Composting is the natural decomposition of organic material (from plants and animals) by microorganisms, into a dark brown crumbly organic substance called compost.
Compost mixed with soil is beneficial for growing plants as the compost retains soil moisture, improves soil structure and provides nutrients.
There are different types of composting methods such as using a typical compost heap (outdoor or in a compost bin), using earthworms in vermicomposting, or using effective microorganisms in Bokashi composting.
Instead of throwing away your food and garden waste, which ends up being incinerated, why not try composting them at home? The compost can be used for gardening and helps you save money by reducing the use of fertilisers.
You can try composting your food and garden waste at home with these 4 easy steps:
1. Prepare a Compost Bin
You can buy a compost bin for a few hundred dollars but we recommend building one yourself. All you need is a cheap plastic bin with a lid, such as the common black dustbin or the rectangular-sized dustbin. The size of the compost bin depends on your family size, the amount of waste disposed and where you want to place it.
It is important to ensure that air can circulate freely in the compost bin as composting is an aerobic process where microorganisms require oxygen to decompose the waste. If there’s insufficient air, the process becomes anaerobic and produces gases such as methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulphide, which causes smell problems.
To ensure good air circulation, drill small holes on the lid and at the bottom and sides of the bin. The bin should be placed at an airy spot without direct sunlight. The bin should also be elevated from the ground by placing two bricks or stones at each end of the bin bottom.
Use cardboard to line the sides in the bin to prevent material from coming out from the holes at the side. Stuff wood chips or wood shavings in a net and place it as a pillow at the bottom of the bin. This helps to prevent liquid and material from coming out from the holes at the bottom.
2. Start Adding Waste
Get fresh compost from an existing compost bin or buy them from stores. Place the compost into the bin and up to one-third of the bin. This compost acts as a starter as it contains microorganisms necessary for decomposing the waste.
The microorganisms use carbon and nitrogen in the waste as food, so you should add a mixture of “greens” and “browns” to the compost bin.
Carbon is rich in “browns” such as dead leaves, twigs, woody prunings, wood shavings, egg boxes, cardboard, newspaper and waste paper.
Nitrogen is rich in “greens” such as fruits, vegetables, leaves, flowers, grass cuttings, eggshells, teabags and coffee grounds.
A balanced diet is necessary for the microorganisms and for making good compost. It is recommended to add about 50% “browns” and 50% “greens” to your compost bin. You can also cut the waste into smaller pieces to quicken the composting process.
Remember that you should not add meat, fish, cooked food, dairy products and oily stuff into the compost bin, as it will cause odour and pest problems.
After adding the waste to the starter compost, add water to the mixture and mix thoroughly using a spade or garden fork. The mixture should be moist and not wet.
Place another pillow net of wood chips or wood shavings on top of the mixture and close the lid. This helps to keep the moisture in the compost bin.
3. Maintain the Compost Mixture
The compost mixture generates heat as the microorganisms eat, grow and respire. So if you feel that your mixture is warm, this means that the composting process is doing fine. Mix the contents of the compost bin daily to circulate air and release heat.
Also ensure that the mixture is kept moist. A quick test is to take a handful of the mixture and squeeze it. If you get a few drops, that’s ok. But if you get too much liquid, you should add some woody or paper waste to absorb it.
If you have more waste, just add them to the mixture and mix it. Adjust the moisture content and the ratio of “browns” and “greens” accordingly.
4. Use the Compost
After about three to six months, the composting process should be completed and your food and garden waste should turn into dark brown material.
Screen your compost with a 0.5cm filter or a similar sized net. The smaller sized compost can be used for your gardening while the bigger sized compost can be kept in the bin as starter compost.
You can use the compost by mixing it with soil for growing plants. Or add a layer of compost at the plant base to prevent weeds.
That’s it, 4 easy steps to start composting at home. Ok, maybe it’s not so easy for some people. But with patience and care, everyone can produce natural compost from your food and garden waste. Try it today!
