New Compost Bins Solve Community Garden’s Rat Problem

By Thea Bladt Hansen

— After months of measuring, drilling and constructing, Pangea celebrated the installation of two new rat-proof compost bins in their community garden last weekend.

Pangea, AUC’s environmental awareness committee, was determined to build new compost bins after its board received several complaints. Julia Marinissen, second-year Science major and Head of Gardening, explains that “We had problems with rats because they were attracted to the organic waste, and people from the dorms asked us to find a solution as rats are unsanitary.” In October of last year, Pangea’s gardening workgroup decided to build closed compost bins in order to avoid rat-problems in the future. 

The community garden, which is located behind the courtyard of the middle dorm building, was looking grey and barren in the winter weather. Nonetheless, a team of dedicated AUC garden enthusiasts defied the brisk Dutch temperatures to attend the grand opening of the two new compost bins. Marinissen ended the ceremony by cutting a recycled ribbon with a garden scissor — officially declaring the new and improved compost bins open for all dormitory residents to use.

The new compost bins have been placed in the structure of the old ones but are bigger and have sides covered with chicken wire. The gardening workgroup explains that compost is an important component of the community garden since it makes it possible to provide those crops with nutrients from organic waste instead of chemicals and fertilizers. 

Before the opening ceremony began, Marinissen found a spoon next to the compost bin and made a tired statement: “Guys, cutlery does not go in the compost!”  This is not an uncommon incident and the gardening workgroup often finds that people throw just about anything in the compost. The gardening workgroup has to remove all unwanted elements from the compost before it can be used. In order to decrease the confusion, they have now created a sign for the compost bins: teabags, citrus peels and mango pits are unwanted. Marinissen says that “Citrus fruits and peels lower the pH. Most teabags contain microplastics, and we do not want any avocado or mango pits. It takes ages for those to decompose. No compostable bags, as they can only be properly decomposed in industrial compost facilities with high humidity and temperature.” Instead, she urges people to throw bags, both compostable and non-compostable, into the trash bin next to the compost bins. Although cooked food in the compost has previously been problematic because it attracted rats, with the newly designed compost bins it is no longer a problem.

The community garden may not look very inviting in the winter, but there is a team of steadfast students who spend hours transforming it into a common green space. With summer around the corner, the gardening workgroup plan to create a wild flower corner to boost insect life and a path through the garden so students can have a break and enjoy the cultured nature behind the middle dorm building. 

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