- What Can You Compost And What Not To Put In Garden Compost
- What to Put in a Compost Bin
- What Not to Put in Garden Compost
Setting up your bin FAQs
- What should I put at the bottom of the compost bin?
- What style of bin can I use to recycle food waste without attracting small animals?
- Can I start to fill my compost bin at any time of the year?
- How do insects enter the compost bin?
- What are the best conditions for a compost heap?
- What are the recommendations for composting when you keep chickens?
- Can my compost bin be secured to the ground in any way?
- One of my bins is an old strawberry tub. Should I cover it with a piece of carpet to keep the heat in and will the holes affect the process?
- Does a compost heap need to have a lid?
- Can I site a compost bin in my shed?
- I’m being plagued by fruit flies from my kitchen caddy. How can I discourage them?
- How do I prevent small animals burrowing under the edge of the compost bin?
- The Concerns with Composting Weeds
- DISCLOSURE: In order for me to pay my blogging expenses, I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement and/or link to products mentioned on this blog. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
- First Step: Preventing Weeds From Growing in the First Place
- What to Do with the Weeds that Do Sprout in the Garden
- How to Compost Weeds the Proper Way
- More Organic Gardening Posts You’ll Love
- Because You Asked
- 20+ Things You Should Never Put in Your Compost Heap
- Items That You Should Never Recycle
- What to Put in a Compost Bin
What Can You Compost And What Not To Put In Garden Compost
Starting a compost pile is easy, but that doesn’t mean that it is done without a few questions. A common question is what to put in a compost bin, and an even more important question is what not to put in garden compost. Below we will discuss what to put in a compost bin (or keep out) and why.
What to Put in a Compost Bin
At a very basic level, what to compost is as simple as anything made from organic material, but not all organic material is safe for most home compost piles. Without a doubt, the following materials are safe for your compost pile:
- Grass clippings
- Tree leaves
- Vegetable food scraps (coffee grounds, lettuce, potato peels, banana peels, avocado skins, etc.)
- Black and white newspaper
- Printer paper
- Most disease free yard waste
- Vegetarian animal manure (e.g. cows, horses, rabbits, hamsters, etc.)
- Wood shavings or sawdust
Some items need a little more consideration before you decide if you should compost them or not. These are:
- Non-vegetarian manure – Manure that come from animals that may eat meat, such as dog, cats, pigs and yes, even humans, can be composted, but you need to be aware that their feces can carry pathogens that can spread disease. A compost pile must get very hot before these possibly harmful microbes are killed. If your compost pile does not heat up or if you would rather not worry about it, meat-eating animal feces belongs in the what not to put in garden compost category.
- Noxious weeds – Invasive weeds like creeping charlie or Canada thistle can be composted, but these invasive weeds often come back from even small pieces of plant material. While composting these invasive weeds will not harm your compost, it could help spread unwanted weeds to parts of your yard where you use your compost.
- Food scraps containing some animal products (excluding meat, fat, dairy and bones) – Food scraps with small amounts of eggs, dairy or fats and oils can be attractive to nighttime scavengers like raccoons, rats and opossums. While eggshells, bread and noodles are good for your compost pile, they may cause an unintended pest problem. If your compost bin locks, then you will not have any issues, but if you have an open compost bin, you may want to keep these kinds of items out of it. Eggshells can still be used in an open compost pile if you make sure to wash them thoroughly before composting.
- Color newspaper – Color newspapers (even magazines and catalogs) today are printed with a soy-based ink and is perfectly safe to compost. The problem is that some color printed paper is coated in a thin layer of wax. While this wax is harmless, it can keep the color paper from composting well. You can speed up how fast color paper composts by shredding the paper, but if you do not have the time or means to shred, it may be better to skip composting colored paper.
What Not to Put in Garden Compost
- Diseased yard waste – If plants in your yard become diseased and die, do not place them in the compost pile. A common example is if your tomatoes develop blight or get a virus. Composting items like this will not kill the disease and will make it so they can be spread to other plants. It is best to burn or throw away diseased yard waste.
- Meat, fat (including butter and oil), dairy and bones – Pure meat, fat and bones can not only carry the risk for disease, it also is very attractive to a wide variety of undesirable animals. Even in a securely locked compost bin, these items are enticing enough that an animal may try to damage your compost bin to get at them. This, combined with the risk of disease, means that it is just best to throw these items in the trash rather than use them in your compost.
Setting up your bin FAQs
Generally speaking it is not essential to add anything in particular to the bottom a compost bin. It is important to site your bin on open soil, but if you can’t, we provide advice on where to put your bin.
