23 Jun 2022

New Zealand's first clay composter

From Afternoons, 1:20 pm on 23 June 2022

Clay is a natural material that many cultures throughout history have used to make cookware and crockery.

Lesser known are its antibacterial properties, but New Zealand's first clay composting pot may be about to change that. 

Pacha clay compost

Photo: Victoria Aguilera

The Pacha pot was created by Victoria Aguilera, who is originally from Chile where clay is a garden staple.

She busts composting myths and shares her soil knowledge with Jesse Mulligan.

The Pacha pot is a clay terracotta pot with up to four tiers and holes on the side to help aeration.

“Essentially you’re just filling your top tier and then once that top tier is full you’ll then replace it with the tier below and keep repeating that process and over two to three months, your food will continue to breakdown and you would’ve created beautiful soil at home,” she says.

“As the food breaks down, you can keep adding fresh food in your top tier so your other tiers will continue to break down.

“It does allow for optimal airflow and moisture which helps with the composting process but also helps reduce any smelly odours as well.”

It’s designed for any household dwelling, but particularly helpful for those with little garden space, Aguilera says.

You’ll still need to maintain the four key elements of any compost – greens, browns, oxygen and moisture.

“In terms of household browns, there’s actually a lot you can use. You can shred up toilet paper rolls, you can shred up egg cartons, corrugated cardboard, the brown bags of mushrooms, any kind of brown cardboard, there’s actually a lot in the house.”

Aguilera says her mission is to help connect people with the Earth for a better tomorrow by encouraging them to create soil at home.

“For generations, we’ve [the Aguilera family in Chile] used clay to cook from and to serve our nearest and dearest, so I really think there’s something beautiful about that.

“And I guess when I came across an opportunity to work with clay and compost, it was like a match made in heaven.”

With winter upon us, it can take longer for the compost to break down the food, but Aguilera says that’s where the Pacha pot’s layered system is advantageous.

“The great thing about the Pacha pot though is you can put tiger worms, composting worms in the bottom tier … that can help break down the food as well. And if are using a Bokashi as another form of composting, you can also add your finished Bokashi bins to your top tier of your composter as well.”

The juice from a fermented Bokashi bucket can come in handy in various ways, she says.

“You can either add it straight to your composter to help as a compost activator or you can dilute it and make it as a fertiliser for your household plants. It’s also good for pouring into your drains as a drain cleaner.”

Aguilera also encourages people to embrace the critters they find in their compost.

“A lot of people get freaked out when they see black soldier fly larvae, but I really think we need to celebrate those because they are superstars in the compost. They help break down your food.

“Also beetles, millipedes, ants in moderation, they’re all actually really good signs of a healthy compost because they each play a little part in helping break down your kai as well.”

Victoria Aguilera’s Pacha pots are set to come in two sizes, with an expected launch date of 11 July.