Banbury Community Action Group

News for June

Green waste: brown binIn our last News, we chatted gardening, and about things grow-your-own. Growing veggies is bound to result in all manner of green stuff left over.  So now we thought it might be useful and interesting to send round some ideas and information about waste, and green waste in particular.Food waste“Did you know that in Oxfordshire 30% of the average rubbish bin is made up of food? And most of this could have been eaten.” Oxfordshire County Council, Reduce and recycle your food wasteThat’s shocking.Clearly, it’s best for the planet to reduce the quantity of food wasted: better still is to eliminate food waste altogether! Careful planning and a flexible approach to using up leftovers can prevent most food waste, but if the worst DOES happen and you find you do have unwanted food, then home composting is the most environmentally friendly option for most of it. Some food waste is, of course, pretty inevitable anyway – apple cores, banana skins… Luckily, most of it can compost. 
Home compostingTime on your hands? Time to start a compost heap!Ingredients: you’re looking for a mix of:The Greens – veg peelings, outer salad leaves, fruit scraps, banana skins, old cut flowers, end-of-season bedding plants..The Browns – twigs, hedge clippings, shrub prunings, crushed egg shells, paper towels, plain cardboard, toilet roll tubes..  Cut the stuff up small to speed the composting process.Exclude: cooked food unless it’s plain boiled veg, or unless you are expert in the art of composting. Using it risks attracting vermin, creating bad smells, harbouring pathogens, or it just not composting down.Method: build up the heap layer on layer, Greens and Browns. Try one of these sites for tips and ideas:Eden project Garden OrganicOf course, there’s plenty of other sites, too, and loads of YouTube videos. Cooking time: somewhere around 6 to 18 months depending on the individual conditions and material used.Enjoy! Don’t leave the dark crumbly magic sitting there – treat the garden to generous helpings, on beds, borders, in tubs… It’s a soil tonic, provides a wealth of nutrients, and helps conserve soil moisture.There’s endless options for what to use as a container for your heap.Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
If you have plentiful material to compost, try this neat idea: build your compost heap up in a builders’ bulk bag, and once the composting is complete, roll down the top and use the bag as a veg patch. Courgettes, marrows, pumpkins, squash and tomatoes will all flourish on the rich, moisture-retaining contents.A smarter-looking, more scavenger-proof alternative is to purchase a proper composting bin. Oxfordshire County Council promotes home composting as an environment-friendly option for green waste disposal, so offers discounted bins. These can be bought through Get Composting. Call 0844 571 4444 quoting ref OXF 12L.Don’t forget that super Freegle is here – back up and running within COVID-19 guidelines. You could try your luck and put out a ‘Wanted’ ad. to help unite you with a no-longer-needed bin. On the other hand, you could ‘Offer’ your bin if you have one, should you find home composting is not for you, and let someone else give it a go. Or there may be other things posted on the site that you could re-purpose: perhaps wood and pallets as the start for creating your own designer-bin.A note on coffee groundsThe jury seems to be out on coffee grounds: are they good for the garden, or are they not? Before lock-down, Waitrose offered coffee grounds from its café on a ‘help yourself’ basis, for use in the garden. No doubt other places did/do too. An online search throws up a range of theories as to whether coffee grounds are beneficial as a mulch, or as a compost ingredient, or whether the caffeine they contain acts to inhibit plant growth.Can anyone shed light on this? Please let us know if you can!  A note on tea bagsUsed tea leaves are perfect as an addition for the compost heap. Those home composters who are in the 96% of people who make their tea using tea bags rather than loose tea (loose tea makes far tastier tea), however, will know that tea bags often do not. This is because many brands package their tea in bags that contain plastic (and many include bleaches as well). The composition of tea bags differs surprisingly brand to brand: some will readily compost; some need the conditions provided by industrial scale composting to break down (so should go into the food waste caddy or Brown Bin); while some are suitable only for household waste (yep, the Green Bin).Can tea bags be composted
Replenish Project“Feed our planet not our bins”Our mother CAG, CAG Oxfordshire, manage the County Council funded project, “Replenish”. Replenish works through a network of volunteer ambassadors to support the people of Oxfordshire to grow and cook nutritious food with zero waste. Check out their website to see the amazing work they do; subscribe to their newsletter bursting with seasonal ideas; or e-mail their super-helpful project officer.Replenish  Subscribe to Replenish 