What style of bin can I use to recycle food waste without attracting small animals?
Assumptions are made about how small animals have been attracted to gardens. Compost bins are often blamed. This is not the case. If there are rodents in the locality, they will take advantage of the shelter and food that a compost bin provides. Do not try to compost meat, fish, bread or dairy products.
You can deter small animals by lining the base, sides and top of the bin with a heavy-duty metal mesh. The compost bin should also have a tightly fitting lid.
Regular use of a compost bin is likely to cause too much disruption for a small animal to want to stay.
Can I start to fill my compost bin at any time of the year?
You can start composting at any time of the year. Autumn is a popular time as many gardeners begin the tidy up in anticipation of the winter months. Spring is also a good time, as it ties in nicely with the start of the gardening season.
Composting works faster in the warmer weather, so you will see the contents breaking down more rapidly if you have a spring start.
How do insects enter the compost bin?
These insects will enter your compost bin from the soil in your garden; therefore it is recommended that your composting bin is situated on bare soil. This will help all of the beneficial insects and other organisms to move into your compost bin when the conditions are right for them.
What are the best conditions for a compost heap?
A compost heap, or compost bin, is best situated where it will get some sunshine during the day to warm it up and help with the composting process. If you can ensure that a 50:50 mix of ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ are placed in on the heap, the composting process will work well.
What are the recommendations for composting when you keep chickens?
Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) advise that if you keep poultry, you may compost your kitchen scraps at home but you must do so in an enclosed container. However, they do not specify the distance at which the compost bin should be placed away from the chickens or chicken coup.
As long as the chickens do not have access to the decomposing material, the bin can be placed anywhere within your garden.
Can my compost bin be secured to the ground in any way?
There’s no easy way to secure a plastic compost bin to the ground. If your site is that exposed it may be better to build a wooden composter that you can secure with driven-in stakes.
One of my bins is an old strawberry tub. Should I cover it with a piece of carpet to keep the heat in and will the holes affect the process?
A piece of carpet or polythene laid over the surface of a compost bin is a good way of retaining heat. This is especially beneficial during the cold months when a compost bin works more slowly.
Ventilation holes in your compost bin are not a problem if they already exist. However, we don’t recommend that holes are drilled into a fully enclosed bin. It is more important to encourage pockets of air within the dense mass by layering it with equal amounts of ‘browns’.
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Does a compost heap need to have a lid?
It is not essential for a compost heap to have a lid. However, a lid does help to regulate both the temperature and the moisture levels.
You could easily use a piece of old carpet (preferably Hessian backed rather than foam backed) or a thick piece of plastic tarpaulin weighed down with stones.
Can I site a compost bin in my shed?
It is not recommended, as compostable materials have a high water content and when they break down this water is released. It then, of course, seeps out of the bottom.
I’m being plagued by fruit flies from my kitchen caddy. How can I discourage them?
This is a seasonal problem and may well cease in colder weather. In the meantime, try wrapping your fruit and vegetable peelings in newspaper before you put them in the caddy. This will discourage the fruit flies from landing on the fresh material and also provides a good mix of ‘green’ and ‘brown’ material when it gets to the compost bin.
If your caddy has a lid, try keeping it closed when not in use. Regular emptying and washing the caddy may also help.
How do I prevent small animals burrowing under the edge of the compost bin?
- Make it more difficult for them to get into the bin by placing large rocks around the base to deter them.
- If appropriate, place the bin onto paving slabs. If you are going to try this, I would suggest you leave a centimetre gap between the slabs to allow worms and minibeasts access to the bin and for any liquid to drain away.
- Line the base of the bin with wire mesh. Allow enough to go up the insides of the bin slightly to really discourage them.
- Ensure that only uncooked fruit and vegetable waste is going into the bin; cooked food may tempt animals to your bin.
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Professor Rot says:
Compostable food scraps are one of the best and readily available sources of organic materials for home composting.
In fact, you’re a fool to not compost your food waste! What better way to return to the Earth than to recycle your food waste in your own yard!
Composting food scraps at home is one of the most important aspects of home composting. Why? Because food scrap items such as vegetable and fruit waste, meal leftovers, coffee grounds, tea bags, stale bread, grains, and general refrigerator spoilage are an everyday occurrence in most households.
One of the “great waves” in municipal and home recycling is the concentration on what to do with the enormous amount of food waste generated in and out of the home, by businesses, or as a result of surplus farming. On the grand scale, it is estimated that about one-half of all food that is produced or consumed in the U.S. is discarded. The main culprits are spoilage and overproduction/surplus.
