully form compost. 

A Simple Tip

You should not leave kitchen scraps (GREENS), on top of the pile. It is best to keep these materials buried inside the compost heap, where they will break down quicker. That is why you finish with BROWNS on top of the pile. Just remember that each time you add some grass clippings and kitchen scraps, cover them with a layer of BROWNS. The easiest way to do this is to keep a bag of leaves or shredded paper near your composter, or compost heap, and then throw in a few handfuls each time to cover your greens. 

The Benefits of Composting

  • Composting organics diverts waste from the wheelie bin and consequently away from the land
  • Reducing the volume of waste to landfill translates to a cost saving in your pocket.
  • Collecting organics separately leaves the general bin cleaner and easier to separate other recyclables.
  • Composting helps reduce odour from your wheelie bin
  • Composting means recycling roughly 1/3 of your waste for free.
  • Compost will enhance and maintain your soil by returning useful nutrients and improving soil structure.
  • Composting helps conserve remaining peat lands

Your Composting Questions Answered!

Q - Doesn’t rotting food attract vermin and other pests?

A - This is probably the most frequently ask question and seems to be a big concern of the beginner. To prevent problems avoid adding meat, fish, bones, dairy products or oils/ grease. For further peace of mind it’s a good idea to place a piece of mesh wire across the bottom of you composter before you plant it into the ground. This provides an effective barrier against burrowing pests while at the same time allowing good contact between the waste organics and the soil beneath. Avoid installing your composter close to the house, away from ditches and long grass.

Q - My composter smells - what should I do?

A - A composter that has a pungent smell is most likely overloaded with green materials. Solve this by simply adding more brown waste types. Shredded paper is ideal. Alternatively the smell may originate from compacted waste. When material becomes compacted and often waterlogged the decomposition may become anaerobic (lacking in oxygen) and smelly. Good air circulation is a vital ingredient for compost making therefore it is important to loosen and turn the waste pile and particularly if it seems to smell.

Q - I don’t like gardening and have no use for compost!

A - Home composting probably represents the single most environmentally beneficial activity that you can easily engage in. So if you have no interest in gardening give composting a go for the sake of saving money and reducing wastes from your wheelie bin. You could always make a present of the finished product to your nearest keen gardener.

Q - Nothing seems to be happening in my compost bin, should I add an activator to speed things up?

A - It is difficult to estimate exactly how long before your waste will become compost. Since various materials are added in different volumes and at different times an exact length cannot be determined. During Winter, microbial activity may slow down and the temperature of the heap can drop significantly. However there is still a continuous cycle of decomposition and breakdown which may take anywhere between 6 and 18 months. Many people start a second adding new material to a second composter to allow the first unit time to finish off. Others simply remove small batches of the finished material as it is formed from the bottom of their composter while all the time adding new material to the same unit.

Q - How will I know when my compost is fully formed?

A - Compost is a dark, rich, crumbly and well texture material – that looks like soil. When fully formed it should have no recognisable trace of the waste which formed it (sometimes crushed egg shells may be detected as they often take up to two years to fully breakdown). Another very satisfying feature of fully formed compost is its pleasant smell!

Q - What can I do with the end product - compost?

A - Compost has often been referred to as black gold.

  • For houseplants and potting, mix the compost with garden soil.
  • The recommended ratio is 1 part compost and 8 part top soil because of the very high nitro content.
  • Compost can be used as a mulch to suppress weeds.
  • It can be used as a soil or lawn top dressing, or seed starting mix.
  • Compost tea can be made from steeping compost in a bucket and using the liquid to water and feed plants.
  • Use compost when planting trees or shrubs by mixing a bucketful with the soil at the bottom of the planting hole.

The Benefits of Composting

  • Composting organics diverts waste from the wheelie bin and consequently away from the landfill.
  • Reducing the volume of waste to landfill translates to a cost saving in your pocket.
  • Collecting organics separately leaves the general bin cleaner and easier to separate other recyclables.
  • Composting helps reduce odour from your wheelie bin.
  • Composting means recycling roughly ⅓ of your waste for free.
  • Compost will enhance and maintain your soil by returning useful nutrients and improving soil structure.
  • Composting helps conserve remaining peat lands.

If you should require further advice, please contact the& Environmental Office: 071 9111457.


This is the process of using worms to decompose organic food waste, turning the waste into a nutrient-rich material capable of supplying necessary nutrients to help sustain plant growth.

Working Worms

Earthworms are divided into two groups: humus formers and humus feeders. The first group dwell on the surface and feed on nearly 90% fresh organic materials and soil. They are generally red in colour, have a flat tail and are also called epegic or detritivorous worms. It is these worms that are harnessed for vermin-composting. The second group, i.e. the humus feeders, are deep burrowing worms, which are useful in making the soil porous and mixing and distributing humus through the soil. The worm’s ability to convert organic waste into nutrient-rich material reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers and obviously helps divert waste from the landfill.

Why use Worms?

Vermi-compost also improves soil structure, texture, and aeration as well as increasing its water-holding capacity. Your plants will grow stronger and have deeper root systems for better drought tolerance and disease resistance. Worms also break down organic waste quicker than in a conventional composter.

Worm Castings

Worms produce vermin-compost or worm castings. Vermi-composting adds beneficial organisms to the soil. These micro-organisms and soil fauna help break down organic materials and convert nutrients into a more available food form for plants. Adding compost to soil aids erosion control, promotes soil fertility, and stimulates healthy root development in plants. Worms can be added to a regular composter to boost activity. Domestic wormeries or vermin-composters are also readily available from a number of suppliers. (Many suppliers will also post out stocks of worms to customers.)

Suppliers of Wormeries, Worms and Advice
NameAddressTelephone Number
NameAddressTelephone Number
Jim Byrne Kingfisher Baits, Pier Road, Enniscrone, Co Sligo 096 36733
Nova Gatsby Wrigglers Worm Farm, Ardvoley, Dromahaire, Co Leitrim 071 9164880
Worm Express Ireland The Griffens Island, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo 094 9632947
Irish Earthworm Company Farnivane, Bandon, Co Cork 023 52343
Loughview Worms 33 Cluntoe View, Ardboe, Co Tyrone BT71 5BS 079 80607450/028 86735893
Earthworms Unlimited Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow 087 1374153
Eco-Ireland Blackdown, Kilteel, Naas, Co Kildare 01 4582560
Element Green Acorn Business Campus, Mahon Industrial Park, Blackrock, Cork 021 4326153
Jackie Smyth/Linda Harrison Ballyhinch, Whitegate, Co Clare 061 927420
Jimmy Austin Garadice, Kilcock, Co Meath 086 8157058
Wiggly Wigglers Lower Blakemere Farm, Blakemere, Herefordshire HR2 9PX, UK 0044 1981 500391
Grown Green Products Killiskey Cross, Ashford, Co Wicklow 0404 49893
Johnstown Recycling and orm Farm Johnstown, Slanemore, Mullingar, Co Westmeath 086 2599165

Food Digesters

Food digesters are another method of dealing with food wastes in the back garden. Generally a digester can take cooked and uncooked food waste, including meat, fish, dairy products and bones (the typical kitchen waste materials which should not be placed in your regular composter). If a digester is used in tandem with conventional composting all waste coming from the kitchen can be accommodated. The design of the digester along with the addition of accelerator (enzymes) onto the food waste creates aerobic conditions under which the waste disintegrates to a residue. Food Digesters can be purchases from: Green Cone Ireland Ltd, 1st Floor, 21 Main Street, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14. Telephone (01) 4920603.