Exeter resident launches compost scheme after council delay

A young climate activist has launched her own composting scheme for local residents after being shocked that Exeter has no kerbside food waste collection.

Almost half of Exeter’s grey bin contents is food waste which is burned rather than being separated out and turned into useful compost.

Although Exeter City Council is looking to introduce a new weekly kerbside sporting recycling service, including glass and food waste, the delay in doing so has led 20-year-old Kiri Ley to take matters into her own hands.

She introduced a weekly collection of compost waste where she lives in Ladysmith Road, Heavitree, when lockdown hit in January and around 25 houses have already joined the scheme.

The compost is stored in bins at several community centres and allotments, including the Stoke Hill Community Association at St Katherine’s Priory, Morrisons in Exeter, and Prince Charles Road Allotments.

It is then used for their gardens and growing initiatives.

Kiri, who is currently on a break from university studies and has been working as an enabler for young people with special needs and disabilities in Exeter, said: “Back in 2019, Exeter’s Labour-led City Councilpromised to develop a kerbside food waste collection, with an estimated cost of £3.8 million.

“It was due to be introduced this spring but was delayed, and is now due to be introduced this autumn instead.

Kiri Ley has launched her own weekly collection of compost waste in Heavitree, Exeter
Kiri Ley has launched her own weekly collection of compost waste in Heavitree, Exeter
(Image: Tavis Amosford)

“It sounds like a good scheme with waste collection vehicles to be powered by energy from a local solar power plant. The waste will be turned into fertiliser.

“But this doesn’t change the fact that the council haveput this off for far too long. In the meantime, most of Exeter’s food and garden waste is going to the Energy from Waste (EfW) plant in Marsh Barton.

“Such plants claim to produce ‘valuable low-carbon energy’ from burning waste. In reality, a recent study indicates that burning waste in EfW plants is the second most carbon intensive mode of energy production, second only to coal.

“Added to the fact that, at the moment, EfW companies don’t even have to give information about the emissions produced from burning organic waste. So, in Exeter, we might not even know how much carbon is being produced from burning the majority of half of our household waste.

“The rest of our garden and food waste goes to landfill, where it decomposes anaerobically. This process produces methane, a greenhouse gas which contributes to global heating 35 times more powerfully than carbon dioxide does.

“There is not enough time in our current climate emergency to delay, over and over again. So in the absence of a council collection, I decided to do what I could on my doorstep to reduce emissions from food waste.”

Kiri is hoping the success of the scheme she launched will inspire others to do the same.

Kiri Ley has launched her own weekly collection of compost waste in Heavitree, Exeter
(Image: Tavis Amosford)

She said: “Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to on my street sees the sense in trying to dispose of food waste in a responsible way. People have been so kind and willing to participate.

“I’m sure that we’re not the only street in Exeter to have this attitude. It just goes to show that if I, as one individual with other demands on my time, can manage to get half a street composting, what a difference we can make together.

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“If anyone is interested in starting something similar in their area until the autumn, or just in case the council delays its plans again, I would recommend buying a 300L bin off eBay, and pooling together resources from your neighbours.

“It doesn’t take long every week, and the compost can be used in gardens, allotments, schools and community centres or retirement homes.”

In March, Exeter Labour Party reported Exeter City Council is preparing to deliver on its commitment to provide food waste and glass collection from every household in the city, and it is expected that the service will commence in autumn 2021.

Exeter City Council has been approached for a comment.

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