A typical household throws away an estimated 474 pounds of food waste each year. Put another way, that is about 1.5 lbs per person a day in the U.S. Food scraps generated by all households in the United States could be piled on a football field more than five miles (26,400 feet) high!
Up to 90 percent of waste thrown out by businesses like supermarkets and restaurants is food scraps. In fact, food scraps are the third largest segment of the waste stream with nearly 26 million tons generated each year. Of the overall wastestream, about 12% is food-related, behind paper and plastic.
CHECK WITH YOUR MUNICIPAL WASTE MANAGEMENT DISTRICT TO SEE IF YOU ARE ALLOWED TO COMPOST FOOD SCRAPS AT HOME!
Believe it or not, some cities have issues with the home composting of food scraps. Why? Because there is the concern over attracting rodents and other vermin (racoons, opossums, scavengers, etc.) to an inadequately secure compost bin. Therefore, a community may desire more control over food waste recycling.
Some communities are exploring curbside food waste disposal, using specially designed receptacles. They believe they can control the food wastestream better. Unfortunately, such food disposal has a flaw, from our perspective. Very often, food waste that should not be composted (see chart below) is comingled with appropriate compostable food scraps.
WHAT HOME FOOD WASTE CAN YOU COMPOST?
Not all food waste is created equal. You should know this or else you may have problems popping up in your compost bin or pile. BIG PROBLEMS! Actually, once you look at the chart below, commonsense will be your guide.
|DO COMPOST||DON’T COMPOST|
Why can’t you compost
CREATE A HOME FOOD WASTE PLAN!
Now that you know what you can compost out of your kitchen, create a household plan. Use this plan from food preparation and storage to kitchen storage, and ultimately to the compost bin.
Food Scraps at the Stove
Ever wonder how those sauces or soups at your favorite restaurant are prepared? Yes, from vegetable scraps such as peels, skins, stalks, etc. Simply simmer a small pan of such scraps, as seen on the front burner in the photograph, for a few hours, let cool, then store in your refrigerator until you desire to make a soup or sauce. The stock is delicious, and you did a little vegie recycling to boot!
How to Store Compostable Food Scraps
Many people who have an in-sink garbage disposal don’t even consider this fact: what they grind up ends up merging with the wastestream leaving their house and into the larger wastestream of their municipality. This definitely taxes municapl waste treatment facilties. Home composting is a decision to have the buck stop at your household.
- Scraps can be stored in plastic bags in your refrigerator until used in your compost bin
- Scraps can take up less space if you chop or shred them first during meal preparation
- Scraps can be stored in a Kitchen Compost Pail until taken to your compost bin
The KITCHEN COMPOST PAIL
The best way to store food scraps until thrown into the compost bin is in a securely lidded Kitchen Compost Pail. This can be kept near the sink or beneath it. See photograph.
You can purchase a food scrap pail designed specifically to securely store food scraps. Look for one with a tight-fitting lid, adequate storage, aesthetic appeal, washable, and with a handle. You can also use a plastic container, such as a 1-quart yogurt container for small quantities of scraps.
Empty your containers daily or every few days, depending upon how much waste you generate, or to insure that no smell starts permeating the kitchen or home. You can always cover the scraps inside a container with a wet paper towel or newspaper to cut down on odor or gnats.
You can decide to empty your kitchen food scrap pail directly into your compost bin. This method is known as the Add-as-You-Go Pile, as thoroughly described on this website. Better yet is to use a 4-5 gallon lidded bucket to stockpile food scraps, as detailed below.
The FOOD SCRAP BUCKET
A Food Scrap Bucket is simple to locate. Just look for a 4-5 gallon bucket at your local hardware store. Some food establishments or wholesalers have some as well.
Keep the bucket near your backdoor or compost bin.
A good way to keep fruit flies or gnats from sneaking into the bucket is to line the lid with newspaper. This also cuts down on odors seeping out.
Replace the paper when it gets moist and deteriorates.
Pour the contents of your Kitchen Compost Pail into the Food Scrap Bucket.
How simple can it be!
Wash your Kitchen Pail well to use again.
Here’s a good trick to cut down on odors or potential fruit flies or gnats:
Have nearby a small pail of finished compost, peat moss, sawdust, rock dust, leaf mulch or humus (good soil).
Then, scoop a trowel full of the material and sprinkle it on the top of the newly-added food scraps.
