Trench warfare: composting the uncompostable

Make hay while the sun shines is a proverb that I stand by. So, out I went with my spade today, first to dig a trench and then to fill it with kitchen waste and shredded paper. My compost bin is full, you see, and I had success a couple of winters ago when I did the same. Well, at least I got a fair amount of unexpected potatoes!

Anyway, here is my newly filled trench with 100% organic matter.


Had I not decided to do this job, though, I might never have made a rather surprising discovery. My spade didn’t quite go into the soil at one point and at first I thought it was a stone in the way. Then I realised it was plastic. A Walkers crisp packet no less, dated 1997.


Now, the house was built in 1998 so my guess is that the builders must have simply put top soil over the litter rather than clearing the ground before completing the garden. However it got there, all the same, it clearly wouldn’t have gone away any time soon, had I not been keen on gardening.

Of course, this is just one piece of plastic. But it is a vivid reminder that plastic is a pollutant, from start to finish. It doesn’t decompose. It just sits there, and if we are lucky someone collects it up and disposes of it in a slightly safer manner, before an animal chokes on it, for example.

In this case, I doubt the worms and slugs found it unduly problematic. However, that is far from the point. How much such waste are our descendants going to find? I just hope they have learned without hardship that plastic crisp packets are a bad idea. Full stop.

© Helen Butt, November 2013


About Helen

I have always been interesting in living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and used to do what I could. Now, I have come to realise that we have reached such a point in terms of environmental degradation that it is more important - perhaps - to focus on building resilience. I therefore do as much as I can to reuse, grow my own and encourage a supportive community, for example. I also keep reading and learning all the time.
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6 Responses to Trench warfare: composting the uncompostable

  1. andy1076 says:

    I shudder to think of what the world will look like, if everyone continues down the line of non biodegradable materials that are tossed and hardly reused 😦

    • Exactly!

      If food were made locally and sold fresh there would be much less need for plastic in the first place. At least a paper bag can decompose…

      • andy1076 says:

        If only people would start using those instead, don’t know if you seen it but there was a show on TV called 5 mile challenge or something like that where everything was only 5 miles away. Wonder what happened to the show mmmm..!

        • No not seen this programme but sounds interesting. Guess that would be a tough challenge…. perhaps surprisingly, I read of some one in London who set out to source all their food within a 12 mile radius – in London and they succeeded 🙂

  2. What a strange thing to find and I quite agree, some packaging is awful. We have found pieces of brick and odd bits of plastic left vehind by the original builders. It is satisfying to have dug deeply enough to clear their rubbish and improve our clay soil though!

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