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Food security starts at home

Composting by Neil Porter

By Neil Porter - Working at BAPCO

I have just doubled the size of my compost in Awali and now am taking in about 20 bin bags of garden waste a week from Princess Sabeeka park in Awali and grass cutting operations around Awali and turning this into compost for my fellow Awali residents and even now some Bapco colleagues who do not live in Awali.

Its all done on an exchange basis so Husssain gives me tomatoes and seeds and vegetables plants for me to grow in return for his compost, while others like my colleague John bring their bagged cut grass and I give him back compost.

The compost is all organic and the compost area is made of recycled wood found abandoned in Awali and we layer the compost with recycled boxes ( from new Computers, tissue paper, cups etc delivered discarded by the Training Department at the refinery and it is dampened with salt water from Awali’s own water supply.

Even the bags ( old garden Centre compost bags and old flour bags ) have all been collected by the recipients of the compost and once they use the compost the bags are filled and reused.

In terms of the quality of the compost ( it takes about 6 months to rot here in the heat ) is superb and my colleague Hussain did a test last month when he extended his vegetable patch.

He put half his tomatoes in my compost and half in compost from the garden Centre.

The tomatoes using my compost grew three times as fast and as large and now 2 of his colleagues have been asking for compost!


Home composting

What is compost?

Compost is decomposed organic material that is produced when bacteria in soil break down garbage and biodegradable trash, resulting in a product rich in minerals that is an ideal garden or landscaping amendment.

Why compost?

• For one, it’s free. You get to use kitchen waste, lawn clippings, leaves and other vegetation that would otherwise get thrown away.

In fact, you might even save money on landfill fees.

• Potting mixes and soils that are rich in compost produce vigorous plants regardless of whether you’re growing vegetables, growing herbs or organic rose gardening.

• Compost improves garden soil structure, texture and aeration.

• Adding compost improves soil fertility and stimulates healthy root development in plants. The organic matter provided in compost provides food for microorganisms, which keeps the soil in a healthy, balanced condition.

• Compost loosens clay soils and helps sandy soils retain water

• No need to add fertilizer — just mix compost into the soil. Compost contains nutrients that plants need for optimum growth, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. And it’s an especially good supplier of micronutrients that are needed in small quantities such as boron, cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc.

• It feels good. When else can you turn trash into treasure? Plus, scraps stay out of the landfill, reducing your footprint.

How does composting work?

You mix yard and kitchen waste in a pile or bin and provide the right conditions to encourage decomposition.

Let bacteria and fungi go to work recycling waste material into fertilizer.

Mix compost into garden soil or use it on the surface as mulch.

Sounds simple, right? Well it is. Microbes are hard at work chomping down your throwaways. You supply the organic materials, water, and oxygen. The bacteria that are already there decompose the plant material into compost. As the bacteria break down the materials they release heat, which is concentrated in the center of the pile.

So, how do I get started?

Everyone has a different level of commitment when it comes to composting. For some a rot pile in the backyard is good enough. Others want to apply the rigors of science and constant vigilance to ensure the best (and quickest) compost around. Most of us are somewhere in between. Regardless of your level of experience, the internet offers a idea's onwide selection of composting bins, tumblers and supplies to get you started.

Use the steps below as a guideline for how to compost. The more you follow them, the better your finished product will be.

1.) Select a site for your pile or bin. To keep your neighbors happy, consider a discreet location. You’ll also want to locate a spot with good airflow, access to water and partial shade in the summer (to keep the pile from getting too hot), but good sun in the winter (to keep the pile warm).

2.) Choose a bin. You can purchase a composter, or make your own. Rotating bins make turning your treasure easy and keeps animals out, but it is easy to make a workable bin on your own (see How to Build a Compost Bin). One simple method is to track down shipping pallets. Use one for the bottom. Pound in metal support poles and add pallets by slipping them over the support poles to make your bin’s walls.

Make your pile about 3x3x3 feet. This size is big enough to create its own heat, but small enough to turn. If you are using a commercial composter you won’t need to worry about the size.

3.) Add materials. Not everything can go into the compost bin; read on to find out what can and cannot be composted.


Vegetable scraps

Egg shells

Yard waste (lawn clippings, leaves)


Manure (from vegetarian animals)

Coffee grounds and filters


Meat or animal products (bones, fish, eggs, butter, yogurt etc.)

Coal ash

Weeds or weed seeds

Pet droppings

Synthetic chemicals

4.) Monitor temperature, aeration, moisture and the carbon to nitrogen ratio for optimum levels.

i. Temperature

The easiest way to test your compost’s temperature is to stick your hand in the center of the pile. If it is hot or warm — good job. If it is the same temperature as the ambient air, the microbes have slowed down — and so has the composting process.