Green waste recyclingIf food waste and green waste is put it in the general domestic waste wheelie bin, it goes to landfill where it will decompose anaerobically and give off the powerful greenhouse gas, methane. For organic matter which is best not composted at home – like most cooked food waste – and for those households where composting is not an option, the Cherwell District Council Brown bin garden and food waste collection offers the next best option. Cherwell DC combines its collection of food waste and garden waste into a single bin which has a fortnightly collection. They will supply a small caddy for indoor use to assist collecting the food waste, and recommend the use of compostable corn starch caddy liners for ease of transferring the food waste to the main Brown wheelie bin.Cherwell DC rubbish & recyclingWhere food waste is collected separately (Cherwell offer business collections), it goes through a process called anaerobic digestion which uses microorganisms in an oxygen-free environment to break the waste down. The waste is processed in a series of large vats where it is heated and stirred for 72 days. Methane is given off which is collected and used to generate electricity on-site which is then fed into the National Grid.  The solid matter left in the ‘digestors’ breaks down into a nutrient-rich compound which is pasteurised, stored, then used as a valuable fertiliser for land regeneration.Brown bin garden waste is composted, so when filling your bin think ‘organic matter’? Yes? In it goes.  (There’s a couple of exceptions, though, like no pets’ poo, thanks; and paper and card is recycled separately).  So that’s no stones, rubble or soil, but yes to pets’ bedding straw, grass clippings, bones and leftovers, etc. Brown bin contents go to an in-vessel local composting facility. The contents can’t be composted in a traditional open site because the garden waste is combined with the food waste. The in-vessel system means the temperature can be kept higher and sustained for longer, to ensure the waste is fully broken down and pathogens are destroyed. It also puts an end to any perennial weeds. The end product is sold on commercially, for soil improvement projects and to local farmers.There’s plenty of interesting info from Oxfordshire Recycles, the partnership of County and District councils working together to reduce waste. Oxfordshire recyclesPhoto by Patricia Valério on Unsplash
Sad to missA much-appreciated event was scheduled for 1 June that, like so many others, fell off the calendar this year. It was the annual Cherwell District Compost Giveaway. The Giveaway demonstrates the benefits of food and garden waste recycling in a very immediate way: by handing out the results of the collection and composting process.  It is a chance to encourage locals to think about limiting food waste and to get down to home composting, with experts on hand to chat, answer questions, and provide endless enthusiasm.We hope to see it back again in 2021!
By the way…Did your brown bin go without grass cuttings this May as part of the “No Mow May challenge? Hope so!  Leaving the mower in the shed for the month of May is great for wildlife. Instead of all that laborious cutting, rejoice in the abundance of flora and fauna that will thrive where otherwise there would be just plain, boring, lawn grass.No mow May challengeDid you count the May flowers on your lawn? Hope you did! Don’t forget to send in the results to Plantlife to help their research, and find out your lawn’s own personal nectar score.Plantlife – every flower counts Photo by Jonas Weckschmied on Unsplash
Community FridgeHaving done amazing work in supplying food parcels over the last couple of months, the wonderful Fridge is now open again. Check out opening hours, and provisions available, on their Facebook page:Banbury Community FridgeSupport this fantastic community facility in helping to reduce food waste.Food banksIf you stocked up well at the start of lockdown, it might be worth checking the ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates of anything you haven’t yet used. Why not consider donating any items that are getting close in date, and that you don’t think you’ll get round to using in time, to the Food Bank. Tesco Extra, Lockheed Close; Sainsbury’s on Oxford Road and the The People’s Church, Horsefair have collection points.Banbury Food BankPhoto by Peter Wendt
Count yourself a Repair Activist?Then you might like to book in to any of a series of events being held for the (online) FixFest UK 2020:Fixfest UK 2020
Something different: Swift bird surveyIf you know your swifts from your swallows, you might be interested in helping out with a survey of the Town’s swift nesting sites. This valuable project aims to map all the sites where these charismatic birds choose to nest and raise their young. Sadly, swift numbers have seen a dramatic decline recently, and locating such sites will help with monitoring and safeguarding the local population.  The birds fly the 6,000 or so miles from central and southern Africa to come here to nest, so it seems only right to ensure, in true Banbury fashion, that they are made welcome when they get here.Email the Cherwell Swifts projectTake a look at the BTO ID video guide for advice on how to identify swifts, swallows and house martins, one from the other.British Trust for OrnithologyPhoto by Roger Wyatt