Community composting

Learn how to compost in your neighbourhood with a community composting scheme (CCS). Find out what a CCS does and how to set one up.

How do I compost in my community?

Your neighbourhood can take part in a community composting scheme.

These schemes allow a local community to manage the organic waste they produce. It's environmentally-responsible, not-for-profit and locally-owned.

In the scheme, green waste is produced, processed and re-used in the area where it came from.

Suffolk County Council is keen to encourage communities establish composting schemes. They can offer advice, information and sources of funding, where available and appropriate.

What is a community composting scheme?

Different schemes use a range of methods. However, they tend to share some characteristics.

Community composting schemes: 

  • use a local site for storing and processing garden waste. Compost bins, bays or pads are constructed on this site.

  • collect or deposit garden waste regularly, for example weekly or fortnightly.

  • separate the material into different types (such as grass clippings, weeds, shrubby material) and weigh to monitor (usually required if the scheme is applying for recycling credits) at the community composting site.

  • have a first bin, bay or area that is usually a ‘receiving’ area or bay for fresh garden waste at one end of the site. The material continues to break down and is turned and moved from bin to bin to the ‘finishing’ end of the site.

  • sieve and bag mature compost from the furthest bin, ready for use by the local community. Large pieces that are not yet fully composted are once again fed back through the series of bins to break down further.

  • use light machinery. You can use a shredder to chip larger, woody material to speed up the composting process (as smaller material breaks down faster). This material is usually mixed with all of the other material collected or bagged up as a separate mulch material.

  • have an average composting process time of 6 months to one year, depending on the size of the site. The time depends on several factors, such as:

    • quantity of material

    • how often it is turned

    • getting a correct balance of wet ‘green’ materials such as grass clippings to drier ‘brown’ materials such as woody prunings

  • usually operate on a seasonal basis. Some cease collecting during the winter months and volunteer activity slows accordingly until the start of the next growing season. Volunteer input increases again during the productive spring/summer months.

How to set up a community composting scheme

Our checklist is a suggested approach to setting up a community composting scheme. You may need to swap the order of some tasks, or carry out different tasks at the same time.

Checklist for community composting schemes:

  • Set up an action group or working party. A core group of 2 to 3 enthusiastic volunteers is a good starting point.

  • Investigate site options. This is essential if you do not already have a site. Try and approach community minded farmers and land owners in the first instance.

  • Conduct some market research. Consider:

    • Do people want a community composting scheme for their garden waste?

    • Do they want the finished compost and would they considering paying for it?

    • Can they volunteer on a regular basis?

  • Find out if your parish or town council is interested in supporting the scheme. Check in particular if they can help with publicity and cheaper insurance provision.

  • Advertise and publicise the scheme. It is important that the local community is very much aware of the aims of the scheme and what they can expect from it. They may be a householder using the scheme, neighbours, or part of the community that will benefit from the scheme, and so on. This is also an opportunity to find more volunteers.

  • Choose an operating model. Consider:

    • Do you want to collect from householders (to keep some control over the material received) or are you prepared to receive garden waste at the site (traffic management arrangements will need to be included in your plans)?

    • Do you want to pay a scheme co-ordinator?

  • Decide if you need a constitution. Some schemes have a formal constitution setting out the aims of the scheme and details of who is doing what and how.

  • Choose the site and start pulling together information about how it should be laid out. Pay attention to how close neighbouring residents are, and possible environmental impacts such as noise, traffic and where local streams are. This information will be required by Suffolk County Council Planning team and the Environment Agency.

  • Find out if you need planning permission, licence exemption (Environmental Permitting), recycling credits and insurance.

  • Create a marketing plan. ‘Sell’ the scheme to the community through regular newsletters and articles in the press. This will not only help to publicise it, but it will help persuade people to use it and keep residents updated on the benefits of the scheme, such as money raised and opportunities for local groups. Such a plan may also help get you some grant funding.

  • Recruit more volunteers. You will need a good number of volunteers to ensure that the work load is spread more thinly and over the long-term. This also means better cover for holidays and sickness.

  • Look into funding opportunities and grants. that may be available to help cover the initial set-up costs, such as:

    • the hire/purchase of essential equipment (e.g. a shredder, scales, sieve, wheelbarrow, tools - unless these can be donated to the scheme)

    • insurance

    • personal protective equipment (e.g. gloves, masks, goggles, high visibility vests, etc)

  • Train volunteers and/or staff. All volunteers or staff need to know what they are doing, why, how, when and where. Some volunteers will be happy doing physical work (but will need health and safety training for handling garden waste and compost/ operating shredders etc). Others may prefer to do the accounts and administration, funding applications or prefer to provide publicity for the scheme.

Contact the waste team

You can get in touch with the Waste Team if your community is considering setting up a scheme.

Contact Craig Renton (Suffolk County Council Waste Advisor) at craig.renton@suffolk.gov.uk or 01473 264795.