How to start my HOTBIN Composter?

Friday, 7 February 2014  |  HOTBIN Composting

What's the Best Waste to Add?

When starting your HOTBIN remember it will be easiest if you a) add plenty of waste and b) that waste is easy to digest - easy to digest waste produces heat faster.

There are two main methods for starting the HOTBIN. The route you choose depends on the waste you have available and to some extent, your views on food waste. For ease, we have used the two terms 'patient' and 'fast' to describe the methods.

compostable food waste

1. Patient – “I don’t have much waste”

Fill the HOTBIN like any other compost bin, add waste 'as you have it' with bulking agent and shredded paper and let it build up over time. The temperature will slowly rise above the outdoor temperature and start to increase towards 25°C. This might take 2-6 weeks.

2. Fast – “I have LOTS of waste”

Add in a base layer at least 40cm (above hatch panel) in one go, don’t forget to mix in bulking agent and shredded paper.  

If you have old compost avoid adding a large quantity in any one 'feed'. Instead, add in handfuls and remember as it is already partially composted waste a lot of the food energy will already be gone. You will need to mix with fresh waste to feed the new bacteria that create the heat.

Note: HOTBIN Requires a Minimum Amount of Waste

The HOTBIN won't 'take-off' and get into the hot 40-60°C range until there is a minimum amount of waste (40 cm, or just above the hatch panel). This is the base layer, a sufficient amount of waste for bacteria to start breaking down and producing heat in the process.

Top Tips

  • Add easy to digest waste when starting your HOTBIN. Things like grass, chicken pellets, vegetables and peelings, sprinkling of blood/bone meal. Check the waste digestibility table in the user guide.
  • Roughly chop or shred waste to less than 4cm. This increases the surface area available to the bacteria and speeds up waste breakdown.
  • Always add bulking agent and shredded paper with your waste. Bulking agent aerates the waste and shredded paper absorbs the excess moisture so both are needed in the HOTBIN.
  • Some waste should only be added once hot composting at 40-60°C; if unsure, the waste digestibility table in the user guide will help.

7 secrets of good HOTBIN composting gives you more information on how to start and maintain good HOTBIN composting practices and provide you with rich compost ready for use in your garden.

Kick-start Bottle

When it’s really cold, bacteria may need a little help to warm up and start digesting waste. Follow the label instructions and use kick-start bottle to get the HOTBIN going during colder weather. Please note that the kick-start bottle should only be used when the internal temperature of the HOTBIN is below 15°C (if the unit is any warmer, the bottle will have a negligable effect on the temperature).

This technique only works if there is enough easy to digest food waste available. We liken it to a human diet - if you eat a high fibre breakfast you get steady energy all day, but drink coke and eat sweets and you’ll be on sugar high for a hour! Since the heat from the bottle only lasts an hour or so, the bacteria need fast food during this hour.

The kick-start bottle can also be used if your HOTBIN has been left unfed for a couple of weeks (i.e. you’ve been on holiday) and the temperature has dropped below 15°C.