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Composting frequently asked questions (FAQs)

This page contains the most popular frequently asked questions and queries about home composting.

If you cannot find the answer here then please call the home composting helpline on 0845 6000 323.

Why have the contents of my bin gone all slimy and smelly?

You are not putting enough “browns” into your bin. These are materials like cardboard and paper, for example, insides of toilet rolls, cereal packets, scrap paper, envelopes (with any plastic windows and gummed edges removed).

If you screw these materials up into balls and add them to your bin they will soak up the moisture and retain the balance of your bin. If things are very bad think about investing in a bag of wood shavings from a pet shop and mixing it in. Don’t forget to keep adding cardboard, paper and any other “browns” that you have available.

Won’t my compost bin attract rats and mice?

It should not as long as you are putting the right things in, or leaving the wrong things out. Adding meat and fish to your compost bin for example may attract vermin, as will placing the bin in a very secluded place close to a river or stream.

The best way to avoid this from happening is to put your bin in a place where it will be disturbed on a regular basis (as rats and mice are very shy and hate humans). Add uncooked fruit and vegetable peelings from the kitchen. For a list of what not to put into your bin see the How to compost section or visit Recycle Now

Why do flies come out every time I open the bin?

These are fruit flies and are not only harmless but are doing an important job in your compost bin. They eat the fruit acids and speed up the composting process. If you really cannot stand them then there are two things you can do:

  • Leave the lid off the bin for a couple of days. Larger insects will come and lay eggs in the bin, the grubs from which will eat the fruit flies. The local bird population will also have a free feast.
  • Cover the fruit inside the bin with damp newspaper/kitchen roll or soil. This stops the smell getting out and attracting the flies in the first place.

I have had my bin for years, why has it not filled up?

If you're bin has not filled up and you've been putting materials into it for a long time, then things are actually working as they should be.

Check your bin to see if you have compost at the bottom (it should be dark brown in colour, be damp but not wet and look very similar to soil with no obvious bits in it).

My garden is really small, how do I find room for a compost bin?

Most gardens will take a compost bin as they only take up a small area on the ground. If you feel that the bins would be too intrusive in a small garden then plant it in a far corner away from the house. Maybe grow a plant up it or in front of it. You'll be amazed how quickly it starts to blend in.

What do I do with the compost at the end?

There are a number of things that you can do with your finished compost including using it to pot up plants with, top dressing and feeding your lawn, simply leaving it in the bin and letting it disappear or giving it to a friend/neighbour who does garden.