With Katrina Forstner, an enthusiastic gardener, bee keeper and educator, about successful collaboration on a community level and about how she became a ShareWaste superhost
Katrina has been one of the first hosts and has already connected with more than 20 neighbours through the ShareWaste app. She loves gardening and is passionate about native bees. Katrina has expanded her composting hub with support from the City of Darebin, her local council, by acquiring a large 400L compost bin to be able to accommodate more organic material, allowing even more people to get involved. Her current mission is to weigh the amount of waste she and her donors have diverted from landfill and calculate this into greenhouse gases saved to demonstrate the benefits of a local composting hub.
How long did it take for the first person to connect with you after you registered as a host?
It was a couple of months before I connected with someone because I registered in the early days of ShareWaste. I now have a couple of enquiries every week.
How often do your donors come and how much organic material do they bring?
Some are definitely weekly regulars, such as Suzan, an apartment dweller who drops off her small 3kg compost bucket on her regular pram walk. Others come once a fortnight and with two large 10L buckets from their shared household. I've got someone who comes once every two months with his compost and cat litter in two buckets, but the contents weigh at least 20 kilos combined, which is similar to my two different Bokashi system users. My average weekly amount of saved organic waste so far has been around 35 Kilos and counting!
My average weekly amount so far has been around 35 Kilos and counting!
That’s amazing! How does the drop-off work? Is there any general system for all your scraps donors?
All my donors work on a similar system: they all bring the same bucket and pick up an empty bucket which I have emptied and rinsed out them stacked by the front door. Some of my users let me know when they are dropping by—especially Bokashi donors so I can rinse their bucket straightaway. Sometime we have a chat, look in the garden for herbs and chillies. Most are just dropping their buckets off at their convenience.
What containers do people use to collect their kitchen scraps?
The white food grade buckets which were donated to me by The Compost Depot, a community composting organisation or collected by donors from local bakeries, middle eastern shops or even plasterers have a fully sealable lid and sturdy handle so I know they can last the distance and don't create any smells at my donors or my place when full. We've got a decal label on some of the lids with Dos and Don'ts tips which helps first time users.
Do you know why they don’t recycle their scraps at home and rather chose to connect with you?
A lot of my donors are in the rental market, or apartment dwellers or just don't have the capacity or space for looking after a compost bin. One share household hasn't got support from their landlord, but most come from new apartment blocks a ten minute walk away.
I often see some of the regulars around and it's fostered a nice sense of community.
Have you made any contact with them outside the app?
Yes if we catch each other by chance at the front door, I usually check if they'd like some herbs or surplus goodies from my garden. Some of the kids love to visit the chickens of course or just enjoy seeing the flowers. I often see some of the regulars around and it's fostered a nice sense of community.
How do you use the donated scraps?
I've got four compost bins and a worm farm and I am so grateful to have homemade compost for my edible garden. I obviously generate a lot of compost and have been creating a bee friendly garden with lots of pollinator attracting flowers. It's been great as I've also supplemented my bins with coffee grounds delivered for free by Reground coffee. Coffee grounds are an amazing activator in my bins so my compost can be ready in as little as six weeks.
I've got four compost bins and a worm farm and I am so grateful to have homemade compost for my edible garden.
Are you aware of any concerns donors may have regarding the drop-off or meeting the host for the first time?
Some donors like to meet face to face just to be familiarised with the system, especially if they're new to composting. Some of my Bokashi users have felt a bit embarrassed at the smell and sight of their bins. I just laugh as we do a quick rinse of the empty bucket with the hose and let them know that my worms love partially decomposed food scraps! The smell is just a part of the natural process.
Did you as a host have any concerns?
At first I thought there'd be a lot of compost contamination such as plastics, but my donors have been awesome and I feel the compost tips on the stickers from the Compost Depot have been really useful. There's the occasional fruit sticker, something that I'm guilty of too, but generally all the food scraps have been cut up, the lids have been fully sealed on the buckets and now everyone has been enthusiastic in writing down their full bin in a set of scales by the front door.
Have you compost bins ever reached their full capacity?
Since the City of Darebin has supported our communal composting hub, I've been able to place a 400L compost bin in the front garden as an overflow which not only enables my full compost bins to compost, but enables the system to run smoothly if I'm away for a period of time as donors can just empty their bins themselves.
What do you like most about ShareWaste?
I like that I can reach out to people in my local neighbourhood who are happy to drop off their scraps to me and help my garden flourish. I like that most of the donors are passionate at making a change by diverting their kitchen scraps from landfill and don't live too far away so are able to come on foot, or on the way to the shops as part of their weekly routine. It's really easy to answer questions either through the ShareWaste app or as a reply email.
Also don't be afraid to ask for extra carbon such as paper scraps, egg cartons and even clean pet litter because you'll need to keep your bins in balance with all the nitrogen rich organic scraps.
Do you have some useful tips for new donors?
Have a system that you don't have to be around for which keeps it easy for your donors. I find the swapping a full bucket for an empty really works so keep it simply with what type of container you select. I've upcycled kitchen catering buckets used for yoghurt, cheese etc that have a good sealable lid and easy to hold handle. Also don't be afraid to ask for extra carbon such as paper scraps, egg cartons and even clean pet litter because you'll need to keep your bins in balance with all the nitrogen rich organic scraps. I like to meet donors and feel the love of the ShareWaste community and feel it's great to give back with some garden herbs. My next step would be to make a little herb garden accessible for donors to pick a few herbs.
Thank you, Katrina, for sharing your experience and valuable insights:)
Want to know more, head to Katrina's site on native bees