Home Composting

Backyard composting is an outdoor activity involving the natural decomposition of organic materials, such as kitchen and yard waste, by soil organisms. Earth Machine Composters are available at any of the County's six waste facilities year-round for $50, taxes included. Green Cone Digesters are also available to Wellington County residents for $100 each, taxes included. Please contact SWS at 519.837.2601 or wasteinfo@wellington.ca if you would like to purchase a Green Cone Digester. More information on Earth Machine Composters and Green Cone Digesters can be found below.

The Master Composter Programme is an initiative from SWS to assist residents in successfully managing their organics through home composting. The programme focuses on education and includes workshops for residents to learn how to compost at home - in their backyard or in their kitchen. It also includes a neighbourhood captain programme where volunteers will be available to assist residents with their composting questions, one-on-one. Demonstration gardens and beautification projects will be established as the programme matures.

 Backyard Composters and Digesters

The County sells two types of receptacles for home composting, each with their own benefits. Find out more information about the Earth Machine Composter and the Green Cone Digester below.

 Earth Machine Composter

The County of Wellington subsidizes the sale of Earth Machine Composters for $50 (tax included) year-round at all County waste facilities. resident disposing organic waste in Earth Machine composter

The Earth Machine Composters have the following specifications:

  • above ground composter
  • large 360 litre capacity (82 cm high by an 82 cm base diameter)
  • made from recycled plastic
  • easy snap together assembly
  • durable and lightweight design
  • rodent resistant (securable access door and locking lid)
  • twist pegs that secure the unit to the ground

Please note that the County no longer hosts the composter truckload sale.

 Green Cone Digester

The County of Wellington subsidizes the sale of Green Cone Digesters for $100 (tax included). Please contact SWS at 519.837.2601 or wasteinfo@wellington.ca if you would like to purchase a Green Cone Digester, and our staff will ensure there is one available for you at your nearest waste facility.

Green Cone Digester installed in garden

The Green Cone Digesters have the following specifications:

  • below ground digester
  • capacity can be estimated at roughly 4 kg a week with correct usage, in full sun, with great drainage, during the summer (70 cm above ground, 42 cm below ground, 60 cm diameter)
  • manufactured from very durable and mostly recycled plastic
  • double walls heat up in the sun and cycle heated air to the chamber below for aerobic digestion
  • can collect certain additional materials that a regular above ground composter cannot, including: meat, bones, dairy, and pet waste
  • rarely requires stirring
  • completely enclosed chamber reduces smells
  • underground basket feeds nutrients to surrounding plants, while also keeping waste out of reach from pests

Learn more about the Green Cone Digester.

 How To Compost

 Backyard Composting
Each household can divert 10-30% of waste from landfill by backyard composting. Add finished compost to gardens, lawns and plants as a nutrient-rich soil amendment.

No matter what the season, do your part by returning what comes out of the ground back to the soil. This will also reduce your waste disposal costs and send less waste to County landfills. Mix compost into your garden soil annually before planting. Spread the compost around your yard and under trees. Sprinkle a thin layer on your house plants. If you have extra compost, share with a friend.


To help breakdown and to create a nutrient-rich compost, a well maintained composting bin requires a balance of both nitrogen-rich "green materials" (e.g., fruit/vegetable scraps or fresh cut grass) and carbon-rich "brown materials" (e.g., dried leaves, dried grass, or shredded newspaper) to be added in layers.

  • start by adding a layer of coarse material (twigs or straw) to help with drainage and ventilation
  • build equal layers of both "brown" and "green" material. This will enhance the breakdown of material and help prevent odours from occurring
  • always cover the materials with a layer of compost or soil
  • covered layers help prevent odours and flies, and introduce soil organisms to the newly added materials
  • with an established composter/pile, simply dig a hole, add new materials and cover
  • chop, shred or chip materials to help speed up the decomposition process
  • check the moisture level often and add water as needed
  • your compost should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge
  • if too dry, add more green materials or a little water
  • if too much water is added, odours may occur
    • take off the composter lid and allow excess water to evaporate
  • since the soil organisms in the composter require oxygen, mix the contents of the composter regularly by poking holes, turning with a shovel, or stirring with a stick
  • an active compost bin becomes quite hot in its centre (40-65 degrees Celsius or 104-150 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • the activity of soil organisms increases with the warmer temperatures of spring and summer

Compost year round


In spring, as a compost bin defrosts, microorganisms will become active and the decomposition process will speed up. Add water and a carbon source (e.g. dry leaves). Mix the compost to enhance the breakdown of materials.


