Rubbish Removal and Composting With the Kids

Rubbish Removal and Composting With the Kids

Composting is an excellent recycling project to do with kids because they can see the “magic” happen right before their very own eyes! They can also actively participate in the entire process, and thereby, learn by doing. Composting teaches kids how to reduce their rubbish removal by composting food, paper, and yard waste rather than binning these items.

Kids will get more out of a composting project if you keep things simple. Therefore, you want to keep the composting recipe simple. Give the kids a list of items that you’ll be diverting from the rubbish removal bins and putting in your compost container instead. It’s also important to keep the scientific explanation simple. However, you do want to help them understand why each ingredient in the composting recipe is important and a basic understanding of how food, paper, and yard waste is “magically” turned into rich organic soil by the organisms that live in the compost!

Keep in mind too that compost is quite heavy per cubic foot. Thus, it’s best to keep the volume of your compost container small enough that the kids can stir the compost thoroughly each week. They’ll get more out of the project if they can get their hands dirty and really get a chance to examine the changes taking place in the compost.

Basic Composting Recipe

Below, you’ll find the most basic composting recipe. All of these items can be rescued from your rubbish removal! “Rescue” is a good word to use with kids because it will help them understand that they are saving these items from going to the landfill! You can stress to the kids that compost requires only four basic ingredients:

1. Air
2. Water
3. Brown Stuff
4. Green Stuff

“Do NOT Include” List

Again, it’s important to keep this list super simple. You can explain that these items produce a very strong odor as they rot that would attract dangerous wild animals. They also do not compost well unless special microbes are added, microbes not normally found in your garden.

1. Meat Scraps (Including Bones) & Eggs
2. Anything Dairy
3. All Types of Fat
4. Pet Feces

Compost Container Specifications

Look for a metal, wooden, or plastic container that is no more than five feet by five feet and no less than three feet by three feet. The ideal height would be about three feet tall but mainly you want to make sure it’s short enough that the kids can stir the compost while safely standing on the ground. Old rubbish removal bins work well for this purpose.

Instead of buying something new, look for an old container around the house. If that doesn’t work, let your neighbors and friends know what you need. If that doesn’t work, you can go hunting for a container in resale shops.

The container you find should have a lid. If it does not have a lid, you can look for something that will work as a make shift lid. For example, you could use an old wooden board to lay on top and serve as a lid.

Once you find your container and lid, you’ll need to drill holes in the top (the lid), the sides, and the bottom. These holes should be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter. The purpose of these holes is to allow excess water to drain out and for air (oxygen) to get inside.

A Closer Look At Each of the Four Basic Compost Ingredients

– Air

The purpose of the air is to supply the microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) and earthworms with oxygen. Without oxygen, these living organisms cannot live, and therefore, could not perform their magic of converting food, paper, and yard waste into rich organic soil! There are two ways you and the kids will get oxygen into the compost. First, the holes you drill will allow passive air (oxygen) exchange. This is like leaving the door open to your home. Second, when you stir the compost each week, this will get a new supply of oxygen into the internal parts of the compost. You can explain to the kids that in a landfill, composting doesn’t occur because the stuff buried in the landfill doesn’t get any oxygen.

– Water

No living organisms can survive without adequate water! The composting process is fueled by living organisms decomposing the organic matter you supply. These are the bacteria, fungi, and earthworms. You MUST give these organisms adequate water to keep them happy.

– Brown Stuff

Brown stuff is dead organic matter, i.e. dead plants. Brown stuff is needed in compost because it supplies high levels of carbon. Brown stuff includes dead leaves, pine needles, and other dead plant material you rake up in the garden. It also includes paper. To drive home why this is so, ask the kids this question, “What is paper made from?” Answer: TREES! or less frequently, other types of plants. So, paper is highly processed dead plants. However, you should limit the amount of paper since it is so high in carbon (much higher than dead plants from your garden). You can also add human hair (hair from hair brushes, hair cuts, or shaving) and pet hair.

– Green Stuff

Green stuff is living organic matter. Brown stuff is needed in compost because it supplies high levels of nitrogen. Green stuff includes grass clippings and weeds you pull from your garden where the plant material is still alive. Green stuff also includes food scraps like the ribs from leafy greens, peelings from potatoes and fruit, coffee grounds, tea, etc. Remember, the paper coffee filters and tea bags can be added too for more brown stuff. Remind the kids to never include anything on the “Do NOT Include” List, even if it is kitchen scraps.

Getting Your Compost Started

Once you have your holes drilled on all sides of your compost container, you’re ready to have the kids start layering in the ingredients. You don’t need to worry about being really precise here but you do want to keep things relatively equal between brown stuff and green stuff, remembering to only add a small amount of paper due to its exceptionally high carbon content. If you have a lot of paper, you can always start more than one compost.

Start with a layer of rich soil from your garden, or elsewhere. This will add in the necessary microorganisms needed to work their magic. You can tell the kids to look for wiggling earthworms to add too while they’re digging for dirt to add. If they don’t find any worms that day, tell them not to worry. You’ll keep looking elsewhere and add the worms later. Your compost will work without the earthworms because the bacteria and fungi from the soil will do their magic. However, worms speed up the process, plus they’re fun for the kids 🙂

Next, add a layer of brown stuff and then a layer of green stuff. Water the three layers to the point they are moist buy not soaked. Stir the layers a bit but it doesn’t not need to be mixed thoroughly at this point. Repeat this process for at least three layers (or more), leaving at least one fourth to one half of your container empty from the top so you’ll be able to add more stuff like kitchen scraps and garden scraps.

Be sure to cover your new compost with your lid (with holes) so the compost doesn’t dry out too much. Your compost container can go anywhere in your garden but you want it to be near a water source and in a relatively warm area. However, it does not have to be in full sun.

Maintaining Your Compost

On a regular basic, check to make sure the top layer of your compost isn’t drying out. If you find it has dried out, have the kids water the top.

Once a week, stir the compost well to mix the layers. This will allow oxygen to get into all parts of your compost. Since compost is so heavy, you may need to help the kids but let them do as much of this step as possible and praise their hard work.

Take pictures of your compost on a weekly basis. This will help the kids document what changes they are seeing. Consider having the kids keep a compost diary or start an online blog about the compost to describe the changes they see and post their pictures. Give them a magnifying glass to view the decomposition up close and personal!

Gently Remind the Kids

The last thing you want is to make composting is a chore! Keep it fun and interesting so it will be something the kids remain excited to do. If they accidentally put something in the rubbish removal bin that could have gone in the compost, gently remind them to rescue the item(s) and take it to the compost without actually chiding them. Also, if needed, gently remind the kids each week to stir the compost to put in new oxygen and check it periodically to make sure it’s still moist, especially during warm weather.

Reap the Rewards

Once your compost has turned into rich organic soil (a few months to several months), let the kids use the compost to plant something special in your garden! For example, if they like a certain kind of flower, have them dig a hole in the ground (or use containers), fill it with the compost they themselves helped create, and plant these flowers! You could do the same with cherry tomatoes or perhaps a blueberry bush!

Please Share Your Results WithClearabee

Clearabee is an ecofriendly on demand rubbish removal company that serves the entire UK. Part of Clearabee’s core mission is to promote recycling projects that keep rubbish out of landfills. Please post your compost pictures and written reports about your compost progress on Clearabee’s Facebook page and or send Clearabee short updates on their Twitter feed.

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