Compost, glass and quick reaction

It seems we have a thing with compost. In some or other way, it always turns into somewhat of a story, whether it is bought in or homemade. Well, this time, it was about glass. But what does glass have to do with compost?

It’s quite ironic – just a week after I published my famous (I wished) Efficiency vs Regeneration post (which is all philosophical about making our own compost) I had the truck from Southpoint Garden Supplies backing into the s-bend at Dreamland with a 4sq m load of organic compost. With the dry summer and the expansion at Dreamland, we were simply not producing enough compost to even start covering all those beds. Not this year anyway, but I have plans for a few big compost bins at Dreamland too, but that’s another story for another day… And we had a similar situation with the renewal of the no-dig beds in the Homeland vegetable garden where we had another 6sq m compost delivered, also from SouthPoint.

Now, compost and glass should be totally unrelated, not so? However, after some heavy winds, Patricia and the kids discovered some glass shards in the compost heap. Now if you want a violent reaction, you must just vaguely point in the direction of anything that could maybe one day possibly harm either of her children…

To cut a long story short (well, not really…) this is the letter I sent to SouthPoint:

We recently got 6m3 organic compost from you for our property, as well as 4m3 for the “edible forest garden” on the property next door (both within in the last two months), on recommendation from one of the nurseries in the area.

It is with great dismay that with the recent wind we discovered a lot of glass shards in the 6m3 batch of compost. You can see various bits of it in different parts of the heap in 5 of the attached photos. It is definitely not just one or two pieces – there are a lot of it.

Compost - glass in heap

We have been running our property organically for 6 1/2 years.

But we have a more serious problem – we have already used the compost from the 6m3 heap in various places: 

1) We have used it in 4 large no-dig vegetable beds, where we grow organic vegetables, including root vegetables like carrots, onions and in this batch, garlic. This is risky when we or the children dig with our hands in this bed either to harvest or to plant new crops.

2) We have planted a pear tree using this compost. We have spread it around some of our fruit trees (some apples, peaches and a lot of citrus.) We also have root crops (garlic) around the peach trees in guilds. Again this is risky when we dig around there, e.g. to pull out grass or to harvest the garlic. Our chickens free-range around the citrus trees – what happens if one of them swallows a sharp glass shard?

3) Prior to the recent small rain, we also lightly spread the compost on a section of our lawn, where the children and their friends regularly run around barefoot. Upon discovery of the shards in the heap, we checked the lawn and discovered these same sharp shards of glass spread around the grass, as you can see in the attached photo of my wife’s hand. What if one of the children cut their feet? What if one of their friends cut their feet?

Compost - glass on lawn

Shards found on the grass… and no, we don’t generally throw bottles around!

So we have three problems to deal with:

1) The remainder of the 6m3 heap with the shards in.

2) The shards already spread on various places throughout the garden.

3) How do we know whether there are / aren’t shards in the 4m3 heap on the property next door? (that has also been spread into a number of no-dig market garden vegetable beds, as well as on a big area that was planted with wheat as greens for the chickens to free-range in).

We would like to know your response and action as soon as possible.

For your records, the deliveries were on 8 March and 3 April respectively. 

To which we received this response:

Hello Martin,

My apologies for the contamination in the compost.

This is a first for us to hear of glass contaminants. We have been selling this product for almost 10 years without any issues.

SouthPoint purchase the material from Geelong Compost. I have spoken with them and they have a large vacuum to pick up the glass pieces. We can collect the remaining stockpile with our excavator and tip truck to remove it from site.

I need to arrange a time with you so we can quickly rectify this situation.

Please give me a call.

So a day or two later, Ash (the owner of SouthPoint) phoned and we had to rush back home from a trip to Geelong. Ash and his driver Jack had rocked up at Homeland with a big truck and an excavator. Unfortunately I missed how they got the excavator off the truck using a pretty steep ramp, but Ash was scooping up the glass-infested compost as we got there. I must say he is a remarkable excavator operator – that was some of the neatest work I’ve ever seen done with one. (I would have dug out half of the parking area myself…)

Compost - removing at Homeland

Ash scraping up the compost at Homeland

They then ambled the excavator around the long way to Dreamland and repeated the process, with Jack testing his reversing skills up the narrow Dreamland access way. Needless to say he passed with enough peace of mind to still comment on how great our Cayuga ducks looked in the sunshine.

