‘This bin is small and super-efficient, perfect for the urban garden.’ Photograph: Andrew Fox for the Guardian
I have fallen in love with a compost bin. I often start off smitten by the newness of a novel method, but the relationship very quickly becomes one-sided and I end up shouting “you smell” and going back to the ramshackle pallet bin systems.
Then the HotBin came into my life. First off, the HotBin is expensive; it costs £165 for a single bin and it requires a bulking agent in the form of wood chippings or shredded garden prunings. No bulking agent and the bin is just any ordinary bin, with a hefty price tag. However, strike a deal with your friendly local tree surgeon and you’ve entered into a new world of composting.
The HotBin takes all food: chicken bones, pasta, leftover cereal, fish, dairy and anything else that may be crack to rats, but it is secure enough to remain vermin-free. Plus, it takes all your garden waste. It doesn’t smell, it doesn’t leak, it doesn’t require me to tumble, turn, shift, sieve, or stir. It just requires the bulking agent to keep the compost aerated (bulky scrunched cardboard is as good as the wood chips supplied by the tree surgeon).
This HotBin is also sexy – well, for a compost bin. It’s a sleek, matt black box the size of a wheely bin. It is made from very thick polypropylene, the sort used to make car bumpers, and this is its secret weapon. It locks in heat and cooks your compost. Inside the bin the temperature lies somewhere between 40-60C. You know this is happening because you get two thermometers (one to be buried in the compost, one for the lid) and if it gets too hot, you open a valve and let the steam out, which is strangely thrilling.
If you can get it to run at plus 40C consistently, and follow the instructions to the letter, you can compost all your dog and cat poo, too. Despite this heat, worms love the bin, too. And here’s the game-changer: running efficiently, the HotBin’s cycle is 30-90 days. No lie, I made a batch of compost in a month this summer. It was lovely stuff.
The real clincher for me, though, is the space. This bin is small and super-efficient, perfect for the urban garden. Now I don’t need a huge pallet bin set-up, I suddenly have more space to grow in. This, it turns out, is the price of my happiness. Yes, £165 is a lot of money for a bin, but more growing garden is worth every penny.
What if you don’t want to fork out that much? If you have space, nothing beats the recycled wooden pallet bin, but you need at least two and have to be prepared for the workout of turning one into the other. Tumbler bins are rat-proof, but heavy to turn once full. The worm or Bokashi bins are best for food waste in small spaces, but you need somewhere to put the compost – it’s a good one for the balcony gardener. And for the lazy? The Green Cone – just throw in your waste and walk away. There’s no compost, it all rots into the ground.
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