Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Thursday 20 August 2009

Skips, and why I really don't like them.

The roof is now finished on Compost Mansions, and very fine it looks too. Building work is always disruptive but all the craftsmen working here for us were very tidy and helpful and have done a very good job. But the work DID gebnerate a lot of mess and a lot of waste.

When I did a waste free day challenge a few weeks ago, we managed to generate only
20g of landfill waste in a day and 120g in a week INSIDE THE HOUSE, which is pretty good by anyone's standards.....

BUT at the same time. we had 2 SKIPS full of un-reusable, un recyclable stuff from out of our loft work over a period of 8 weeks since the roof work etc started :-(

Which I did not mention. :-(

Most of it was chewed up bits of polystyrene sheet and disgusting dirty, mouldy, wasp nest/ mouse nest/bird nest /dead things filled fibre glass loft insulation dating back from god knows when, it was truly vile and NOT re usable in any way shape or form as far as I could ascertain.

And check I did, dear reader, to see if there was ANY WAY any of it could be recycled

Plus some scraps of wood, too small to re use or recycle, with nails in and all splintered up.

Believe me, we tried to think up ways of using it... (and we are pretty inventive when it comes to re-use here, believe me!) but we failed.

Most of the wood from the loft is going to be re used in one way or another - as a lot of it is 100 year old, untreated timber we are going to burn it as kindling! OR it will be taken to the wood recycling skip at the HWS in Ledbury.

The roof tiles were reused if undamaged and I have rescued any reasonably sized damaged tiles as edging for my raised beds or for use as insect habitats and for doing bug hunts in the Wood. We were also very firm that any replacement roof tiles had to be sourced from second hand reclamation yards, although our wonderful roofing contractor Neil was totally in agreement about this and needed no persuasion!

BUT there were still bits of broken tile and cement which we could not think of a re use....

Compostman has spent a lot of (precious and VERY MUCH not spare..) time taking off nails, bits of iron and zinc roofing "things" from the wood, so we can take them to recycle rather than just binning them in the skip. Lead roofing bits have been kept as they are really very re-usable and useful for making things.

The skip is a "mixed waste" skip and NO ONE is going to sort through it at "the other end" so it is up to us to be mindful of what we throw "away" (But we all know, there is no such place....hmmmm?)

BUT despite all this extra effort on our part, we still filled two skips.

We HAVE only used two small skips, which is apparently very good going (!) for building work of this nature ....but I still felt wasteful every time I walked by it, and saw something I felt I "should" have found another use for, but I couldn't quite think what.

I guess if even Compostman and I can't think of a re use for it all, it probably really IS "waste" and I just have to accept that it IS waste , and move on....But it has been quite hard to live with what is essentially a HUGE dustbin...and KNOW it will all just be tipped into a hole in the ground.


  1. That guilt is part of what drives you to do right by the waste; it drives you to reuse and recycle anything possible, and some things that may seem impossible.

  2. Sounds like you have done your utmost to ensure that what remains is really landfil. You should be proud of yourselves. Lesser people would have dumped the entire lot.

    I found all the materials for my chook house in skips and in building rubble, so I know exactly how much trouble you went to. So many nails were removed from the wood, and I even managed to reuse some of them in the construction. Wombling is great fun, even around your own home!


  3. changing the roof pitch is a major bit of work, it is likely the existing roof and its framing would be entirely lost. It might be possible, depending on the current roof's structure, to salvage some of it. One reason it would for not being able to reuse the existing roof is the lengths of the existing rafters and/or beams in the direction of the slope are fixed, you can't add to them and as the roof slope increases, they would have to get longer, which they can't do. It could be that moving the existing beam and adding some additional ones, you could save some of the roof, but it would depend on the existing and final layouts and how much the slope is increased.

  4. Small pieces of broken tiles and concrete could be used as rubble for drainage in the bottom of plant pots. But if you've got heaps of it...that would have to be a lot of pots!

  5. Try not to feel too guilty, CW. If you have been told that two small skips is very good for work of this time, believe it. Believe that you have done your best, which I am sure is true. No one can be expected to do more than there best, not even you, and as it sounds like you are not in the best of health, go easy on yourself and don't do more than your best . . . or expect anyone else to!

    The woes of this planet are not all your fault, and you certainly seem to be treading as lightly on this Earth as you know how. Keep up the good work, but don't expect more than is reasonable. :)

  6. You're so dedicated to the recycling cause that I'm sure you have no need to beat yourself about this. All of the good you have done surely offsets several times this unavoidable waste. You're an inspiration :-)

  7. Hello peeps!

    Oh dear, this post seems to have come over as sounding angst ridden and guilty !

    I was more appalled that we couldn't find a use for the stuff, as we are so accustomed here to recycle, reuse or otherwise transform things that it was a bit of a shock to suddenly be faced with a load of stuff which we couldn't!

    I wrote this post a few weeks ago when I certainly felt frustrated by being too ill to salvage much more stuff or help Compostman with salvage! But now I have come to the view that these were the first skips we had ever hired despite all the internal work we have done on the house over 12 years (new kitchen, bathroom, remodelling rooms etc) and all the stuff which came out previously was reused, passed on, recycled or re furbished in some way. We didn't hire any skips!

    So we haven't done badly, over the years and a couple of skips isn't such a problem.

    @ Gavin, Some of the removed, treated timbers have been earmarked for a new hen run... :-)

    @ Christe, The reason all the roof timbers had to come off was because we had a breathable felted membrane put on where before there was just battens and then tiles. So the old battens came off and had to be replaced with new ones over the felt.

    @ Joanne, I have got a huge pile of bits of tile, concrete etc for draining plant posts...but its a question of " how big a rubble mountain can I find space for"....

  8. It is so good to hear about someone so dedicated to recycling.


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