It’s easy to recycle at home. Learn about the existing recycling programme at your area and find out the type of items that are acceptable for recycling.
HDB Housing Estates and Landed Property Estates
The National Environment Agency (NEA) has implemented the National Recycling Programme (NRP) since 2001, where recycling bins are provided for residents living in HDB housing estates and landed property estates.
For HDB estates, there is one recycling bin for each block of flats with 3 or 7 times collection per week. The recycling bins are usually located near the Central Refuse Chute (CRC) of newer HDB blocks, beside footpaths or linkways, and placed in open areas.
For landed property estates, one recycling bin is provided for each house with one or two collection per week. There is also a separate collection of garden waste for landed property estates. Plastic bags containing grass, leaves, and small branches can be placed beside the recycling bin.
Find recycling bins near your home via the SLA OneMap under the Environment theme.
Condominiums and Private Apartments
Condominiums and private apartments are not covered under the NRP. However, it is mandatory for condominiums and private apartments to provide recycling facilities for their residents from 1 Nov 2008.
If there’s no recycling facilities at your place, contact your Managing Agents (MAs) and Management Councils (MCs). The MAs and MCs can also refer to the NEA’s online guidebook to learn how to set up a recycling programme.
Find Out What You Can Recycle
You can make use of the recycling programme to recycle items such as paper, plastic bottles and containers, glass bottles, metal cans and old clothing.
Find out what items are acceptable for recycling from this NEA brochure.
What Happens to the Recyclables?
The recyclables are collected by the appointed Public Waste Collector and brought back to their facility. The recyclables are sorted manually or by equipment into the different types of material. The sorted recyclables are then sent to local recycling companies for processing into raw materials or new products, or exported overseas for recycling.
For enquiries on the recycling collection, you can contact the Public Waste Collector providing the recycling collection for your area.
If your company or organisation already has a recycling programme, that’s good and you can recycle at work. If not, it’s time to start one now. Just follow our 6 steps to minimise waste and start recycling at work.
First, you would need to form a team and get commitment from your management and colleagues. Conduct a waste audit and find ways to minimise waste through reduce and reuse. Next, start a recycling programme and educate your staff on how to recycle. Finally, remember to gather feedback, review and improve your recycling programme.
1. Get Commitment and Form a Team
Highlight the benefits of waste minimisation and recycling to your management and colleagues, and get their commitment and support. Form a team to be in-charge of the waste minimisation and recycling programme, and ensure that resources are allocated to implement the programme.
2. Conduct a Waste Audit
A waste audit involves finding out the type and quantity of waste generated, and how the waste are generated and disposed. This audit would help you to identify the problems and opportunities for waste reduction. Learn how to conduct a waste audit.
3. Minimise Waste Through Reduce and Reuse
Based on the waste audit, identify the major waste types and find ways to minimise the waste generation. Reduce them at the source of generation or divert them from disposal through reuse. Refer to our Reduce and Reuse categories for ideas.
4. Set Up a Recycling Programme
After your waste minimisation efforts, identify the remaining waste that can be recycled. Find a recycling contractor to provide recycling bins and collection services. First, you can approach your current waste contractor and check whether they can provide recycling services.
For commercial buildings and industrial estates with recycling programmes, recycling bins or skips are usually placed at certain locations and the recyclables are collected by the recycling contractor.
To find a recycling collector or someone who wants your waste, check out NEA’s list of collectors and traders, or you can use the online business waste exchange, Waste is not Waste, to find someone who wants your waste.
5. Educate Staff on How to Recycle
Educate staff on the new recycling programme – the location of recycling bins, what can be recycled, and where the recyclables end up. The education could be conducted through events, talks and through posters.
6. Review and Improve
Gather feedback about the recycling programme from the staff and conduct checks on the recycling bins to ensure that the correct items are recycled. Monitor the amount of waste generated and recycled. Adjust and improve the recycling programme if necessary.