A sure fire way to help the food scraps to breakdown, because of the addition of BROWNs to the GREENs of the food scraps.
Pick Your Problem:
ODOR? FLIES? RODENTS?
The cause is always AT LEAST ONE of these:
- Did you add one of the DON’Ts to your pile? Remove them and don’t do it again, ever! Never! Or else!
- Did you DUMP-AND-RUN: quickly disposed of food scraps on the top of your pile? Please take a moment each time to cover them with a small layer of brown materials (leaves, sawdust, compost, soil, activator)
- Have you turned or intermixed the GREEN & BROWN ingredients of your pile lately? Please do so joyfully!
OTHER WAYS TO COMPOST FOOD SCRAPS
The Green Cone Composter
This small compost bin is touted to be able to compost any form of food scrap, including the DON’Ts such as meat, fats, etc. How?
The manufacturer purports that inside its sealed container (notice no air vents), a tremendous amount of heat builds up to quickly decompose the material.
It’s worth considering. Is used a lot in other countries. www.greencone.com
The premise is simple: BURY your food waste (and yard waste), if allowed in your municipality.
Just dig a trench about 12-inches deep (30cm), throw in the items, chop and mix with soil, then cover with remaining soil. In a few months the rotted material will have been incorporated into the soil and you can plant above them.
Raised-Bed Garden Integration
Similar to Soil Incorporation. Just dump the food scraps into the raised-bed and dig them into the soil deeply so that no scavengers can get to them.
In no time the worms will have digested every last bit of the food you wasted!
Add-as-You-Go Compost Pile
Here you just throw in on top your compost pile and get on with your life.
Oh, but wait a minute. Don’t you want to cover it with some BROWN layer to keep the fruit flies and gnats and rodents and other creatures away?
In this picture, the bin is made out of pallets. The problem is that the bin is easily accessible by rodents who wiggle through the chicken-wire and the gaps in the wooden sides.
Also, it is a huge bin and it will take an immense volume of waste to heat up, if it ever does!
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When I look at weeds, do you know what I see? I see plants that have removed minerals from the soil in which they were growing. And because of that, I want to compost them so that those nutrients can be returned to my garden soil. But composting weeds presents some challenges. Here’s how to compost them the safe way.
The Concerns with Composting Weeds
Composting weeds incorrectly can create the risk of having those weeds spread when the compost is applied to your garden.
The main parts of the plant to cause concern are the weed’s seeds, and its roots. Either can potentially be spread through your compost pile and wreak havoc in your garden later on. In addition, there are weeds, such as ground ivy, that can root from any part of the plant. These are especially easy to spread.
First Step: Preventing Weeds From Growing in the First Place
Preventing weeds from taking over your garden is the first step to a weed-free garden. Even in the best of cases, though, a few weeds get through and can be composted.
The three strategies that I use to prevent weeds are no-dig gardening, never stepping on my garden beds, and mulching.
No Dig Gardening
It is possible to garden without ever having to dig. The best way to do this is to build a raised bed and fill the bed lasagna-style. A lasagna garden is built by layering organic materials which eventually decompose into wonderful garden soil.
Digging brings weed seeds to the surface, causing them to sprout. So not only does no-dig gardening save me from having to spend time and effort digging, it helps to keep weeds down in my garden.
I have over 20 garden beds, and all but two of them have been built in the lasagna garden style. Some of them are contained in raised beds, but a few of them are not.
Those in the raised beds get far fewer weeds for several reasons. The boundary created by the raised beds keeps my feet (and those of visitors) on the path and out of the garden. Which brings me to my next strategy – not stepping on my garden soil.
Why Stepping on Your Garden is a Bad Idea
The roots of garden plants love loose soil which allows their roots to go deep for water and nutrients. Stepping on soil compacts it, reducing the space available in the soil for air and water.
In addition, many weeds love compacted soil. Our garden areas that are not contained in raised beds tend to get weeds along the edges where we walk. Since the paths are not always clearly defined, we tend to step into the beds near those edges, compacting the soil. Weeds always grow here.
Mulching Keeps Weeds Down
Mulching has so many benefits in a garden. It keeps the soil from drying out, reducing watering, and as it decomposes it helps to build healthy soil.
A 2 – 3″ layer of mulch does a great job of keeping weeds at bay by blocking the sunlight that the weeds need to sprout. We use both hay and wood chips as mulch in our garden.
What to Do with the Weeds that Do Sprout in the Garden
How to Compost Weeds the Proper Way
I like to call compost “black gold”. It is made up of decomposing organic matter which improves your soil, and keeps kitchen scraps and yard debris out of landfills.