Microbial activity increases in the summer and the compost will become quite "hot" if the bin is maintained with suitable levels of oxygen, water and materials. To speed up decomposition, break/chop materials into small pieces, keep the compost as moist as a wrung-out sponge, and mix the compost to add air.


Add dry fallen leaves to your composter as a "brown" material. If you have surplus leaves, store for later use, create a compost bin for leaves only, apply leaves to the garden as mulch, or allow a moderate amount of shredded fallen leaves to decompose on the lawn naturally.


Continue to add materials to the composter and layer with reserved dry leaves (if you have them). As materials in a composter break down, heat is produced, so decomposition will continue even as the outside temperature drops.

Below are some links to helpful videos on backyard composting:

How Composting Works

How to Site a Backyard Composter

How to Deter Pests from Your Compost Pile

How to Aereate Your Compost Bin

How to Harvest and Use Finished Compost 

Leaf and Yard Waste Composting

Some people are intrigued by the concept of backyard composting, but are turned off by the idea of including food scraps. Perhaps you want to continue to use your Green Bin for food scraps, but need a way to compost your leaf and yard waste. The good news is, backyard composting can also be done with leaf and yard waste materials alone! Learn more about Leaf and Yard Waste Composting

Green Cone Digestion

The County of Wellington subsidizes the sale of Green Cone Digesters for $100 (tax included). Please contact SWS at 519.837.2601 or wasteinfo@wellington.ca if you would like to purchase a Green Cone Digester, and our staff will ensure there is one available for you at your nearest waste facility.

How it WorksPhoto of parially assembled Green Cone Digester

The Green Cone Digester must be installed partially underground in a garden. Food scraps are placed inside. The double walls heat up in the sun and cycle heated air to the chamber below for aerobic digestion. The underground basket feeds nutrients to surrounding plants, while also keeping waste out of reach from pests.

Set Up

Assemble and install your Green Cone Digester. This involves digging an 80 cm wide, 60 cm deep hole in a sunny spot in your garden in which to place the bottom section of the Green Cone Digester.

Place a kitchen caddy on your kitchen counter or under the sink, to conveniently capture food scraps throughout the day.


When your kitchen caddy is full (or as often as you want!) carry it out to your Green Cone, open the lid, and empty the contents inside. You must sprinkle accelerator powder onto the food waste for the first 5-6 times you empty your caddy. This will help build up a healthy amount of bacteria to start your cone working.

In a healthy working Green Cone Digester the food waste will be covered in a blue/gray fur. This is the bacteria doing its work. You should see this blue/gray fur start to build up over the first 10-14 days. While you can see the bacteria you do not need to add accelerator powder. When the level of bacteria starts to disappear add some accelerator powder.

The Green Cone Digester is designed to handle 4.5 L of waste every 1-2 days in the Summer, and 4.5 L of waste every 2-3 days in the Winter. You may need to add accelerator powder every time you empty your kitchen caddy in the Winter.

Do not use any chemical activater in the Green Cone Digester, as this could kill the bacteria.

Acceptable Materials

Please note, a Green Cone Digester can accept just about everything a backyard composter can, plus many materials that a regular backyard composter cannot, including: fish, meat, poultry, bones, and dairy (note: all of these items can also go into your Green Bin).

The Green Cone Digester is also able to handle small quantities of pet waste (note: this is not accepted in the Green Bin programme).

Learn more about the Green Cone Digester.


What is Vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting is composting using worms, and can be done inside your home. It is perfect for anyone in a household or business where outdoor composting is not an option. It is also an excellent educational tool for children to learn about composting first-hand. It is a simple process that uses a mixture of food waste, bedding materials, and worm castings (poop) to create a nutrient rich compost to add to the soil of your household plants, planter boxes, or even to use in your outdoor gardens.

Getting Started

1. First, you will need a bin!

Pick a bin that has a removable lid, and is dark in colour. Actually, the bin can be any colour other than clear. 

The bin should be around 25 Litres (5 gallons) in size. You can pick up a storage bin at your local hardware store, or department store.

Important Note: You will need to drill air holes in the lid of your bin. If you skip this very important step your worms will die... and that would be tragic.

