This is an archival version of the original KnowledgePoint website.

Interactive features have been disabled and some pages and links have been removed.

Visit the new KnowledgePoint website at


Looking for practical advice on large scale composting - do you know of any development organisation or University working on this topic?


Dear knowledgeable people Can you help? I am looking for practical advice on large scale composting - do you know of any development organsiation or University working on this topic? ( I see there are many University courses on waste management but many seem to deal with legislation more than practical solutions). I help a very small environmental group in Kenya which runs projects on waste management, water, cookstoves, and education. The group has run 9 waste management bins for the last 2 years. The bio-degradable waste is turned into compost, the non-biodegradable waste is sent to landfill (when there is a vehicle). I know others are turning waste into energy which is another option but we are not looking at this at the moment. In essence we need to 'scale up' the composting and this is where I am asking if you can point me to any organisations working on large scale composting- I have been unsuccessful in my search to date. I have visited Keenans Recycling in Aberdenshire (therir business model would not work in Kenya, but their technology might). I have also been in touch with Ridan composters based in Cornwall - there is one composter in operation nearby; their Ridan composter is quite small scale but is used at schools etc. I have found another 'in vessel' composter 'hot rot' made in New Zealand - they have sold a system to Twycross Zoo which I have not visited yet. I have read the reports by Practical Action from Nepal - the case studies there had similar problems to those being experienced by the group in Kenya. The problems are acute in unplanned settlements with no planned infrastructure and municipal services - it must be a global problem. Developed countries are also having to face waste management and reducing waste sent to landfill. Is anyone looking at this problem in the context of the SDGs? The group currently works in a settlement (Kwa Muhia) of 7,000 people c 2,500 households. It has been asked to extend its work to another (Kamere) settlement of 23,000 people c 7,000 households - mostly labourers on flower farms. The following are 'ballpark' figures which are roughly accurate but which I've rounded to simplify the message. Each household produces 1.5 kg/waste/per day. Approx 1kg is bio-degradable and can be composted. This means that each household produces approx one third a tonne (0.36) of bio-degradable waste per year. (The remaining waste is non-biodegradable - this is sent to a rubbish tip 30km away, Kwa Muhia needs a 10 tonne truck to remove this non-biodegradable waste once a week.) Even in Kenya it is taking about 9 months to compost the bio-degradable waste. We have been looking at ways to accelerate the process - chopping it up, heating it up etc - this is what the commerical operators seem to do - either winnowing heaps which takes space or using 'in vessel' systems which seem less prone to vermin and pollution problems. Kwa Muhia produces approx ... (more)

4 Answers

Neil Noble

Practical Action Bangladesh has recently been involved in waste management and biogas generation, although the amount of biogas may not be large in terms of the energy generated it has proved a good way of managing organic waste.

Also Sri Lanka has been working on a plug flow biogas unit for solid waste management of organic matter. We are looking to see if we can write this up as a technical brief just at the moment, now the technology has been developed. The design originally came from India.

I have also just been in contact with someone working in Cameroon who has a report on the issue that might be relevant.....

His name is....Wirsiy Emma


Thanks very much Neil. At the moment we are looking into producing compost rather than biogas.

Jill gravatar imageJill ( 2015-03-22 16:02:12 )

Suggest searching: Also gives a good overview of options Immediate thought is to keep technology simple and work out whether it can be financially viable starting with full cost analysis (investment, depreciation etc. not just running costs). Key question I guess is whether there is any market for compost...


Hi Tim, I think you'll find that having a market for compost is not the only consideration. In Europe, modern composting is being driven by the need to reduce waste and landfill, reducing CO2 etc not by the market. There is a lot of degraded and eroded land which would benefit from adding compost/soil improver all over the world.

Jill gravatar imageJill ( 2015-03-22 16:00:54 )

I have had some contact with an organisation in Hong Kong, their website is Hong Kong, urban, high popn density - same problems. They use an in vessel system, with a 2 week turn over period (and probably a 2 week cool down period when it comes out of the machine).

If land is not available (which if everyone works on farms, then it seems land should be available?), then I would think an in vessel system wins hands down. But that requires a cost in labour and power to run the machine.


SOIL established composting in Haiti after the earthquake, with assistance from Oxfam and Disaster Waste Recovery.

You could also check the Susannah website. There had been quite a bit done in Nairobi by Oxfam and Goal.

John Cody gravatar imageJohn Cody ( 2015-03-09 09:05:47 )

Hi John, thanks for your advice Google can't find the Susannnah website, can you give me more info.

Jill gravatar imageJill ( 2015-03-22 15:56:56 )
Cristian Anton

Jill, of the bio and non-biodegradable waste, can you describe / identify (quantify if you can) what it is? Does this include human fecal waste?


Hi Aidos?, no it does not include faecal waste - that is a separate issue that also needs tackling! There is a group called Sanivation looking at that. It definitely needs adressing, it does seem questionable to have so many long drops so close to a lake. But the group is delaing simply with domestic waste, mainly food related.

Jill gravatar imageJill ( 2015-03-22 15:55:45 )