All sorts of items are compostable from grass clippings and leaves, to egg shells and natural fibers. Find a list of items you can compost here. And yes, even weeds are compostable if you take a few precautions.
1.) First, make sure that the weeds you wish to compost haven’t gone to seed. Unless your compost heats up to 140°F, those seeds will survive and spread in your garden. My style of composting can be fairly passive; it just doesn’t get turned as often as I’d like. Therefore, I don’t add any weeds to my compost pile that have gone to seed because I know that it won’t always heat up to 140°F.
2.) If you do wish to compost weeds that have gone to seed, be sure to hot compost your weeds. That means that your compost pile must heat up to 140°F to kill any weed seeds. This temperature should be maintained for several weeks, turning the pile every time it goes below this temperature, which is generally every 4 – 5 days.
3.) An easier method for me to take care of weeds with seeds, or with roots attached, is to ferment them in water. Place the weeds in a 5 gallon pail, cover with water, and allow them to rot and ferment for several weeks before adding to your compost pile. The water can be added to the pile, too, or use it fertilize your plants. Keep in mind that this can get pretty smelly.
4.) Another strategy is to dry your weeds in the sun. This won’t kill seeds, but is good for weeds with roots still attached which could potentially take root in your compost pile. When you are certain that no life is left in the roots, the weeds may be composted.
5.) Lastly, you can place your weeds in a black plastic bag and allow this to heat up in direct sunlight for about a week. I prefer not to use plastic in my garden, so I’ve not used this strategy too often.
Throwing weeds in the landfill means that you are throwing precious nutrients away. Instead, learn to compost them the proper way so that those nutrients can be returned to your garden soil.
To learn how to build a garden that builds healthy soil, be sure to check out my eBook The Art of Gardening: Building Your Soil.
You really can become a better gardener, and you really can grow healthy, nourishing produce. It’s all about the soil!
More Organic Gardening Posts You’ll Love
Plastic Mulch in the Garden: Friend or Foe?
Lasagna Gardening: the Best Way to Garden
The Ins and Outs of Using Manure in Your Garden
Fall: the Perfect Time to Build Healthy Soil
Using Wood Chip Mulch in a Vegetable Garden
Thank you for visiting Learning And Yearning. May “the LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Num 6:24-26
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Because You Asked
Dear Recyclebank: One thing I would like to be able to compost is weeds. I pull so many when gardening, but I worry if I compost them, they will spring back to life. Is there a way to compost them without reviving them? –E. Mijares
Dear E. Mijares: There is nothing worse than having your best efforts backfire! To avoid that fate when composting weeds, you have to breakdown the process. The key ingredient is heat. Organic matter, including seeds, will decompose if subjected to enough heat for enough time. If weed seeds get above 140 degrees, then they will be sterilized (unable to grow), and you won’t have to worry about future weed growth — at least not coming from your compost batch. There are a couple ways to achieve a weed-compost and avoid zombie weeds coming back to haunt you.
The first way is to solarize the seeds. Solarizing is a relatively quick decomposition process. You can simply seal the weeds in a black plastic bag (which will absorb and retain heat), and then place the bag in the sun to cook. The minimum amount of time will depend on the type of weed you’re dealing with and on the intensity of the sun. Three-to-four days in direct sunlight will do the trick in the majority of cases, but if you want to be extra sure, it doesn’t hurt to leave them in the bag for a longer period of time. After the weeds have been scorched, you can add them to your compost pile. Be sure to reuse the plastic bag in future weed scorches.
The second way is to make sure your compost pile is healthy and thriving. A compost pile that is thriving should reach temperatures above 140 degrees, effectively purifying your future compost humus from any traces of weeds. The key here is to get your compost system tuned for optimal performance. If you want to get technical, you can buy a compost thermometer to ensure you’ve reached the right temperature.
There are four things to be aware of when working toward a strong compost pile:
1. Moisture content. Water your pile when you water your garden. The aim is to never let it dry out, but also to never let it become fully soaked. It should be a similar dampness to a wet towel after it’s been wrung out.
2. Oxygen availability. Mix up your pile regularly — a good time is after you water it. This brings the inside portions out to the atmosphere so the microbe populations can breathe and flourish, and do what they do best: Decompose organic matter.
