Why have a Digester Bale in Your Garden:

Translated by Nick R

Today, the organic wastes we produce are not being used as they should. This waste reaches landfills and produces polluting gases, such as methane, which accumulate in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

Therefore, the digester bale technique was created to reduce the environmental burden and the waste of these organic residues. This technique is used to compress organic waste so it doesn’t produce unpleasant odors or pollution.

Would you like to create your own digester bale in the comfort of your home? This way, you’ll be able to take advantage of organic waste and contribute to environmental preservation.

In this blog, I’ll explain what a digester bale consists of, what aspects you should consider to build it, what materials you need and how to assemble it.

What is a digester bale? 

The initiative to create a digester bale came from forestry technologist Guillermo Silva. He observed the natural process that forests follow to take advantage of organic waste and decided to recreate it by using digester bales.

How does it work? 

The purpose of digester bales is to transform organic waste through fermentation. It consists of using a narrow box-like structure, either made of wood, plastic, or metal, to place organic matter and garden pruning waste in.

Said materials get pressed to prevent the passage of oxygen, which leads to reducing odors and the appearance of insects, as well as avoiding the emission of air-polluting gases.

What do the bales have? 

The bales resemble lasagna as several layers of vegetable and organic material are used to create them. That reduces oxygen and produces beneficial microorganisms and insects that contribute to the decomposition of the waste without contaminating it.

By implementing this composting technique, you can process approximately half a ton of waste, preventing it from reaching garbage dumps, where it gets wasted and pollutes the environment.

The elements that make up the bale comprise 50% organic matter:

Fruit and vegetable scraps and peels.

  • Egg shells
  • Seeds
  • Food scraps (raw or cooked)
  • Animal manure

And another 50% of garden waste such as

  • Leaf litter
  • Grass
  • Branches (vegetable matter)

You can access the following website for a better understanding of the purpose of the digester bales: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?extid=SEO–&v=469318113791467 There you’ll find a video in which the creator of this initiative, Guillermo Silva, explains it.

How big are the bales? 

The bale size can vary according to your likes and needs, and the time it takes to fill it varies from hours, days, or up to 1 month. The bonus is that as soon as you gather all the waste you want to compost, the composting process will take 6 months, and then it’ll turn into natural compost, which can be used.

This composting practice originated in Colombia and has expanded to several cities in the country and has become a practice in other countries. You may find them in parks, schools, neighborhoods, homes, and many other open spaces.

What’s the importance of using digester bales? 

First of all, this initiative seeks to change people’s thinking about the organic waste they produce at home. Many of us often mistakenly think that waste is garbage and should be thrown away in bins to be sent to dumps or landfills.

However, these wastes still have a service life and can be used as plant fertilizer. Remember, plants offer great culinary, medicinal, therapeutic, and other benefits.

So the first thing to keep in mind is that composting is a process for learning and a way of connecting with nature, which favors environmental sustainability while making the most of the natural resources at our disposal.

As I mentioned before, you can find digester bales in parks, schools, and houses mainly. That’s because people are getting aware of the importance of environmental care and taking advantage of all those resources with a useful life.

By doing so it’s possible to create awareness about the reality of the degradation that the environment has been experiencing over the years.

Materials to build a bale digester 

Now that you know what a bale digester is and how important it is for you and the environment, I’ll tell you what materials you need to build one. This way you can do it anywhere you like, as long as it’s an open space.

  • 4 sheets of wood, or whatever material you have, ideally 1 m long x 1 m wide x 1 m high. However, they can be higher or lower (40 cm e.g.), it all depends on your needs.
  • Nails, slats, or joints to fix the sheets.
  • From 100 to 200 kg organic waste, or a little more depending on the size of the bale and how much you want to compost. Do not forget that 50% of this material must be composted.
  • Between 100 and 200 kg of garden waste. It could also be more, but don’t forget that this material makes up the other 50%.
  • Sticks and logs to put on the base of the digester bale.

How to build a digester bale? 

Now that you know what materials you need to create your digester bale, let’s get down to work and I’ll explain step by step how to build it.

Step 1. Construction of the mold 

Take the sheets of the material you’ve chosen, this time we’re working with wooden sheets, and join them together forming a cube and adjusting them with nails or joints. This cube will have neither base nor lid, only the sides.

Make sure that the nails are not too tight because you must remove the sheets at the end of the process.

Taken from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBW4GtGf-0E&ab_channel=AudiovisualConscienteAudiovisualConsciente

If your mold is 40 cm high, there’s no need to disassemble the sheets. You can raise the mold as you fill the bale, so it will be more of an upward press, and thus it’ll be much easier to remove it. This allows you to have bigger bales.

Once the mold is ready, place it where you intend to keep the bale. It has to be in an open space, preferably a green area, an urban garden, or a park. That way, water entry and exit won’t be disturbed.

