Composting frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Home Composting

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.

1. The contents of my bin have 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.

2. Won't my compost bin attract rats and mice?

It should not as long as you are putting the right things in, or rather 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). And by only adding uncooked fruit and vegetable peelings from the kitchen. For a list of what not to put into your bin see the How to? section or go to the Recycle Now (opens in a new window) website.

3. Every time I open the bin, hundreds of little flies come out.

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 smells getting out and attracting the flies in the first place.

4. I have had my bin for years and it's not working as it has not filled up.

This is a common complaint from people, however if you have been putting materials into the bin for a long time then things are obviously working as the bin has not become full.

If you have not had a look at the bottom of the bin then check it 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).

5. I haven't got space for a bin as my garden is really small. Anyway what would I do with the compost at the end? I'm not a gardener.

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 think about planting it in the far corner away from the house and maybe growing a plant up it or in front of it. You'll be amazed how quickly it starts to blend in.

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.