On a sunny Saturday morning in mid-January the crowds gathered for the opening of the second communal composting site at St Leonards Warrior Square station. The crowd wasn’t large, but it was impressive: there were volunteers from Hastings Composting Community, Council Officials and community support – with tea and cakes provided by willing helpers.

CREDIT: Dave Young

So why is composting important and why now? Sometimes things just come together. People are becoming more and more frustrated with the degradation of the world they live in. But what can they do? Ellie Cusack, there with her partner Sam Logan, explains that it is particularly difficult for the many renters in Hastings like her and Sam: “In a flat it’s hard to do things that are good for the environment; you can’t get rid of your compost if you don’t have a garden. And there are loads of other things we can’t do, so it’s great to have something that’s being provided that we can get involved in”.

This sentiment was echoed by Josh Brem-Wilson of Hastings Composting Community when he talked about the support the group has received: “The reception has been absolutely amazing, he says. “So if people want to get things done, it’s about having an idea that resonates with other groups, and then they will just pile in and help.”

“I’ve been involved with quite a lot of other projects in other contexts, and this is the most successful project that I’ve been involved with insofar as it has resonated with a lot of established organisations, local, activists and residents, who are coming forward with a lot of enthusiasm.”

Right: Waiting in the wings: the Mayor with Cllrs Peter Chowney and Alan Roberts

He explains that it’s their ambition to make sure this scheme “goes beyond the usual suspects and provides pathways to people who might not be presently engaged with sustainability activities and to understand the way in which they can start contributing to that.”

He realises that although the public might be aware of the significance of climate change and biodiversity loss, most ordinary people often can’t see routes that they can take that will enable them to feel that they are addressing these issues. “Our goal is precisely to provide one of those routes.”

Josh explains that the group is determined to expand the scheme, spurred on by the success of Brighton where there are already 30 hubs and 1,500 households taking part – the current goal for Hastings is 20 hubs. “We have quite a lot of experience in the group of understanding what it takes to actually get an initiative like this off the ground and established,” he says. “Part of that is about being clear about what your goals are and recognising that the path there won’t necessarily be straight-forward; but you have to maintain a kind of forward direction and sense of purpose and just keep at it.” 

Josh holding Composting Community FAQs

He is also full of praise for the person who got the scheme up and running, Rhianna Flood. He says she would travel to friends’ allotments and find opportunities to compost before deciding to address the absence of kerbside collection. She started writing to local politicians and the local MP, but the response was underwhelming. At the same time she discovered the Brighton scheme. 

So what can we learn? One person can be a huge inspiration, a group can make things happen – with determination and ambition – and there are always people out there just waiting to get involved. And inspiration can come from the most unlikely sources: such as rotting household waste.

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