2. You will need to create a layer of "bedding"

Bedding consists of narrow strips of paper, water, garden soil, and crushed egg shells. Fill your bin about 1/3 of the way with bedding.

Most of the bedding should be the narrow strips of paper. You don't want your bedding to be too moist. When you pick up, and squeeze the bedding, it should be damp, but you shouldn't be able to squeeze water out of it.

3. You will need worms!

When it comes to vermicomposting, not all worms are created equal. You will need a specific type of worm called a Red Wiggler.

4. Location, location, location!

Find a cool place without a lot of sunlight for your bin. The cupboard under your sink is a great place, and it's convenient.

Please note: You should never put any pet waste, dairy, meat, or citrus products in your vermicomposter. The worms don't like it.


Remember, worms are not dirty or smelly and a worm bin is easy to maintain.

Now you are ready to start your vermicomposting adventure!


For all of your vermicomposting needs, from bedding, to worms, to the coolest worm house around; the worm chalet, please check out Cathy's Crawly Composters website.

 Bokashi Composting

What is Bokashi Composting?

It is a type of indoor composting that uses a fermenting process to create usable compost. It is an anaerobic process, so you can put meat, dairy, fish, citrus, and any other kitchen scraps into your bokashi to create usable compost.

This type of composting is ideal for anyone who doesn't have the option to backyard compost, and has a strong aversion to vermicomposting... because worms!

Here are some links to websites that can explain the bokashi composting process better than I can:

Try Bokashi Composting: A Practical Solution for the Kitchen Compost

The Easy and Clean Way to Compost All Your Food Waste 

Bokashi Composting Myths

 Composting Workshops

"Back to Our Roots"

Back to Our Roots composting workshops are offered to residents who want to learn how to divert household organics from landfill. These workshops are free. They are designed for both beginners and those who have experience with backyard composting.

To register please contact the library branch that is hosting the workshop on the date you'd like to attend.

Please note, there are no workshops scheduled at this time. Please check back later.

These are some comments from past workshop participants:

"The presenter was very knowledgeable and this was a very valuable session."

"Great workshop! Learned lots, took the mystery out of composting and left me with confidence to do it."

"I did not realize I could compost grass clippings and shredded paper."

"See real value in doing backyard composting."

"Learned a lot! Thanks!"

"I thought I knew it all, but I realized I didn't."

Workshops and Volunteer Opportunities

If you are interested in becoming involved with any of the following opportunities, please contact SWS with your name, address, phone number and preferred email address.

Diversion Study 2011-2012 SWS worked with a number of volunteers to track the amount of organic material which their household diverts through backyard composting. 19 households started out in the study, and 10 continued for a full year of data tracking. Residents provided a count of the number of times they emptied their compost bucket each month. An average weight per litre was used to calculate the amount of kitchen organics diverted by each household. 

Over the year, the participants diverted an average of 218.99 pounds (99.33 kg) per person. This amount is actually higher than the provincial average of 206.05 pounds (93.46 kg) reported by Waste Diversion Ontario in 2011. Based on these results, if every person in Wellington County used a backyard composter, over 20 million pounds (9,300 kg) of kitchen organics could be diverted from landfill each year.

Community Partnership Opportunities SWS has been in discussions with local horticultural societies to determine interest in partnering to develop demonstration gardens at waste facilities. In the future, SWS hopes to partner with other groups on landscape beautification and food production projects. If you are a member of a community group with similar interests - please contact SWS.


 Master Composter Programme


As a largely rural community, residents of the County of Wellington have been composting organics for many years. In the early 1990's, a study done in the Township of West Garafraxa, showed that 81.63% of residents were managing organics through composting. Also at that time, the County trained two of its staff as Master Composters. Composting workshops were held on a regular basis in the 21 member municipalities.

Solid Waste Services has continued to promote composting by selling composters at waste facilities. Council has approved reinstating the Master Composter programme to further promote backyard composting. The goal is to ensure residents of the County have all of the tools and education required to be successful at managing their organics at home.

Five Key Objectives

  • increase the number of residents actively composting household organics
  • determine the needs of residents in order to be successful at backyard composting
  • create opportunities to illustrate the benefits of using compost on plants, lawns, and gardens
  • create opportunities to partner with others for beautification and food production projects
  • collect data to determine participation in backyard composting in the County

© 2023 County of Wellington, 74 Woolwich St. Guelph, Ontario N1H 3T9, T 519.837.2600, TF 1.800.663.0750, F 519.837.1909