Make, Munch and Mulch this Halloween

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shutterstock_173865542You may have picked up on this, but I think recycling is brilliant! Sometimes, though, there are even better ways to deal with our rubbish, especially garden and food waste. A lot of the stuff we send off in our garden waste white sacks/brown bins and green food waste caddies is actually really useful.

Take pumpkins. This Halloween, 18,000 tons of the big orange squashes will be thrown away after a hard night’s work scaring people, but they can do so much more. Follow my easy three-step guide to make the most of yours:

Make your jack o’lantern, scooping out the flesh and seeds and putting them to one side.

Munch on the delicious insides of the vegetable. Pumpkin soup is lovely with a little spice, as is American-style pumpkin pie…mmm. We always give a little bit of the flesh to my son’s guinea pig Marcel too. I wash the seeds and toast them with a little chilli for a crunchy, healthy snack, but if you like, you could save them and grow your own pumpkins for next year!
Once Halloween is over and the lantern starts to sag…

Moulder it down in your compost bin, if you have one, or chop it up and put it in your food waste caddy. If it’s too big, just leave it on top of or next to the caddy. In Colchester, food waste is collected every week on your normal collection day, so it won’t be there for long! Any leftover Halloween party nibbles will go in the caddy too.

Pumpkins would be nothing without an autumn backdrop of orange and red leaves. My driveway is already covered in them!

I rake them up and, once my son has jumped in them for a bit, I turn them into leaf mulch. It’s like a warm blanket for the roots in your garden, keeping them protected through the frosty winter to come. It’s easy to do:

Make a big pile of leaves and keep them as dry as possible to make shredding them easier.

Munch them up using a lawnmower. Chopping the leaves turns them into… 

Mulch, which you can spread straight away underneath trees and shrubs. It will insulate them from the cold weather, prevent weeds growing and, eventually, rot down into nutrients for the soil.
I can’t believe I used to throw away such useful stuff. Try it yourself – if you don’t have a compost bin, you can get discounted ones at https://getcomposting.com.

If your pumpkin is part of your Halloween party decor, don’t forget you can recycle other things too! Think paper plates (in your paper clear recycling bag), sweet wrappers (either paper or plastic clear recycling bag), old Halloween costumes (in your textile clear recycling bag or give them to charity). All of these are collected on a Green Week.

Have a wicked Halloween, everyone… and keeeeep recycling (we’re back in Strictly Come Dancing season now)!

Squirrel away your garden waste

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As the days get shorter, my garden is suddenly very popular with squirrels. Watching them bound about, gathering acorns and storing them up, got me thinking about how we humans prepare for winter.

If your garden is anything like mine, autumn is a super busy time. Collecting windfall fruit, raking leaves, dead-heading and putting the plants to bed… it’s the last big push before the frost starts!

All this garden activity means our bins and sacks are stuffed full. Every collection, you can put out four white garden waste sacks, or one brown wheelie bin with the lid closed, for recycling.

Even better, you could compost it at home – that way, all the energy put into those plants during the summer goes back into your own garden! It also means the waste doesn’t need to be transported, so there are no CO2 emissions. Take a leaf from the squirrels’ book and save some of the season’s bounty for yourself.

Already a keen composter? This is the time of year to turf out all the lovely goodness in your compost bin and dig it into your garden. That’ll give you plenty of space to squirrel away more compost throughout the winter.

If you don’t have a compost bin yet, good news – householders in Colchester can get a discounted compost bin for under £10 from Essex County Council. You can order them at www.getcomposting.com.  Buy two bins and you’ll get a third one free, so it’s worth clubbing together with a couple of neighbours!

I used to fill up my four white sacks in autumn, but since discovering composting almost everything goes into my mulch. If you need some, though, you can now get up to four free of charge. All you need to do is download a voucher from www.colchester.gov.uk/recycling and take it to a local stockist.

To make sure your winter compost is of the very best quality, follow my top tips:

  • Keep it toasty – the tiny creatures that turn waste into compost don’t like the cold, so wrap your compost bin up warm! I’m not suggesting you buy it a scarf, but some snuggly leftover bubble wrap from a delivery or bags of leaves should do the trick.
  • Layer it – the key to great compost is to layer browns (dry, woody stuff like old leaves and sawdust) and greens (wet, recently-alive stuff like food scraps and grass cuttings). You’ll want about half of each.
  • Leave it alone – during summer, compost should be turned to get air into it. In winter, this can make it cold, so keep turning minimal.

