Home composting

Give Waste a New Life

Discover how you can reap the rewards of home composting.

Composting is the natural breakdown of organic material (kitchen and yard waste) by bacteria and fungi (micro-organisms). Besides reducing the amount of household garbage you produce, composting also produces a nutrient-rich soil that can be used for gardening and landscaping.

There are many different ways to compost at home. The most popular is the pre-manufactured backyard composter but there are drum composters, cone composters, homemade composters and just plain heaps! You don’t even need a backyard to compost – you can compost indoors using red wiggler worms, this method is called vermicomposting.

Businesses and apartment building managers can compost on site too! It might take a little extra effort to find a suitable system, but small and medium scale on-site composters are available on the market for those who wish to do a little research.

If you are already home composting, congratulations! If not, please consider it. City staff will be available to support your efforts!

Are you interested in buying a composter?

You can purchase a composter at these two locations. View our fees page for pricing.

Composter dimensions – 82 centimetre diameter by 82 centimetres high (33 x 33 inches); Capacity – 300 litres (80 gallons); Weight – 15 pounds.

Composter dimensions – 82 cm diameter by 82 cm high (33 x 33 inches); Capacity – 300L (80 gallons); Weight – 15 pounds.

Waste Resource Innovation Centre

110 Dunlop Drive, Administration Office – location map
Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Closed weekends and holidays.
Accepted Methods of Payment: Cash, Debit, Mastercard and Visa

ARC Industries (Year-round) – prices may vary

8 Royal Road C – location map 
519-824-7147
Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Closed weekends and holidays
Accepted Methods of Payment: Cash, Debit, Mastercard and Visa

For more information

Solid Waste Resources
519-767-0598
TTY: 519-826-9771
waste@guelph.ca

Backyard composting

Backyard composting reduces the amount of organic waste requiring collection and processing, and returns important organic matter and nutrients to the soil, improving soil structure and water retention capabilities.

Getting Started

The secret to backyard composting is all in the recipe! All you need is a 50:50 ratio between ‘brown’ and ‘green’ materials, a little patience and some help from the sun.

Brown materials are carbon based. They include dried grass and plants, leaves, sawdust, wood chips, straw, dried bread, shredded newspaper and coffee filters.

Green materials are nitrogen based. They include fruit and vegetable peels and cores, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells and garden waste.

To set up your backyard composter

  1. Choose an area with good drainage, loosen soil underneath so earthworms can move up
  2. Put down about 4 inches of brown material for good air circulation
  3. Add 2-3 inches of green material and spread evenly
  4. Cover green material with 4 inches of brown to reduce fruit flies, odours and other pests
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until your composter bin is full
  6. Keep mixture about as moist as a wrung-out sponge
  7. Mix often – the more you mix, the quicker the compost!

Do not put in diseased plants, pet manure or litter, meat, fish, dairy products, etc.

When your compost is finished, it will be very dark and crumbly with a distinctive earthy smell. Use it on flower beds, houseplants and starter boxes, vegetable gardens, around trees or shrubs and as a lawn dressing when sifted.

Please note: Composters are regulated under the Property Standards By-law.

Orange you interested in composting? Download our composting brochure that will help you start your own backyard composter.

Orange you interested in composting?

Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting uses earthworms to turn organic wastes into high quality compost.

Vermicomposting is a great composting alternative for residents with limited space – vermicomposters can be set up on your balcony or under your kitchen sink.

For more information about vermicomposting, including how to start your own vermicomposter, check out these online resources:

Composting tips

To be a master composter, you should understand what composting is all about.

Essentially, there are microscopic bacteria and fungi (microorganisms) naturally present on your compostable materials which do all the work. That’s why food sometimes goes rotten even when you don’t want it to. The process of composting is like being a germ farmer – you must provide all the microorganisms with everything they need so that they will thrive, and “decompose” the material quicker. They need air, moisture, and food (the stuff you throw in). Here’s how to maximize success:

  • Ensure there are enough air spaces within the pile, and mix it well and as often as you can (even a neglected pile will compost eventually though)
  • Avoid pockets of only one material type, the more variety the better it’s mixed, the more efficient the process will be
  • ALWAYS keep food scraps covered with “brown” material to avoid odours and pests. Keep a pile of some “browns” nearby to sprinkle on top.

You will be able to gauge the success of your composting by the speed at which it works. A very active pile will compost materials within weeks. Don’t be discouraged at first though, it might take many months before your pile gets very active. Good signs are the size of the pile getting smaller and steam rising from the pile.

If you encounter composting woes like an odour or it’s not working right, give us a call at 519-767-0598 or e-mail waste@guelph.ca – we’re happy to help!

Winter composting

Don’t let the cold weather put an end to your backyard composting efforts. You can compost all year round!

As the temperature drops, materials added to your composter will decompose at a slower rate, and your pile may freeze over the winter. When spring arrives, give your pile a thorough turning to get it active again.

To make room for your winter organics, harvest the finished compost from your unit in the fall. Remember to save some leaves to add to your bin throughout the winter. Kitchen scraps are high in nitrogen and need to be balanced out with some high-carbon materials. Every time you add some kitchen scraps to your bin, throw on a handful of leaves to make sure you have the right mix.

Avoid frequent treks through the snow to your backyard composter by storing kitchen scraps in container indoors and emptying it every few days. Keep a lid on the container to prevent odours from escaping. Kitchen scraps can also be stored in a covered container by your back door and emptied in to your composter in the spring.

Believe it or not, you can also compost indoors with worms this winter. Vermicomposting uses earthworms to turn organic wastes into compost. Vermicomposters can be set up under your kitchen sink, in a classroom or at the office.