You can also use a compost thermometer to take your pile’s temperature. A properly working compost pile will heat up to temperatures of 140-160°F. At these temperatures most pathogens and weed seeds are destroyed. When your pile is really “cooking,” it can reach temperatures of up to 170°F.

Note: The composting thermometer (shown here) has three temperature zones on the dial to let you know when to turn the pile, when to add materials and when your compost is finished.

ii. Moisture

The microbes hard at work in your compost pile require just the right amount of water. Too much means organic waste won’t decompose, too little and you’ll kill the bacteria. Compost should feel moist, but not soaking wet — like a wrung out sponge.

Composting works best with 40-60% moisture content. More on monitoring compost moisture here.

iii. Aeration

Everyone needs to breathe, even tiny microorganisms, so make sure enough oxygen is getting into your pile by turning your compost often.

Use a compost aerator or pitchfork to mix your pile. If you are using a compost tumbler, you’ve got it easy. Just crank that lever.

If you are using easily compacted materials (such as ashes or sawdust) mix in coarser materials first. People who build large piles often add tree branches or even ventilation tubes vertically into different parts of the pile to be shaken occasionally, to maximize air circulation.

Tip: A compost aerator makes it easy to turn the pile. Just jab the pointed end into the mix. As the aerator is withdrawn the hinged paddles open out, aerating and mixing the contents — without heavy lifting!

iv. Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio

For perfect compost, maintain a C:N ratio of 25 to 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen, or 25-30:1. If the C:N ratio is too high (not enough nitrogen) decomposition will slow down. If the C:N ratio is too low (not enough carbon) you’ll end up with a smelly pile.

In general things that are brown (dried leaves, newspaper, straw) are higher in carbon than things that are green (vegetable scraps, garden waste, grass clippings).

5.) Mix rich, earthy compost into garden soil, or pile on top of the soil as mulch.

Composting Tips

Here are a few more tips to turn carrot tops (and anything else) into compost more quickly:

1.) Help start a new compost pile with blood meal, cottonseed meal, well-aged manure or compost starter. They are rich in nitrogen and help “fire-up” the microbes responsible for breaking down organic matter into compost.

2.) Chop or shred materials before putting them in the compost pile or bin. The smaller it is, the faster it will break down.

3.) Use a kitchen compost pail or crock for storing food scraps. It will reduce the number of trips you make to the compost pile.

4.) Plants that have been treated with pesticides and/or herbicides (weeds and lawn clippings) should be avoided.

5.) Add a lot to your pile at once, rather than in small doses to encourage the pile to heat up.

6.) Turn, turn, turn. Turning compost will introduce oxygen and speed up the composting process.

7.) Keep you pile or bin in the sun. Microbes are more active when warm.

8.) Activators can get a slow compost heap sped up.

9.) Got compost? When finished it should look, feel and smell like rich, dark soil. You should not be able to recognize any of the items you put in there.

10.) Finished compost is usually less than half the volume of the materials you started with, but it’s much denser.

11.) Apply finished compost to your garden about 2-4 weeks before you plant, giving the compost time to integrate and stabilize within the soil.


Plastic bottle and tops collection for wheelchairs

Initiative by Neil Porter and Aziz @ Bapco

Over the last year they have collected some 20,000 bottle tops, and another 1,000 bottles and finally he got a photo from the person he passes them all on to ( Aziz).

This shows Aziz delivering the January collection to the charity who sell them and the money raised are used to buy wheelchairs adapted for the less able bodied people of Bahrain

The plastic bottles and bottle tops have been collected on ILM courses in Bapco and Tatweer, by former ILM delegates and also by many members of the HR Team , Les Winder and the occupants of the TDD building.

It is great to see so many people contributing, setting up collection points, and going to great lengths to get them into the refinery or dropped off at his home.

Basma has for a year donated space in her prayer room to store the bags and now he has set up a monthly collection by Aziz who kindly delivers the collection to the charity.

Neis just wanted to personally thank each and every one for you for your efforts, and please pass on those thanks to your friends, families and colleagues who I know help.

On behalf of the less able bodied people of Bahrain who benefit from your kind efforts


Ms Vrushali upcycling workshops

Its nice to see you are taking an initiative to promote recycling classes.

I call myself as upcycling enthusiast and try to create useful as well as gift articles from all kind of domestic waste like, plastic; glass, metal newspaper etc.

I have been doing this for last 6 years and have conducted workshops for kids and ladies.

My primary skills are on newspaper weaving and lampshade making.

However I also take workshops on upcycling non bio degradable waste.

For more information about my profile please check my blog

Warm Regarding


"Vrushali J"

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