3. The pH balance. The acid-alkaline balance on the pH scale is also a driver in the health of your compost pile. You can get science-y and use a digital pH meter (like a food thermometer for soil) to check your compost’s pH, or you can use the built-in one you already have in your nose! If the pile stinks, that means it’s out of balance. If that’s the case, add lime to shift the balance toward alkalinity. If you’re measuring with pH paper, a mature compost pile should have a pH between six and eight.
4. Carbon-Nitrogen balance. Keeping these two vital nutrients in the right ratio will boost the activity of the microbes in your compost pile, and drive the temperature up. An easy way to achieve this is to add equal amounts of brown, dry matter (carbon), and green, moist matter (nitrogen). The availability of brown and green matter will vary with the seasons making the spring and fall optimal times for composting. Also, it’s possible to keep the weed waste in a separate pile until it turns brown, if it’s midsummer and no other brown matter sources are available.
If all of these parameters are in balance and your pile is healthy, it will release steam when you turn it. Repeat the process. Scorching weeds first and then keeping a healthy compost pile should give you a strong insurance plan against weed seeds in your compost. As you continue to replenish your garden with healthy, weed-free soil year after year, you may see fewer weeds appear.
SOURCES: U.S. Department of Agriculture, University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources, Texas A&M AgriLife
Scavenger-proof containers make it easier to compost cooked foods.
Most general composting guidelines recommend against composting cooked foods. This may seem a little confusing – if something rots, it should be able to be composted, right? And it’s true, there are people out there composting anything and everything, from cooked foods to animal carcasses to “humanure.”
However, some items – including cooked foods – shouldn’t be composted unless you’re quite experienced. Cooked scraps, plate scrapings, meats, fats, and dairy present challenges that many “casual composters” won’t be prepared to handle, since these foods can:
- Smell Bad: Meats, fats, and dairy in particular can give off putrid odors as they break down. Plant scraps, on the other hand, tend not to cause as much of a stink.
- Attract Pests: Rats, bees, biting flies, bears, and other pesky scavengers are attracted to the smell, which can lead to a whole new set of problems!
- Turn to Mush: Cooked foods easily putrefy and turn mushy and gross, which is not only unpleasant but interferes with proper aeration of the pile.
- Go Anaerobic: Decomposing meats can produce anaerobic bacteria, which is the archenemy of a normal, aerobic compost pile. These bacteria can interfere with the composting process and cause problems with odors and acidity.
- Need High Heat: In order to kill harmful bacteria and break down proteins and fats, your compost pile needs to heat up properly, which requires attention and maintenance.
If you’re in the habit of simply tossing stuff into a compost pile to see what happens, you’re better off avoiding cooked foods. However, if you’re an experienced composter, go ahead and give it a try – if it’s made of (or comes from) living things, it’s possible to compost it if you keep the following in mind.
How to Compost Cooked Foods
- Cooked Vegetables: The “no cooked foods” rule is a general guideline because many of us add fat, butter, or meat products to our cooked veggies. Pure steamed veggies – with no oils or sauces – should compost just fine, especially if they’re well mixed into the pile. Don’t forget the cooking liquid, too!
- Cooked Starches and Grains: If you’re composting cooked veggies with no problem, consider adding cooked rice, pasta, and bread to the pile. Some gardeners believe that these foods attract scavengers more readily than their uncooked counterparts, but every yard is different.
- Meats, Fats, Oils, and Dairy: If you are successfully composting other cooked foods in a hot, well-aerated compost pile, you’re ready to give meat a try! Be sure to pre-cook raw meat scraps to kill salmonella and other dangerous bacteria. For best results, chop or puree meat scraps to help them mix in and break down.
Tips for Successful Composting
Composting cooked foods requires that you be a little more attentive to your compost pile. To keep it scavenger-free and to make sure it’s hot enough to kill disease pathogens, follow these tips:
- Keep It Hot: Use a thermometer to make sure your pile reaches at least 140°-160° F for a week or more. Turn your compost regularly to keep the temperature up.
- Bury It: Cover cooked foods with a few shovelfuls of dirt, leaves, or sawdust in your compost pile to keep smells down and discourage pests.
- Enclose It: If scavengers are a problem, use a critter-proof enclosed system such as a tumbling composter or wormery.
- Go Anaerobic: Anaerobic fermenting systems, such as Bokashi bins, use special bacteria in an airtight container. These types of composting systems can quickly and effectively break down meat and dairy scraps, although the resulting compost is more acidic than regular (aerobic) compost.
- What Happens during Composting (Food & Fertilizer Technology Center)
- How to Compost Eggshells, Meat, and Sour Milk (cleanairgardening.com)
- Bokashi: This Is Not Your Father’s Compost (cleantechnica.com
- Composting to the Ultimate (angelfire.com)
- Making Compost (Decision Time) (composterconnection.com)
- What Can I Compost?
