Friday, November 6, 2009 - 11:13

The Eden Project has diverted a massive 100 tonnes of food waste from landfill since it started turning kitchen scraps and leftovers from its cafés into compost for the world-famous gardens.

A huge on-site composter, installed in 2005, now converts around 90 per cent of the food waste created at the Cornish visitor attraction into a nitrogen-rich soil enhancement that Eden gardeners use to feed their impressive collection of plants.

During the 80-day composting process the contents reach more than 60 degrees C. What comes out is a potent material that’s either mixed with soil or used as a mulch. “Using compost made from waste to grow new plants is a great illustration of the Eden philosophy and, from a horticulture perspective, we’re really pleased with the results we’ve seen,” said horticulturist Darren Topps.

The composter, a 30m3 Neter manufactured by Swedish company Susteco, is relieving pressure on Cornwall’s landfill sites. It has also proved an effective way of dealing with green waste without a risk of possible environmental problems such as leachates and methane emissions.

The UK-wide target is to halve the amount of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill by 2013, compared with 1995 levels – though experts have warned that the country is not on track to meet this.

Nicolette Knight, Waste Operations Manager at Eden, said: “The whole composting process is a great educational tool for visitors, because they see the journey of their food from the plate through to the plant. It starts as they sort waste from their trays into different containers, and ends as they pass the composting plant which has been deliberately sited near one of the public car parks. It’s Eden’s version of alchemy.”

Before Eden opened in 2001, the gardening team created 83,000 tonnes of soil, by mixing waste from the former china clay pit with green compost, to turn the site into a landscape capable of sustaining plants from all over the world.

Eden has adopted the Waste Neutral philosophy, aiming to buy in the same weight of recycled materials as it sends for recycling or disposal. The idea is to help boost the market for recycled goods by adding one vital element on to the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ motto: reinvest.