Dealing with organic waste

How to deal with dirty paper?
How to deal with garden waste?  
How to deal with food waste?  

How to Prevent Food Waste

Between farm and dining-room table, more than half our food is dumped. Most of it before it even reaches consumers. European households throw away 100 billion Euros worth of food each year, enough to feed all the hungry people in the world two times over.

Agriculture is responsible for more than a third of the greenhouse gases worldwide because industrial farming requires energy, fertilisers and damages soils. What’s more, when food rots away at a garbage dump, methane escapes into the atmosphere - a 'greenhouse gas' with an effect 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. All this has a disastrous impact on the world's climate. (Watch this video for more info Taste the Waste.)

Below are many ideas on how to deal with food waste once you have created it but better yet, we should avoid creating any food waste at all, just like our tupuna did.

Some tips on how to prevent food waste:

  • grow your own food so you only take what you need
  • join a food co-op, community supported agriculture (CSA) project or barter with other gardeners and farmers so those producers can harvest to order rather than harvesting for unknown markets.
  • bake your own. Bakeries and supermarkets budget for massive amounts of food waste as goods need to be fresh to sell.
  • dumpster-dive or arrange pick-up of unwanted foods from shops. Look for a local group that may already be organising this for people like you eg. churches, radical collectives.
  • shop smart. Plan your meals well. Estimate what you will need for your menu and only buy that or buy things that can be partly used and stored for later use. Go for specials like over-ripe bananas (for smoothies and cakes) that would otherwise be dumped.
  • store unused food in dry containers/sacks out of sunlight, in the fridge or freezer, take it home or hand out to whanau, or learn to dry food such as fruit, vegetables and meats just like our tupuna did. Solar dehydrators are easy to make out of a tin-foil lined old wooden box or metal tray, with an unwanted glass window laid on top. Put (sliced) food inside on wire trays and leave in the sun for a few days until ready.
  • turn unused food into something else eg. cream into butter, rice into rice pudding, make bread'n'butter pudding, soups, stews, pies, fish cakes, stir-fry or even porridge cake.
  • as a last resort feed it to animals or compost it for the maara.

How to deal with dirty paper?

Dirty hand towels from the bathroom, paper towels from the kitchen, paper from the tables, serviettes, dirty paper plates and any dirty paper cannot be recycled, but it can be composted. Your marae will need to decide if this process is right for you. Dirty paper can be put into worm farms or compost bins. Soak it in water first and rip it up a bit. This way the paper will break down quicker. A little bit of dirty cardboard at a time can also be composted.

How to deal with garden waste?

Garden waste, such as weeds, lawn clippings, leaves, twigs, small sticks, tree prunings, and other organic materials can be composted in a compost bin or simply by creating a pile directly on the earth. Dirty paper and raw vegetable peelings can be added to this garden waste and composted together.

Alternatively think: do I need to mow the lawn or could we get in sheep? This could save you money and create kai and wool. Or could I mow the lawn less and let it grow longer? This is better for the soil and will stop brown-off and prickles in dry summers. Again many of our 'weeds' are edible such as puha (S.kirkii, sow thistle) and poroporo (black nightshade). We could eat them instead.

Quick tip: if you use a ride-on mower at your marae, spread out your garden weeds and hedge prunings on the lawn in a line then go over them with the mower using the catcher. You now have a super-rich mulch that can be put straight on the garden or composted.

How to deal with food waste?

To keep all of your food waste out of the rubbish bin you'll need a combination of composting systems and animals to feed.

Food waste on a marae can be ideal for birds like chickens and ducks, pigs, dogs, cats, tuna (eels), goats or even cows eg. cabbage leaves. If you do have access to animals then keep all plastic, paper, teabags and other foreign non-food objects out of your food waste buckets for the safety of the animals being fed. For animals like pigs keep sharp bones out too.

If you are unable to find animals to feed then worm farming, burying straight into a garden, bokashi and hot or cold composting are options for dealing with food waste, and creating nutrient rich compost. Here’s a list of ideas of things you can do with your different types of food waste:

cooking oil

  •  recycle into biofuel
  • tip out in faraway unused corner outside

soups and liquids

  • bury
  • pigs, chooks
  • hot compost       

guts and intestines (sheep, cattle, etc), raw meat and fat scraps

  • bury uphill of fruit trees

  • ring local dealers who pick up carcasses for pet food eg. Waikato Byproducts, Tuakau

  • bokashi (no bones)

  • boil fat down, sieve clean and store for cooking as lard

  • feed to pet cats and dogs

  • do NOT feed to pigs - it's illegal as they can pick up and pass on diseases that can kill humans

egg shells

  • crush onto garden to discourage slugs

  • compost heap         

  • crush and feed to chickens and ducks

kaimoana shells

  • leave on gravel driveways to be crushed by vehicles

  • crush and feed to chickens and ducks

  • create a shell pile in a faraway corner (will attract flies)

plate scrape leftovers, cooked food and meat

  • feed to pigs, chooks, dogs, pa tuna

  • bokashi
  • bury 

skin of sheep or other animal

  • tan the skin to make leather or scrape, nail and stretch to dry for rawhide

  • bury uphill of fruit trees

  • put over compost heap

potato and vege peelings

  • pigs, chooks, dogs

  • bokashi (no bones)

  • bury

  • compost heap     

compostable plates

  • hot compost (a hot compost is one that is turned regularly)

  • soak in water then feed to worm farms  

fish bones, skin, scales, guts 

  • soak in water to make liquid fertiliser (put a lid on it to stop smell and flies!)

  • bury under fruit or nut trees

  • bury in garden, but leave for at least 4 weeks before planting and don't use in garden where turned by hand as bones are sharp

raw bones / carcasses

  • bury

  • crush bones or burn and collect ash (blood and bone) to use as a mineral fertiliser

  • arrange for blood and bone business to pick them up
  • bury uphill of fruit trees
  • ring local dealers who pick up carcasses for pet food eg. Waikato Byproducts, Tuakau

pork bones cooked

  • bury

  • burn bones and collect ash (blood and bone) to use as a mineral fertilizer

  • feed to chooks then collect bones later