Restaurant Compost Update

by Daisy on 03/15/2015

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As I wrote about before in this post, I’m composting the kitchen scraps of a restaurant in town. Every Friday I get a wheelbarrow full of pineapple skins, shiitake mushroom stems, spoiled avocados, tomato trimmings, corn shucks and cobs, kale stems, spent tea leaves, onion skins, and the like. It’s high quality stuff. Every time I get a new load, I think of what a good thing it is to make use of it, and think of all the great restaurant (and home) scraps being landfilled.

I’ve been layering it in my compost bin with mulched leaves, but I haven’t done a very good job of it. It’s much too much greens vs. browns, so today I decided to fix that.

One side of my two-bin compost system was all leaves. They weren’t doing anything sitting there because they were far too dry. A dry pile of leaves will sit there for years and do little more than settle a bit. I shoveled it all out into a pile next to the bin and started layering it with the restaurant compost which was in the other side of the bin. Peeyoo! Disturbing the anaerobic pile in the sunshine really brought the odor to the surface! I put in a little of the dry leaves, dampened them with rainwater from the recent rains that my kids had collected in every container on the premises for some reason.

This may be the first time their shenanigans actually served a purpose.

Making sure not to leave any dry pockets, I kept layering until the two sides were combined on one side in a big steaming pile of awesome. The bad smell was gone, and it would heat up nicely. With an empty side, I can transfer it over to “turn” it and speed up the composting time. Of course I’ll have to put the incoming scraps someplace else in order to leave a free side, so I’ll have to decide if I really want to turn the pile or just leave it there for the long term. Maybe now would be a good time to try trenching it into some of my garden beds? I’ll let you know if I decide to try that.

I’m really enjoying the composting partnership, and I think it’s something worth pursuing if you think you might be able to persuade a restaurant to do this with you. The volume I’m getting is just right for me, and I love the content of the compost. With a few exceptions, such as the plastic labels they put on pineapples these days and the occasional plastic straw, almost everything is compostable.

Although I did get this last week:


Some sort of labeler? Anybody know what this is?

I love my free compost, and I love that it’s helping a restaurant become greener. If you’re doing this or start doing this, I’d love to hear about it!



{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

G Morgan March 15, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Definitely a labeller or a dater. And there is probably an employee that got into trouble by losing it.
They are washable, so if you got it back to wherever you got the compost-ables, they can still use it.

G Morgan March 15, 2015 at 1:49 pm

I was going to say, before the labeller/dater/ bag sealer thingy came up, that if you have room, you may want to have a third bin. The first is for the fresh stuff. It builds up ‘so high’ and by putting it into the 2nd bin, you are turning it. More fresh stuff goes into the 1st bin and when it gets high enough, the 2nd bin is turned again into the third bin, the first bin is turned into the now empty 2nd bin and your 1st bin is ready for more fresh stuff. When #1 bin is ready to flip, the third bin should be trenched into the garden or pushed aside to let the 2nd bin have some space (do not just throw bin #2 on top of what is in bin 3 – the good stuff will be on the bottom and hard to get at).
Sorry for the length of this, but it has always worked for me. Time makes good compost, even if there are labellers, etc. in it (ha!).

Sharon March 17, 2015 at 5:05 am

Your labeler is a Monarch (brand) pricing gun. (labeler) I’m curious as to what a restaurant would need with one of them, unless they are selling things retail also. In any rate…….they cost about $150-200 brand new…… I’m sure that they would be happy to get it back! I’d also like to know the back story on how it ended up in the compost bucket to start with! LOL

cbranchven March 17, 2015 at 5:31 am

Hi there – I’d love to contact you but I can’t find an e-mail address? Thanks!

Victoria March 17, 2015 at 9:18 am

First, I have got to say I love that you are composting and helping to keep waste out of the landfills! the benefits of compost on gardens are amazing and well documented. A great book that I just finished reading is Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis. They have a follow up book called Teaming with Nutrients. Both great reads for the organic gardener.

