Build a sense of community and help reduce waste to landfill with a neighbourhood composting hub. Katie Irwin from Waste Not Collective shares how she created one at her home.

Permaculture is a simple yet complex philosophy that has completely captured my attention over the last few years. The three permaculture ethics which are like a filter in my mind when making decisions, are Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share.

When we were looking for place to call home last year, these ethics really guided our choice of property and location. Community is incredibly important to us and I knew I wanted to be able to set up a space specifically dedicated to community relationships and resilience. One of the aspects we loved about our current home when viewing it, was that it had a large verge for a future community garden and a random laneway of land to nowhere on the perimeter which was accessible from the street. It was perhaps a place to park a caravan or trailer in the past, but all we saw was a chicken run and community compost & sharing hub! With a north facing back yard for vegetable growing, a perfect roof for solar and a flat area close to downpipes for water tanks – it was and is the small suburban block of our dreams!

Katie’s street hub includes seed and book swaps.

After nearly one year of living here, we finally have a thriving little community compost & sharing hub up and running! We named it ‘Chicken Lane’ as it’s attached to the end of our chicken run and our particularly naughty chicken, Ginger (who can’t be contained) likes to hang out there. We currently have a brightly painted potting bench which holds a street library, excess produce for sharing, seedlings and seeds and a pot and jar swap. Then we have a large continuous worm farm, a compost bin and a bin for carbon inputs (dried leaves, shredded paper, cardboard etc.)

Chicken Lane is currently in its infancy and I have plans to improve and expand it as we see what engagement is like. Hopefully in the future we can add more compost bins, better signage and a community garden. After about one month of hosting, we have about 10 families actively using Chicken Lane, however I’m yet to formerly advertise it to the wider community. We have had interest from a few local cafes looking to compost their cafe waste which will be an exciting challenge for us all!

I really believe this is such a wonderfully simple way of getting to know your neighbours whilst embodying People Care, Earth Care and Fair Share so beautifully. I was initially inspired by the incredible work of ‘Food Is Free Laneway Ballarat’ who started back in 2014. You can see their story on Gardening Australia here if you’re interested and my friend, Hannah’s, incredible community compost hub which has just saved 2 tonnes of food waste from landfill! You can find Hannah here www.thewormmonger.com.

Or, if you’d like to join an existing neighbourhood hub, check out Brisbane City Council’s community composting hubs.

Our street library has easily been the most popular part of Chicken Lane! My little boy loves running down every morning to choose a new book and is so excited when he finds new ones that have been dropped off.

Here are some simple steps to get started:

1. Know the regulations. Councils have pretty strict rules about what can and can’t happen on verge land. Chicken Lane is actually on our land so we didn’t need to adhere to these, however we will if we go ahead with a verge garden in the future.

Brisbane City Council guidelines: https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/clean-and-green/natural-environment-and-water/plants-trees-and-gardens/verge-gardens

You can find other council guidelines here: https://shadylanes.com.au

2. Gather your gear. We sourced our bench from Facebook Marketplace, won our worm farm in a competition (thank you Worms Downunder!) and moved one of our existing compost bins down there. We bought another compost aerator that lives next to the bin to encourage turning.

3. Make it clear. Great signage is essential for engaging people in the composting process. Currently I have signs written on saved cardboard in collected and reused plastic bags to keep the rain out. I think I’ll eventually move to painted signs on scraps of timber for longevity. Make sure it’s clear what can and can’t be composted in your particular system.

4. Get the word out there!There are so many ways to do this, but we started back when we moved in by hosting a street Christmas party to start meeting people and making connections (we have the best people on our street!). We created a street specific Facebook group and letter boxed the street with the Facebook group address and a password so we knew only people on the street were joining. When Chicken Lane was up and running, we posted on our street page to let everyone know how they could start engaging with it. I plan to letterbox again soon to catch new people who have moved in.

You can watch a tour and Q&A of Chicken Lane over on our Instagram page @wastenotcollective

I hope this inspires you to start something similar on your street. Imagine a Brisbane city where a community compost & share hub was on every couple of streets! Everyone would have access to a place to compost, millions of tonnes of waste would be diverted from landfill, lawns would be replaced with food, street temperatures would drop, excess could be shared with those in need, diets would improve, communities would become more resilient and relationships would flourish. That’s the kind of city I want to be a part of.

Finally, if you want any signage inspiration for your own hub: