Shrinking Our Bins

While sorting out paperwork for our solar panels, we needed to get a copy of our rates notice from our local council. They weren’t able to provide the actual rates notice on the day, but they were able to provide a costs summary. The following caught my eye:

Service Rates & Charges $525.70

For the mathematically inclined, this was almost 30% of our total charge from the council. I pondered this line, and realised that it was the cost of our wheelie bins. This comes in two parts:

  • $380.20 for a 120L rubbish and a 240 litre recycling bin service
  • $145.50 for an optional garden waste bin collection service (green waste)

We’ve used the garden waste bin once since we bought this house, and that was when we put it out the first weekend after we got the keys because it was still full from the previous owners. Since then we’ve been composting all of our garden waste at home. For anyone wondering if composting has a financial benefit, apparently it’s worth a whopping $145.50 per year!

Our current rubbish bin is usually half full on a bad week, and considerably less than that on a good one. Looking at the site, I noticed a second option for this:

  • $302.70 for an 80L rubbish and a 240 litre recycling bin service

By doing a trash audit and working through that process, tiny changes to our habits have the potential to save us an additional $77.50 per year if we downsize the bin. With the garden waste bin, that’s a combined saving of $223.00 per year, just for being conscious about the amount of waste we produce.

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Cancelling our garden waste bin and downsizing the rubbish bin was incredibly easy. I just emailed a request to the council and everything was taken care of for us, including the adjustment to our rates fees. All we needed to do was put out the bins on their regular collection day and the changes were made.

While my enthusiasm for doing this was distinctly financial, changing our day to day options like this holds us more accountable in the future for the amount of waste that we generate. It’s going to be harder to back slide when our bin has shrunk by 1/3, and our neighbours aren’t going to be able to use our empty bins to grow their own capacity for waste. This change also covers half of the annual repayments for a solar system loan, which makes it that much more achievable.

If you’re playing along at home…

…are you able to save a lot of money by making the decision to reduce your waste? What could you afford to do if you weren’t literally throwing your money into landfill? Please share in the comments below what your council offers as an alternative for people who are a bit more mindful about what they throw away.

Compost From The Worm Farm

Last year in October we set up our worm farm. As with many projects in our lives, this was one where the amount of love and attention it received started out with great enthusiasm and then dwindled rapidly. We got lazy about flushing the farm with fresh water, feeding them became erratic once we got the chickens, and honestly I’ve spent the past few months convinced that they’re all dead.

The soil at our new property can best be described as a sandy disaster. In three months of exploring the garden, we have found a single wild worm. We’ve spent weeks digging out building rubble from what was probably intended to be a garden bed, and there hasn’t been a scrap of organic matter in the mix that we didn’t dump there from cleaning the chicken coop. “Barren wasteland” springs to mind as an appropriate description.

We really needed Schrödinger’s Worms to be in a living state.

I chose a day when I was home alone to tackle the worm farm. After a few years of gardening I’m finally at a point where I can handle touching a worm if I’ve got gloves on, but the idea of sorting through trays full of live worms was seriously creeping me out. I also don’t handle dead things well, and I knew there was bound to be a bit of squealing involved either way. No witnesses seemed ideal.

The first step was taking off the lid and cautiously peering in. There were plenty of worms on the lid and around the edges, so I shoved the lid back on and tried to lift out the first tray. It was heavy, and there was no way that I was getting it out full. I grabbed a bucket, put on my big girl pants, and started pulling out the food scraps at the top.

After about 30 seconds it was obvious that the bucket strategy was an epic fail. The farm isn’t big, but the worms were compacting the material in those trays beyond my wildest expectations, and moving it was just aerating it. This called for a wheelbarrow, but at this point I was covered in worms and not sure how to move the wheelbarrow without killing them all. Wiping my gloves on the grass seemed to do the trick, and I got the top tray empty enough to pull it out of the farm.

compost from our worm farmInside the bottom tray was amazingly rich, black compost that seemed to be half compost and half worms. I had planned to try and put most of the worms back into the worm farm, but there were just so many that I didn’t bother. I scooped out the goo that had fallen into the collection tray, put the working tray back into the farm, and dumped the finished tray into the garden bed. Once it was empty I put it on top of the worm farm, transferred the scraps from the wheelbarrow back into it, and put the lid back on.

I was a bit dismayed by how little coverage I was able to get from the tray in the worm farm. In our previous garden that much compost would have fertilised an entire bed, but here I was barely able to spread it over half a square metre before the organic layer became too thin. This compost will be incredible for our garden once we’ve established it, but to begin with we’re going to need to bring out some bigger guns.

If you’re playing along at home…

…have you gone beyond creating a compost heap or worm farm to actually using the compost that it produces? Please share in the comments below how these processes have changed your garden.