Food Waste

From waste to earth: Bristol Living Soil 

By Nicola Deschamps

Nicola Deschamps (ANutr), nutritionist, author, and editor writes our latest story about community compost collective Bristol Living Soil. Find out about upcoming events and how to get involved. 

Bristol Living Soil (BLS) is a compost collective that aims to promote city-wide composting by encouraging residents to turn their food waste into living soil compost. The compost helps regenerate the soil, providing plants with essential nutrients and reducing the need for pesticides and fungicides.  

Bucket marked 'Bristol Living Soil' outside a front door
Image by Rosie Fieldhouse

The objective of food waste management processing today (for example, the waste collected in Bristol in your brown caddy at kerbside) is to promote the diversion of food waste from landfills towards composting and anaerobic digestion facilities to generate bio-gas and fertiliser. Find out more about this process on the Bristol Waste Company website.

However, some concerns have been raised as regards the inability of current processing methods to eliminate all plastic contaminants, which could eventually find their way back into the environment. Using small-scale, neighbourhood-led food waste initiatives, such as the BLS project, mitigates most of the environmental issues associated with current processing methods. Creating living soil compost takes time, but it supports an ecosystem, that enriches the soil, nourishes plants, and supports a cleaner environment.  

Tumbling the food waste
Image by Bristol Living Soil

As the first community compost collective in Bristol, the BLS team is passionate about soil regeneration and sustainability and wants to grow its community of compost makers to help create a healthy soil ecosystem. Since its launch in March 2023, the household membership base has been steadily growing, and businesses will be welcome to join once the collective has extended its composting capacity.  

Every household member is given an empty food waste bucket along with a cup of bokashi, which is a mix of bran and molasses inoculated with beneficial microorganisms that work together to suppress pathogens, break down organic matter and eliminate bad smells. Members can choose to have their full buckets collected from their doorstep, by a team member on a bicycle, every three weeks or to drop off their scraps themselves at the compost site located in St Werburgh’s City Farm.  

Food waste is placed into large tumblers, which are turned every day for six weeks to help break down and aerate the food waste and insulate the beneficial microbes. The tumbler content is then poured into open bays to ‘rest’. Biochar, a type of activated charcoal that creates structure in the soil and serves as a home for microbes, is added to the mix. Once ready, members receive a share of soil enriched with life, perfect for growing healthy food, flowers, or other plants. 

Biochar making workshop
Biochar-making workshop (images by Daniel Balla)
Image by Tom Daniels

With more members and sponsors supporting, the collective has the potential to grow and continue to share knowledge, connect people, reduce our carbon footprint, and encourage green and growing spaces. As a community benefit society, all profits are invested back into the collective.

To help raise awareness of the compost collective and its activities, the dedicated team at BSL hosts events. Join them for a soup and film night at The Pickle Factory on Thursday 29 February for a screening of the film Dirt Rich, which explores climate-fixing regenerative agriculture and soil health. There is also a bokashi-making workshop with Bristol Living Soil on 30 March.

For more information about membership email 

Find out more about living soil: Old Tree Soil * Mycelium Composting Network * Soil Food Web school  

Nicola Deschamps (ANutr) is a nutritionist, author and editor:

Lead group image by Lara Luna Bartley.

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