Hungary for community compost

Story by Vanda Seres | @vandusz
Image by Erin Chapman | @erins_illustrations

My studies, my work and even my hobbies revolve around sustainability. I have always tried to do every little bit that I could to reduce my impact on our planet and I was happy to realize that while I lived in London and Paris I had a wide range of possibilities, especially in managing my waste. Unfortunately, Hungary (where I am originally from and I am currently living) has a lot to catch up on in the fight against climate change, even though it is one of the seven countries that already enshrined climate neutrality by 2050 into national law.

Just to set the scene: I am living in central Budapest, the capital of Hungary in a very old building that was probably built in the 1800s. There are around 30 flats in the building with around 100 people living in them. Obviously, all these people produce waste, but what happens to our trash once we empty our bins? Well, hopefully a lot of people recycle their waste, like me, but we can only do as much as the building allows.

We only have there types of bins in the building: for general waste, for paper, and for plastic. I find this very sad, especially because in London we had one big mixed recycling bin so we could put all types of waste in the bins giving the chance to recycle paper, plastic, glass and metal at the same time. In Paris it was again different: our building had separate bins for paper, plastic, glass and that was the first time I saw this brown-lid bin in a residential building: for food waste. This container gave the possibility for residents of the building to separately dispose of their organic waste, such as food scraps from the kitchen. However, I still don’t know what happened to the content of this bin after it was taken by the waste management company.

A great example of food waste disposal was from my colleague at UNEP (shoutout to Manon, I hope she reads this) who had a wormery in her central Parisian flat that produced juice which she used to nurture plants. I have always thought that we can only compost organic waste if we have a garden where we can put the composting bin, since it smells and takes up a lot of room. However Manon motivated me to look for ways to compost my own food waste, even if I live in a flat. I also realized that a huge amount of my waste was organic material such as food scraps, coffee (which I drink everyday) and cat fur. Yep, you read it right: cat fur can be composted together with food scraps. And if you have a cat you know that you have cat fur in every single inch of your house, if not inside your food already.

My composting journey started by doing my own research on ways of composting while living in an apartment with no garden. Of course, the best thing you can do within your own flat is having a worm compost or vermicompost, just like Manon. However, I admit that I wasn’t feeling comfortable with the idea of having worms in my house. I already have a cat as a pet, that is enough for me. So I continued the research until I found a community garden in my neighbouring district.

This community garden gives you the chance to repurpose for your kitchen waste by composting material from your flat without having to keep worms at home. This community garden is about a 17-minute walk away from my flat, and before I went, I read useful information online and also on their website on how to store and bring my waste to the garden, and also on what can be composted in the first place.

Luckily, this community garden has special hours when you can drop off your waste with a volunteer member who guides you and chats with you about best practices. This person even explained that the composting community had a huge debate on cherry pit composting.

I think composting has been given me so much food for thought. I have never considered why you would or wouldn’t be able to compost cherry pits before. Since composting, I think twice before putting anything into my normal bin, asking myself the question: could this be composted? If I am not sure about something, I do a Google search or raise a question in the community garden’s Facebook group. I would suggest everyone to consider this option, since it doesn’t require a huge effort but it means a lot to our planet.

I personally, store my waste for 1-2weeks inside of old yogurt/ice cream containers in a cold, dark cupboard, and when they are full, I bring them to the community garden. Lately, I have been using another community compost which is even closer (10 mins away) to my flat. This one is not within a community garden, but in an urban green park. Its Facebook page has great material and guidance when it comes to composting, even in English, since the district is very international.

As a conclusion, I am happy that I have the chance to give another purpose for my organic waste (including the tons of cat fur) even living in a flat in central Budapest. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Published by foodwastestories

Sharing stories to tackle root causes of food waste. Plus food waste tips, long reads, and reviews! Follow on Instagram @foodwaste.stories

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