- Benefits of a Compost Bin in Your Kitchen (video)
- How to Build a Compost Bin (article)
20+ Things You Should Never Put in Your Compost Heap
Whenever folks begin new ventures, new adventures even, the first steps always appear to be the most difficult. But when the journey has begun in all earnest, it’s amazing how much can be achieved in such a short space of time. Earth’s journey, on the other hand, has lasted for thousands of years. But in its present state, in just a short space of time, mankind has managed to turn it into, quite literally, a rubbish heap. But, against the tide of over-pollution, global warming and climate change, there are acres of hope.
Men and women across the globe in their own small ways are each doing a little bit towards drastically reducing their carbon footprints. The big question is always asked; is this enough. But the positive affirmation still remains that every little bit helps.
Today, whether it is done in the home’s backyard or on much larger industrial scales, two key functions are being stepped up to clean up the environment. But, unfortunately, well-meaning intentions without fully understanding the consequences of what is being done, often lead to more damage.
Composting in itself is a great way to put nutrients back in the soil even if you don’t have a garden. Composting is a process via which decomposed organic materials are converted into a rich soil known as compost that helps plants grow.
According to Wikipedia,
“Compost is a key ingredient in organic farming. At the simplest level, the process of composting simply requires making a heap of wetted organic matter known as green waste (leaves, food waste) and waiting for the materials to break down into humus after a period of weeks or months.”
The rest of this article deals with those functions; the matter of recycling and manufacturing compost. The damage that needs to be reversed relates to the lack of education on how to manage these tasks properly. It also entails a more responsible, thoughtful and proactive response towards cleaning up the environment and growing things organically.
This journey here lists over twenty items, namely what should not be going into a compost bin and what should never be recycled. The first half of this article deals with a list of items that should not be added to the mix during compost manufacturing. The article closes with the list of items that should not be recycled.
Here are 20+ things that you should not throw in the compost heap.
1. Bread – In this category, cakes and pasta have been included. All forms of residue left behind are a magnetized attraction for unwanted pests.
2. Cooking oil – It is perceived as food by pests. Also, its chemical content can upset the balance of nutrients in the compost.
3. Dairy products – Like bread or grain products, these products are also a favored food source for pests and can also attract wildlife or flies.
4. Diseased plants – These carry fungus and harmful bacteria which can be transferred to the organic nutrients of the compost heap.
5. Plants that challenge and invade – Otherwise known as weeds, these plants won’t decompose but grow instead.
6. Feces – The bacterial content from both human and carnivorous animals, mainly to do with consumed meat, is hazardous which might contain pathogens.
7. Meat scraps – Apart from the bacterial hazard, contents such as blood, bones and fleshy residues are also attractive to pests.
8. Heavily coated paper – These are broadly categorized to include things such as greeting cards, magazines, and writing pads. Apart from its chemical content, its high foil content is non-compostable.
9. Coated or Printed paper – One simple trick to use as a sticky reminder is to simply never print. There is no longer a need to do this and its impact on the environment remains negative.
10. Rice – In two parts, rice is unsuitable for the compost heap. Raw rice is attractive to pests, while cooked rice is fertile ground for bacteria, potentially harmful to the compost’s nutrients.
11. Sawdust – It is not feasible to identify whether the wood has been treated with chemicals and other harmful ingredients or not. It is better not to toss sawdust into the compost heap at all.
12. Used personal items – All used personal items such as tampons and diapers are soiled with human fluids and are health hazards.
13. Tea and Coffee bags – Tea and coffee should only be added in compose pile if they are bagless. Some bags contain synthetic fibers that do not break down in a compost pile.
14. Citrus Peels, onions and garlic scraps – They should be avoided as they might scare of useful bacteria and insects or kill worms and other organisms..
15. Coal ash – It may contain so much sulfur that it may make soil excessively acidic.
16. Large branches – They take a long time to break down. It is better to cut them down into smaller pieces. The smaller the pieces, the faster they will break down.
17. Synthetic Fertilizer – Synthetic fertilizer may upset the balance of nutrients in the soil and may increase the saltiness in the soil.
18. Dead animals – They should better be buried underground.
19. Inorganic materials, such as polyester, plastic, acrylic, rubber etc – Plastic products take much longer to compost. So, it is better to keep them off your compost bins.