Compost - removing at Dreamland

Ash and Jack working in the narrow Dreamland access way

This whole operation must have been quite a logistical nightmare for them – with Jack having to go back to Torquay to dump the compost and then having to come back to pick up Ash and the excavator. It must have taken more than half a day out of their busy schedules. Our meagre 10sq m load of compost doesn’t make up for that loss – not nearly – so that’s the best customer service and substantial and quick rectification of a problem that I have seen in a very long time. It’s not like they could just slip a replacement in the mail… Highly commendable. Supplier of the year award type stuff.

It all went quiet for a couple of days, and just as I started wondering what had happened to them, I got a call from Ash to inform me they were on their way with new replacement compost. Some people would be reluctant to get compost (or anything else for that matter) from the same supplier, after such an issue, but I’m confident with such good and dedicated customer service it won’t happen again. They handled it so well, you’ve got to give it a fair go. Besides, they now know we have an eagle eye on sight who inspects everything! In fact, I was so confident in their service that I increased the order to 6sq m compost for each side of the fence.

Compost - new at homeland

Replacement heap at Homeland – ready for those veg boxes, fruit trees and more

Compost - new at Dreamland

Replacement heap at Dreamland – “Midnight” inspecting the quality

I also ordered a load of mulch for Dreamland. We’re not “much more mulch” for nothing! Ha ha, in reality it is a long story about logistics, because with Dreamland’s narrow access way, the mulch has to be dropped behind the compost heap first, so it’s a case of, if I may need mulch later – which I probably would –it was better to get it delivered before the compost.

Compost - mulch while were at it

More Mulch!

Anyway, thanks to Ash and Jack at SouthPoint Garden Supplies, we’re good to run with our projects again. Not that we sat around waiting idly, but more about that in other posts.

Just as well Ash and Jack got the replacement loads in so quickly – two days later the access way was flooded by the recent rains!

Rain - access way flood

Flooded access way – the compost heap is just behind where the photo was taken from (with a Scot Grey hen wondering why she wants to cross the road)


About (207 Articles)
My name is Martin Rennhackkamp, I now live happily in Lara, Victoria, Australia with my wife, two children and two dogs. My interests, apart from the obvious Organic, Biodynamic and Permaculture Gardening and Farming, include sustainable living, surfing, horse-riding, a wide variety of music, dancing, nature, birds, reading, Christianity and a few other things which I never get to...

4 Comments on Compost, glass and quick reaction

  1. That is fabulous service. Were they able to help with the compost already spread?

    • // May 17, 2019 at 5:11 pm // Reply

      I was really impressed. They offered to bring a massive machine that sounded a bit like a vacuum cleaner to suck up the compost already spread, but between the problem of getting it in where it needs to go and some of the beds already having good vegetables growing, we decided we’ll cut our losses keep what we have in the ground already. In retrospect, we might as well have had the market garden beds at Dreamland sucked up – the rabbits have nibbled off ALL the sprouts! But it would have been hard to get the equipment in there too. (And the machine probably would have sucked the thin layer of good topsoil too…)

      • I have quite a bit of broken glass around my place as well. There was no rubbish collection here until thd 1960s when the rosds were tarmacked, so everything was just ploughed in. I just have a pot with me to collect it into and gradually the amount of glass is reducing. I find bits of china and metal as well and like to imagine what item they came from and the people that used them.

      • // May 30, 2019 at 10:59 am //

        (Oops I’m a bit slow catching up on responses…) It’s a pity I guess the shards are too small and too spread out and damaged – imagine you could fit some of it back together and figure out where it came from, what it was used for. That is, if you had the time 🙂

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