How To Start My HOTBIN

How To Start My HOTBIN

Give your HOTBIN the best start in life by feeding it plenty of chopped easy to digest waste along with shredded paper (control moisture levels) and woodchip (promote good aeration). Outlined below are some key points to ensure you get off to a flying hot composting start!

How Much Waste Do You Have to Compost?

Starting your HOTBIN requires building a base layer, this is important as there must be a minimum amount of waste in the HOTBIN before it will start to heat up. This base layer (known as the critical mass of material) is 40cm deep, roughly to the height of the hatch, and consists of chopped easy to digest waste mixed with shredded paper and woodchip.

There are two ways to build the base layer depending on how much waste you have to hand.

Option 1.
Patient Start – Build the Base Layer Gradually “I don’t have much waste!”

Fill the HOTBIN like any other compost bin and add chopped waste 'as you have it' along with woodchip and shredded paper. We recommend collecting waste in a caddy and feeding 1 – 2 times per week to avoiding opening and closing the HOTBIN too much.

Option 2.
Fast Start – Build the Base Layer in One Go “I have LOTS of waste!”

Add in a base layers worth of chopped fresh waste mixed with woodchip and shredded paper in one go.

Tip: Old compost - is good for adding bacteria to the initial heap however as it is already partially composted waste, a lot of the food energy will already be gone, so make sure to add in plenty of fresh waste to give bacteria something to digest.

What Makes a Good Starting Base Layer for my Compost Heap?

Plenty of chopped, easy to digest waste - this is waste that is digested quickly by bacteria to produce a quick heat boost. In comparison, harder to digest material produces a longer more sustained heat. In human terms it is simply the difference between eating a sugary treat for a short energy boost or a banana for a longer sustained energy boost.

Examples of Easy (Fast) to Compost Waste:

  • Vegetables and peelings
  • Fruit and peelings
  • Nettles and comfrey
  • Chicken pellets
  • Blood and bone meal
  • Grass clippings*

*Grass is very easy for bacteria to digest however, avoid adding this in large quantities to avoid a soggy mess. Learn more about composting grass here.

You can view a short video on creating the base layer here.

What Makes a Poor Base Layer?

Too much hard to digest waste will make a poor base layer, to avoid this follow the tips below:

  • Woodchip - has little nutritional value for the bacteria, so please do not add in the whole bag as a “starter”. Woodchip needs to be added in alongside other waste types in the correct ratios to provide airflow through the HOTBIN.

  • Old Compost – adding handfuls are fine but there is no value to adding in a lot of this material as the nutritional value has already been consumed.

  • Twigs - If desired, a sprinkling of twigs, can be added to the base of the HOTBIN when you start to build the base layer however twigs should not form the entire base layer.

  • Leaves - hard to break down, leaves have a protective waxy outer coating, shred and add in with lots of other easy to digest waste types.

  • Shredded Paper / Cardboard – only add in the recommended ratios of paper and card with fresh waste – on its own this material offers no nutritional value to bacteria.

Advice for Successful Hot Composting After Building the Base Layer

  • Woodchip and Paper – continue to add this with every feed.
  • Layering materials – avoid layering – whilst a lasagne method is advised in traditional compost, the HOTBIN is more about bolognaise. Layering materials in the HOTBIN can cause issues with aeration, so we want woodchip and paper to be dispersed through the waste to allow oxygen to flow and moisture to be controlled without soggy matted layers forming.
  • Mixing – never mix the entire contents of the HOTBIN as it doesn’t require turning. Mixing the entire heap will just incorporate cold composted material into the upper hot active part of the unit and cool the entire process down.
  • Never add one type of material – a diet of chopped waste of varying digestibility’s is best.
  • Every HOTBIN is Different - each HOTBIN is different based on what its fed. Getting to know your unit will help you to determine if more woodchip or paper is needed and how it responds to the waste you are feeding it.
  • Is it Hot Enough? – Some waste should only be added once HOTBIN is at 40-60°C.

Should I Use the Hot Water Bottle?

When it’s really cold, bacteria need a little warmth to wake up and start digesting waste. The Hot Water Bottle should only be used if there is plenty of easy to digest waste and when the internal temperature of the HOTBIN is below 15°C (if the unit is any warmer, the bottle will have a negligible effect on the temperature). Follow the label instructions.

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