Step 2. Assembling the base of the bale and waste division 

As the mold is open at the top and bottom, you’re going to lay well seated the sticks and logs on the base. This will create a grid pattern that will facilitate water flow and provide moisture insulation.

Once you’ve placed the sticks, you must separate the organic and vegetable waste in equal amounts to start preparing the layers. You can balance the amount of waste per layer by weighing it on a scale.

Step 3. Incorporation of the garden waste 

The first layer to be added after adding the sticks will be the garden waste. It can consist of branches, leaf litter, grass clippings, and so on. You may add plenty of it, but be sure to spread it evenly all over the bale.

Each layer of either waste needs to be well compressed. So, after adding the garden waste, you’re going to start pressing down the layers. Do this by either using a large stick or your feet, stepping, or jumping on the waste.

After doing so, add a little more yard waste to the bale, but only at the edges. In the center you should leave a nest or cradle-like space, as this is where the organic waste will go.

Step 4. Incorporation of the organic waste 

With the nest hole ready, add the organic residues that can be manure, vegetables, peelings, and others. You can accumulate a week’s worth of waste and add it to the bale.

What’s most important is to always place the organic waste in the center of the bale to avoid strong odors and rodents.  

Manure is incorporated into this digester bale, for example.

Once you’ve added the organic matter, cover it with an extra layer of garden waste. It must be abundant so as to cover the organic residues completely. Finally, press the layers together again with a stick or, if possible, with your feet.

Step 5. Repeat the procedure 

Next, you’re going to repeat the whole process by adding 1 layer of garden waste over the organic, creating the nest for the new layer, and pressing it. Then, add 1 more layer of organic waste to the nest and one extra layer of garden waste and press it again.

This way, you’ll eventually achieve the desired or needed height. Remember to press very well so that there is minimal incoming oxygen between the layers.

Step 6. Finish the bale 

When the bale is completely filled, whether it is 1 m high or needs more time, you’ll cover it with the last layer of garden waste and flowers.

If you want to add an eye-catching view to where the bale is, you can place some plants in it. These will absorb the nutrients they need for growth from the bale.

Finally, lift the mold upwards and carefully remove it or dismantle it, as I mentioned at the beginning. This same mold will be of help for creating more digester bales.

How long should you wait? 

The bales will be very compact and it’ll take 6 months to use them as fertilizer for your garden plants. You can even sell or donate some compost to others who have their own garden or want to create one.

Why digester bales instead of home composting? 

While home composting also works great for creating compost and can sometimes be faster, it does have some disadvantages. By using elements such as minerals (ashes), nitrogen (manure and organic matter), and carbon-rich materials (straw), a process known as aerobic fermentation (which requires oxygen to develop) occurs to break down these materials.

However, the temperature and humidity must be adequately controlled, which is why the compost needs to be stirred regularly. In this way, it can be oxygenated and the temperature can be controlled. If this is not done, the elements will decompose to the point of rotting, and thus odors and mosquitoes and other pests, such as rodents, will appear.

This doesn’t happen with digester bales, as they work through an anaerobic fermentation system (they can develop without the presence of oxygen). Throughout their compaction, oxygen cannot enter, and the waste doesn’t rot; they don’t stink and pests, such as mosquitoes, don’t get into the bales.

In contrast, digester bales produce organisms such as earthworms, which favor the decomposition of the materials. Moreover, it’s a natural process as this is how it works in a non-human-intervened environment.  

How can you get involved in this initiative? 

You don’t need to be an expert on the subject, but just find sites where these bales are being created. People from your community or neighborhood, whether they’re youngsters, adults, students, teachers, and anyone who might be interested, will be willing to receive more help and integrate more people.

A great benefit is that you can enjoy a different space, where to distract yourself from the daily stress, and where to share experiences with others and talk about different topics of interest. It’s an enriching activity both for the environment and for you.

A great example of digester bales is found in the city of Bogota in Colombia. Maybe not many knew about this, but there are too many spots within the city where digester bales have been set up.

There, a group called Paquerxs Bogota is in charge of training people to create their own digester bales. They promote adequate waste management to contribute to having a healthy environment in communities.  

This group has created a map that you can filter by zones or localities and find the community digester bale closest to you. Below is an image of this map and the link to find the nearest bale (in case you visit or live in Bogota).  

In the image above, in purple and other colors, are marked the locations in the city center and surroundings that have digester bales. Many of them are located in parks or near residential areas. The community is responsible for maintaining and processing them.

Digester bales located in the Armenia neighborhood in Bogota.


Isn’t it amazing what can be done with all the organic and garden waste we throw away? Indeed, this whole digester bale system provides many benefits both for people and for the environment. Besides, you need to spend no money at all, all you need is the desire to learn and contribute to the protection of the planet and its resources.You can either create your own digester bales or join one near your home or community. I’m sure you won’t regret taking part in this innovative and efficient composting practice. Come on!