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HOTBIN Mega - Can I add food waste?

Tony Callaghan 10/08/2022

HOTBIN Mega - Can I add food waste?

Can I put food waste in the HOTBIN Mega?

Yes.  We expect many customers to use the HOTBIN Mega for both garden waste and kitchen/cooked food waste.

Here are some tips:

  • Ensure you pick up all kitchen waste accidentally dropped around the bin. Food on the floor is a magnet for vermin
  • Empty the caddy of food waste in the centre of the bin – this is where it is the hottest
  • Stir in or pull some of the existing waste over the cooked food waste – this ensures it quickly starts to compost
  • Monitor your bin moisture level

Moisture Level

Food waste has high levels of moisture. To compost it successfully, it often needs mixing with a dry material like shredded paper.  Wet food waste can also quickly collapse into a mushy layer that prevents airflow and hence turns anaerobic and smelly.  Wet food waste often needs a bulking agent like wood chip to aid airflow. (Those familiar with the HOTBIN 200 Mk2 will be very familiar with this advice)

In the warm summer weather the compost in the HOTBIN Mega can dry out, so the bin will need additional water. Keep a watering can full and close by ready to re-wet the compost (tepid 15-20C is better than cold from the tap at 5 - 10C). The compost needs to be damp to the touch NOT wringing wet.    (Those familiar with the MK2 HOTBIN will spot that re-wetting is unheard of in the 200).

Do I still need to add shredded paper and woodchip bulking agent?

If you are adding plenty of garden waste, it is unlikely you will need to add shredded paper. However, it will not do any harm. For example, we add a handful of shredded paper into the base of the kitchen caddy – partly to balance the wet mix that we used to add into the HOTBIN 200, and partly because it stops the bottom of the caddy from developing a sticky mush on base that needs cleaning. We have continued to add shredded paper and now add the caddy directly into the Mega Bin.

When adding typical garden materials, you will not need a wood chip bulking agent. The bits of stick and stem in the waste will create the airflow channels

Can I use the HOTBIN Mega ONLY for food waste?

Technically yes, the bin is capable of handling just food waste if it is correctly balanced. But we do not recommend the Mega bin is used only for food waste. The volume of cooked food waste needed to maintain hot composting in a Mega bin would suggest volumes of food waste associated with something like a café or small hotel.

Outside of the domestic home composting situation, there are many other practical day-to-day things and Environmental Agency regulations that make it challenging. Experience indicates the workload to manage is often overlooked and the problems that need addressing quickly to keep things on track are not addressed. You should consider all the impacts and draw up an operational work plan before attempting.  Here are some things to consider:

  • Do you have enough shredded paper?
  • Do you have enough wood chips?
  • Do you have enough time for the staff/team to properly manage the shredding, mixing, loading, monitoring and unloading
  • Do you have time to mix and balance the materials?
  • Are you sure the cooked food waste is free from non-recyclables (e.g. labels, plastics, etc)
  • Are you 100% sure you can source separate all cooked meats and associated ABPR-controlled foodstuff?

Worst case: your Mega bin will have 500 Kg of food waste that moves into an anaerobic mush. This requires someone to open the bin, and dig through to add bulking agent and a drying compostable material (e.g. shredded paper). Not a task many are willing to take on. 

There are also a number of Environmental Agency regulations that become relevant. Few people know this – but All waste processing is regulated by the Environmental Agency. It just so happens the EA has a “relaxed” and "broad" guideline approval that allows for home composting. As you increase the volume and especially when you are looking at catering food waste the rules change and get stricter.  There are organisations dedicated to helping with community-type schemes, but you will need to check and address the following:

  • You are compliant with where the compost you make is used. Our summary (noting we are not legally able to advise): only on your private land, only on land attached to or near the compost bin. It cannot be passed to another person, transported or sold. Fall outside of these rules and you need an EA exemption certificate (special type of approval based on your situation) or a full compost site licence.
  • You are complaint with the ABPR regulations around meat and related processed animal products. Our summary (noting we are not legally able to advise): you cannot compost them, you would need a compost licence and approved compost system).

In summary: the large-scale addition of food waste into the HOTBIN Mega needs careful consideration and planning.

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