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Lack of guidance on home composting leads to increase in rats, say industry experts


More rats are becoming attracted to home composters because people do not know how to use them properly, say industry experts.

National Pest Technician Association board member Barrie Sheard told MRW that he supports home composting 100 per cent but some people are not using them properly which attracts rats.

He said: “The problem is still as bad as ever. If the right advice is given it is not a problem but many councils are failing to instruct householders how to do it properly. I have said this in the past and I will say it again. They shouldn’t just arrive at a house and say ‘here you go and get on with it’. There should be some instructions to show them how to use it properly.

“You have got to put the bins on hard ground or slabs. Some bins have got no base at the bottoms and if this is put on any ground like soil it will attract rats who will bury underneath it. “If the bottom base has a mesh wire underneath it then it will not attract rats if it is put on soil.

“Councils are also failing to tell people not to put protein foods in their compost bins like meat products. Materials such as vegetables are alright but protein foods like meat are not. “This is certainly a serious issue and councils need to manage it properly from day one and properly guide people.”

Food waste digester firm Green Cone managing director John Cockram said it was unfair to criticise all councils but said that residents need educating on how to use home composters. He said: “The public want to help the environment by buying a home composter and this has increased over a number of years. Home composters empower the individual. But some people do not understand enough about home composting. Some councils are doing a lot to help their residents, like Wiltshire, to instruct them on how to use them.

“But manufacturers are doing nothing. What they need to do is include a little booklet on how to use home composters to maximise use of them. The pre-war generation knew what to do with them but this generation think it is dead easy.”

Cockram said Green Cone provides comprehensive manuals and instruction DVDs with its food waste digesters.

Container supplier Straight chief executive Jonathan Straight said he advises his customers not to put cooked food, meat, fish and dairy products in compost bins as these will attract vermin.

He explained: “Our advice to customers is to put their compost bin on soil in order to allow worms in and to allow moisture to drain away. We offer an optional base plate which provides a rodent resistant platform for the bin without affecting access to worms. The base also enhances ventilation and drainage. Anyone concerned about vermin getting into the bin would be advised to use such a base. Most of our retail customers do take up the offer of a base plate.”

Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee chair Joy Blizzard said she disagreed with Sheard’s claim that councils are not properly advising people on how to use home composters. She said: “Many councils are working in partnership with the Waste & Resources Action Programme on what to put in and what to put out of their composters and they do a fair amount of work on that.

“They advise not putting cooked food or meat and all the rest of it and they do a lot of work on that and have a lot of leaflets and information on that.” Blizzard who is also Shropshire Council’s waste initiatives officer said that in Shropshire thousands of home composter bins had been sold and people rarely complain about rat problems after using them.

A WRAP spokeswoman said: “We have had no reports of increased problems from our waste reduction advisers, who work across England and Scotland giving face to face advice to the public. There are a number of measures that households can take to prevent vermin from getting into their compost bin and we offer advice through the Recycle Now website ( and through a helpline for households looking for advice and support on home composting.”

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