Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Wednesday 12th March 08

A good start, a peaceful household and as there was a lot of very gusty winds, Gill walked down to the school with the boys. I received a phone call from Catherine, our 'York Rotters' paid worker, offering me the chance to share a lift to the Compost Doctors event at Elvington Airfield in her car. As it was very windy, I accepted this offer, so she picked me up at 9.40, soon after Gill got back looking windswept.

The Compost Doctors event was really interesting and inspiring. The scheme was started about 18 months ago by the Community Recycling Network and the Community Composting network ( and the idea was to promote the composting of catering waste on the site where it is produced, such as schools, hotels, farm shops and prisons, with equipment provided by the project, and expertise provided by a 'compost doctor' who is available to manage the system initially and help train the users so they can take it on.

I was delighted to meet some of the well known people in the Community Composting world, including Nicky Scott from 'Proper Job' in Devon, and Richard Boden from 'WyeCycle' and Mary Goldsworthy from the Community Waste Network, Yorks and Humber, who sends me a regular e-newsletter.

The presentations were really interesting.. Otter Rotters with a Deli and cafe (Joshua's Harvest Store) using a home-made rotating drum composter in a polytunnel, WyeCycle with a farm shop using two 'Keenan Feed Wagon' mixers and a tractor with Power-Take-Off, a 'waste reduction' operation, not to produce good compost, although the material will be used on a field currently growing Xmas trees. Then Dean Community Composting using a home-made double chambered rotating barrel to compost food waste from a restaurant/craft centre/market garden. Then the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust working with The Pear Tree Hotel in Purton using a 'Rocket', my favourite hi-tech mechanical composter although it needs electricity to run it. Proper Job was next, using a very simple but effective insulated rotating composter called a Jora 270 and a 'Scotties Hot Box' for maturation and 'Big Foot Wormeries'.... both these two made in East Yorkshire by the Worm Research Centre. Wiltshire Wildlife Trust came on again to tell of their work with the Bridge Inn with a Jora 270, and an aborted project with Centre Parcs in Longleat. They had started enthusiastically with a 'Big Hanna', a Swedish machine with rotating internal cylinder, temperature sensors and data loggers, making it 'Animal By-Products Regulations' compliant, and odour control biofilter... but a few months into the project, the company had been bought by another company, they'd sacked all the environmental team and then said they didn't want to have the composter as they wouldn't use the compost, partly as the land doesn't need the enriching effect of compost as it is a naturally low fertility area, and adding compost would damage natural biodiversity. So the Big Hanna had come to Elvington Airfield, and we then went to see the machine which was not far away. The Compost Doctor managing this was Steve from the Worm Research Centre, also managing another Big Hanna at a prison in Wetherby, a Jora 5100 in Brough and 'Worm Pads' at a golf course in Boothferry. Busy man!

Lunch was good, lots of it and pretty diverse... sandwiches and chips and salads and lots more savouries and lots of opportunities to network and meet interesting people.

After lunch we had a presentation from the administrator of a new funding stream called 'Local Food', from the Big Lottery, just coming on stream in the next few days and open to food composters as well as many other food projects. There was also a review of the Compost Doctors project, and a look to the future.

I was able to tell the delegates about my forthcoming meeting with Hilary Benn and invite them to suggest ideas for me to suggest to the Minister which would be easy, quick, his decision, and carbon cutting. During the next session... Compost Doctor surgeries, several people came to tell me what they'd like me to ask Hilary Benn, including changes to the way that waste/recycling rates are calculated and changes to the disliked Animal By-Products Regulations and complicated licencing system.

Catherine and I came away just before 4pm and got back into York safely. I was buzzing with the possibilities and all the positivity there...

A happy evening, with my son dealing with an embrio anger attack very well and defusing it somehow.

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