In the spring, you’ll be able to kick-start your garden’s growth with some wonderful, rich compost. Your garden will thank you – and so will our environment!

Advice on maggots

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How hot was it yesterday?! Lovely (and surprising) weather for a Bank Holiday Monday.

We’ve had a few calls and Tweets this morning from residents that are struggling with maggots that have hatched during the heat in their non-recyclable bags and bins.

If a fly settles on your rubbish they may lay eggs – did you know that a female common fly can lay 500 eggs in three days, and during the warmer summer days these can hatch within 8 to 20 hours!

So it’s not surprising that maggots can easily appear in bins and bags.

My advice to residents is to use their food waste caddy for all of their left over food waste. This is what the flies are attracted to. This includes bones, peelings, raw and cooked fish and meat and any leftovers from meals.

Here are some helpful tips to reduce the risk of seeing any maggots:

  • make sure you keep the lid closed on any bins and containers, this will prevent flies from getting at the contents;
  • store bags and bins out of direct sun light;
  • if you have a wheelie bin, put your non-recycling rubbish in a bag before putting it in your black bin (it does not need to be a black bag);
  • make sure you never leave any food, including pet food, uncovered
    –   If you have a kerbside food waste recycling collection use your food caddy for all cooked and uncooked food waste (not pet food)                                                                    – If you are part of a communal rubbish scheme, tie up any bags of food waste tightly before placing in bin, it may help to double-wrap it;
  • put nappies/sanitary items in bags before putting them in a bin;
  • insecticidal spray can be used as a preventative measure too – spraying the inside of your containers or bin will leave a residue that can help to kill flies before they lay eggs.

In the unlikely event that maggots do get into your bin, most will go when your bin is collected. If some are left behind:

  • maggots and fly eggs can be killed using boiling water;
  • large quantities of salt kill maggots;
  • clean/wash your bin/containers after they have been emptied;
  • try using a cleaning product with a fragrance, this will help deter flies from your bin;
  • use an insecticidal spray which can be purchased from a supermarket or DIY store that kills crawling insects.

Maggots are unpleasant. The best approach is to be careful with your waste and ensure that flies can’t get to it by following the advice above.

What happens to your food waste?

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I think the best thing you can do with food is enjoy it…but some waste like egg shells, apple cores and tea bags is inevitable – and I realise some families will have more waste than others.

But have you ever wondered what happens to your food once we’ve picked it up? It gets turned into energy and fertiliser. Our team have put together this short video to explain a bit more and show you how easy it is to do:

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The food waste we collect from the kerbside goes through a very interesting process called Anaerobic Digestion.

And here’s the science bit (I’ve always wanted to say that)…it uses micro-organisms to break down food waste in the absence of oxygen inside an enclosed tank. As it breaks down, it gives off a ‘bio-gas’ (a renewable energy) which is collected and used to generate electricity. At the same time it also creates biofertiliser that is used in farming.

Did you know that 70% of all food waste that is produced in the UK comes from households? The cost of this to an average household is £470 a year (parliament.uk)! I know, I had to sit down too!

So the biggest bit of advice I can offer (and this will save you a few ££’s) is to be aware of how much food your buy. You could make a menu each week – just remember to check what you have in your fridge or freezer already before making a list. If those impulse buys are still slipping into your trolley it might help to make more frequent, but smaller food shopping trips, and not to buy items with a short shelf life if you aren’t sure when you’ll use it. If you want other hints and tips I highly recommend the Love Food Hate Waste website.

But we will all have some food waste, so I thought this quick guide will help to get you started on your food waste recycling journey.  You can find a full list on our website here.

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If you don’t use our free food waste collection, it goes straight to landfill where it rots and releases methane into the environment which is a damaging greenhouse gas. All our household food waste is collected weekly. If you don’t have a food caddy, pick a free one up from your local pick up point (sorry this is not available in flats at the moment unless directed by your landlord).

Keep an eye out for three more recycling videos coming soon, showing what happens to your paper/cardboard, plastics and glass/tins.

In the meantime, keeeeeep recycling (like Strictly Come Dancing but greener 🙂 )