If You Need Help
Green Future Solutions provides consultancy services to help companies and organisations introduce an effective and sustainable recycling programme in their office. The scope of the recycling programme includes:
- Conduct a waste audit to establish baseline
- Source for recycling collectors and bins
- Educate staff on waste minimisation and recycling programme
- Monitor and review the programme
Recycling programmes are common in our schools (preschools, primary, secondary and tertiary levels), and they are usually initiated by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or by the school administration.
Recycling bins and recyclables collection are usually provided by the public waste collectors who are in charge of collecting waste from the schools, or by recycling contractors. You can recycle at school using the recycling bins available.
If there is no recycling programme in your school, send a request to your school administration and ask them to increase awareness on recycling and install recycling bins. For more information on school recycling and support from NEA, call 1800-CALL NEA (1800-2255 632) or email Contact_NEA@nea.gov.sg.
Recycling at Preschools
Under the 3R Programme for Preschools, children in kindergartens and childcare centers can deposit their recyclables in recycling bins. NEA also provides awareness kits for teachers to introduce fun educational activities for the children to learn more about the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle).
Recycling at Primary and Secondary Schools
For primary and secondary schools, there is usually a Recycling Corner in each school where students can use the recycling bins and learn more about recycling through the educational materials placed there.
Recycling at Junior Colleges, ITEs, Polytechnics and Universities
For tertiary schools, there are usually several sets of recycling bins placed at strategic locations throughout the school or campus.
Paper is one of the most common types of waste in Singapore and 1.26 million tonnes of paper waste was generated in 2013. The recycling rate of paper is 54% in 2013, and most of this paper waste is sorted, baled and exported overseas for recycling as there are no paper recycling mills in Singapore.
Let’s take a closer look at paper recycling:
1. Types of Paper for Recycling
The different types of paper waste are collected and usually separated into the following categories for recycling.
- Corrugated cardboard
- White office paper
- Mixed paper
2. Why Recycle Paper
There are environmental benefits to paper recycling. According to Waste Online:
Producing recycled paper involves between 28 – 70% less energy consumption than virgin paper and uses less water. This is because most of the energy used in papermaking is the pulping needed to turn wood into paper.
Recycled paper produces fewer polluting emissions to air (95% of air pollution) and water. Recycled paper is not usually re-bleached and where it is, oxygen rather than chlorine is usually used. This reduces the amount of dioxins which are released into the environment as a by-product of the chlorine bleaching processes.
3. The Paper Recycling Process
At the paper recycling plant, sorted paper goes into a pulper where they are washed and screened to remove unwanted items like metals and plastics. The paper pulp then undergoes a floatation process to remove inks and adhesives. The resulting paper slurry is spread on wire meshes and drained of water using rollers to form sheets of paper.
Watch this animation video on the paper recycling process from RecycleBank:
4. Recycled Paper Products
Paper waste such as white office paper, corrugated cartons and newspapers can be recycled back to its original use. Magazines, mixed paper, newspapers and corrugated cartons are recycled as cardboards, toilet papers, paper towels, egg cartons, kraft paper, etc.
Watch how toilet paper is made from recycled paper:
5. Paper Recycling in Singapore
In Singapore, about 1.26 million tonnes of paper waste was generated in 2013 and the recycling rate is 54%. Paper waste is usually collected through the recycling programmes and traditionally by the karang guni men, waste paper collectors and traders.
The paper waste are sorted by type, baled or placed in containers, and exported overseas for recycling as there are no paper recycling mills in Singapore.
6. Collectors, Traders and Recycling Companies for Paper
To find a recycling collector or someone who wants your paper waste, check out NEA’s list of collectors and traders.
For companies, you can use the online business waste exchange, Waste is not Waste, to find someone who wants your waste.
7. What Can I Do
You can recycle paper through the various recycling programmes at home, in school and your office, or through the public recycling bins. But before you do so, remember to Reduce and Reuse your paper waste.