20. Manure from sick animals – Manure is a great product to be used in a compost pile. But this should be used only if you are sure that it hasn’t come from sick animals or from animals taking antibiotics.
21. Walnuts – They contain juglone, a natural aromatic compound considered toxic to plant life.
22. Pretty much anything that is poisonous – This should be a case of stating the obvious. Proactive measures entail checking product labels.
23. Not even torn or shredded bits of clothing – Even the tiniest bits of fiber can contain harmful substances and invariably do contain chemicals. Also, there is the question of dye from the clothing material’s colorants.
By now you may have come to realize that even the best intentions have their consequences.
In the case of creating your own compost to feed your own organic ecosystem at home, this is pertinent. With just a portion of knowledge on some of the basics, many people who don’t give much thought to how they do things at home, have yet another opportunity to pull things right. As a reader, you can help them by informing them on what needs to be done and, as is the case here, on what should never enter the compost heap.
Items That You Should Never Recycle
1. Aerosol cans – Spray cans contain far too many chemicals and are regarded as hazardous waste by authorities.
2. Boxes in general – Most boxes, amazingly at this stage, are still not adequately prepared for recycling purposes.
3. Brightly dyed paper – Apart from the potential to stain other surfaces, the colorants are still filled with toxins.
4. Batteries – They can be recycled but need to be handed into specialized depots that process these materials.
5. Ceramics – In general, none of these should be tossed out and more uses should be found for them around the home.
6. Dangerous waste – All household chemicals and motor oil are included in this category. Find out where recyclable oil is handled.
7. Medical waste – This needs to be handled carefully. Ideally, find NGO-oriented services who will dispose of waste responsibly.
8. Diapers – It already contains human feces which are hazardous to the environment. The switch must be made towards using old-fashioned, washable diapers.
9. Fruit juice containers – As with boxes in general, far too many juice containers remain unsuitable for recycling bins.
10. Glass – Tossing these into general bins is dangerous because glass breaks and sharp edges will injure people.
11. Napkins – Interestingly, these have been recommended as ideal for composting instead of recycling.
12. Wet paper – Because of water, paper fibers are damaged and considered to be a contagious risk.
13. Plastic bags – It is recommended that these be washed and re-used in the home rather than tossing them away.
14. Plastic, plastic and still more plastic – Prevention is better than cure. Far better not to buy and use plastic at all.
15. Soft or hard plastic take-out containers – When it comes to lifestyle paradigms, this is another hard sell which entails radically adjusting eating habits to promote good health as well as using far less unwarranted plastics.
16. Pizza boxes – In the same vein as boxes in general, most of these haven’t been prepared for proper recycling. Also, it’s too greasy to be cleaned.
The same goes for recycling. Most people won’t be thinking of a compost heap right now, mainly because of their living circumstances. Urban lifestyles don’t always allow for enough space to create your own organic garden.
But you would be amazed at what you can do with just a small space. If you’re living on an apartment complex, you could encourage the building’s owners to start a garden as well as a recycling depot on the building’s roof. And before he tells you that this is well-nigh impossible, a little bit of research will show both you and him that it’s being done in different parts of the country and the world.
Finally, the next time you do go shopping, think carefully what you buy so that you can avoid accumulating most of the non-recyclable waste items mentioned in the above list.
Knowledge can be empowering. And knowing what to do and when to do it is even more so. Doing the right thing makes a world of difference.
Image credit: Antranias , Ben
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A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no ‘Planet B’ in this whole universe.
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What to Put in a Compost Bin
Many people are allured by the idea of owning a compost bin and creating their own organic fertilizer out of their waste. However, one may be confused about what to put in the compost bin to maintain a healthy compost pile. The following is by no means all inclusive, however, it contains most of the items that you may put into your compost bin.
Items to Put in a Compost Bin
- Vegetable Waste (including uneaten leftovers, stems, cobs and peels)
- Fruit Waste (including uneaten leftovers, cores, peels and seeds)
- Egg Shells
- Garden Soil (this is sometimes added to accelerate decomposition and control odor)
- Lawn Clippings
- Livestock Manure (never put pet waste into a compost bin; it contains toxic elements)
- Coffee Grounds
- Used Tea Bags
- Leaves (dead or green)
- Hay or Straw
- Sawdust (the sawdust must be from untreated wood–no paint, lacquers, finishes, etc.).
Never add meat or dairy to your compost pile because these items do not decompose in the same manner as the aforementioned items. It is best to have a healthy mixture of items in your compost bin; a variety of substances ensures faster decomposition and more fertile soil.