I would suppose many of your readers eat and grow their own organic food. We do so at our homestead and due to some family members with autoimmune diseases, we are very strict with what we add to our food chain. If you are adding compost from a source that is not organic to your organic compost pile, you may be introducing GMO proteins to your compost pile and ultimately to your garden. While GMO’s are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA, there is a growing movement that would question their safety. There are also studies that would suggest that GMO’s play a big part in many diseases. Something to think about.

AmyK March 17, 2015 at 9:30 am

You are missing out on a great opportunity for free chicken food. Plus they will break this stuff down into great compost WAY faster than piling it up with leaves. Or better yet, throw the leaves into the chickens also. That’s what I do. Saves on feed costs too! I don’t worry about “unsafe” things. The chickens know what they want and don’t want to eat. If they don’t eat it (avocado peels, etc) then it will still break down faster as the chickens poo is is hot. Check out my blog for ideas.

Debi March 18, 2015 at 2:51 am

Once I tried composting. I didn’t get too far; only had a tub of leaves and grass clippings. However, I made “compost tea” from it once. All I did was pour in some water, let is soak an hour or so, and then strained it out. Then I poured it into my roses. They loved it!

Mary Williams March 18, 2015 at 4:08 am

Direct composting is much easier than the turning thing. Just dig a trench (without disturbing roots) and dump the kitchen scraps; then, scoop soil over and mix a little covering it. Takes about 2 weeks for those little critters in the soil to turn it into fantastic soil. Since the garden has very little in it during winter, it is a perfect time to do this. Try it; you’ll like it.

Daisy March 19, 2015 at 7:16 am

Mary Williams–I’m definitely going to try that. You make it sound irresistible!

Daisy March 19, 2015 at 7:18 am

Debi–I’ve never made compost tea, but I hear great things. On my to-do list for this summer!

Daisy March 19, 2015 at 7:22 am

AmyK–Yes, I wish I could. The only thing keeping me from it is the eggshells in the stuff from the restaurant from factory farm chickens. I don’t want to risk them getting anything from them. Thinking about asking the restaurant to think about separating it, but not sure I would still be completely confident it never happens–it’s a habit that’s hard to break!

Daisy March 19, 2015 at 7:23 am

Victoria–Food for thought! Thanks.

Daisy March 19, 2015 at 7:24 am

cbranchven–You can contact us at littlehousemail(at)gmail(dot)com!

Daisy March 19, 2015 at 7:27 am

Sharon–Yes, I was wondering about that myself. It’s possible it came by accident with one of their produce deliveries and they passed it along somehow to me! I’ll check with the restaurant to see what they can do to find the owner. Thanks for the info, wow, those are expensive!

Daisy March 19, 2015 at 7:28 am

G Morgan–Yes, I’d love to have a third bin. I’ve got it on my (long) to-do list. I’m wondering what I’ll find in the mix next–the adventure continues!

Daisy March 19, 2015 at 7:29 am

G Morgan–I’ll run it over to the restaurant to see if they know anything about it. I’m glad to hear it’s washable.

Victoria March 19, 2015 at 10:46 am

Regarding compost tea…..we brew our own with a homemade compost tea brewer we built. Directions can be found on you tube and other sites and can be made rather inexpensively. A
5 – gallon bucket for small brews works as well but we use so much instead of fertilizers and pest spray that the compost tea brewer works well for us.

Compost tea can be sprayed on your soil all year round to add microbes (beneficial living organisms) to the soil even when nothing is growing. Compost tea can also be foliar sprayed on your plants throughout the growing season and it is a natural pest repellant, so no need for any pest control, a wonderful thing for our organic gardens!

We happen to raise llamas for fire control and a side benefit is that llama poo is the best manure available for your compost tea. It is not “hot” like other manures and can be used right out of the llama. We prefer to let it dry on the ground and then run it through a leaf shredder so it easily breaks down. So, if you happen to live near any llamas, you might want to check into getting some for your compost bed or tea brewer. If you live in Northern California and want llama wool or poo, just let me know. We have tons and are happy to share!

Mary March 28, 2015 at 10:41 am

I use that one at my work, Pricing gun, retail value $159. most likely a 2-line label. perfect for if you want to put use-by dates on the stuff in your fridge, or if you have a farmer’s market and sell stuffs.

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