Does it matter what you put in your compost bin or compost pile?
Is it important to learn what not to put in compost?
Can putting the wrong materials in your compost pile cause a negative impact in any way?
Putting something in the compost pile that shouldn’t be there can and often does cause a lot of problems. Your whole compost pile may be ruined in a worst-case scenario; even in a better outcome, you may have to take a lot of time to rebuild the pile and get rid of the problem.
It may take some time to learn what you shouldn’t compost. However, with a little practice and understanding, you should have no trouble learning and improving your composting experience easily.
Read on to learn all about what not to compost.
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Items That Should Not Be Composted
In this section, we’ll teach you about some common household waste items that you should not add to the compost bin or pile. In some of these instances, you may be able to successfully compost the items with a lot of experience. However, it’s important to brush up on everything you need to know about them beforehand to ensure you aren’t making any rookie mistakes as a newcomer to the world of composting.
Remember, too, that municipal composting facilities may be able to handle some of these items even if they can’t be processed at home. Learn more from the list below:
Items that cannot biodegrade.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but if it can’t break down at all, then don’t add it to the pile—simple! Stay away from many plastics, metals, and other items that simply won’t break down.
These weeds risk germinating in the compost and then spreading to your yard and garden through the compost as well. Leave them out of the pile and prevent any harm that may potentially come to your plants because of them.
With some experience, you can add plain, cooked rice to your compost pile. However, you should never add rice that has toppings or other food mixed into it unless that food is very basic and organic too. If you do add rice of any kind to the pile, be sure to bury it in the middle to prevent pests from looking for it. Mice and rats especially love it.
Fabric and cloth.
Technically, organic fabrics and cloths can be broken down. However, they take an extremely long amount of time to do this, and therefore, they won’t break down fast enough for a backyard composting experience. Many fabrics also contain plastic, which might never break down at all.
This is another one that experienced composting individuals may be able to manage. However, without a lot of experience or the right setup, you should skip dead animals in the compost. They will smell very strongly and may take a long time to break down, too, so you and your neighbors will deal with the smell and pests that go along with them.
Used personal hygiene products.
These items often contain plastic and should therefore be kept out of the composting pile. You can, however, compost them if you’re completely sure they only contain cotton or other completely organic substances.
Treated or finished wood.
This wood may not break down for an extremely long amount of time because of the finish. Remember that treatments and finishes are designed to keep wood from falling apart too easily, so they will also keep the wood from being able to be composted easily as well.
You should never add chemicals to the compost bin. Doing so will cause the compost to be thrown off completely, and it may also contribute to more chemicals making their way into your plants and food too. Keep all chemicals away from your compost, including chemical fertilizers. With the help of compost, you may not need those fertilizers anymore anyway!
If you compost something with a plant-based disease, you run the risk of spreading that disease to your other plants when you use the compost in the garden or backyard. This is a common way plant diseases are spread in households, so keep this in mind and just throw away diseased plants.
Stickers and similar paper.
Stickers—even the ones that come on the rinds and peels of fruit and vegetables—should stay out of the compost bin. They may get stuck within the compost and never break down, and they may throw off the compost pile more than you might realize, too. Sticker paper takes a long time to break down and should be avoided as well.
Glossy paper, unless it is completely biodegradable.
This paper may sometimes be designed to be biodegradable. However, unless you know this for sure, keep it out of your compost to prevent lengthy breakdown time frames.
Tea in bags.
Loose-leaf tea is fine. Tea bags often contain plastic to some degree, and some of them are made entirely of plastic. Do not put them in your composting pile. There are a few tea brands, however, that utilize biodegradable tea bags. If you know a tea bag is biodegradable, then by all means, add it to the pile too!
Any waste that has been treated with pesticides.
Once again, keep those chemicals out of the composting pile! Pesticides should never be present in your compost. You should not treat your plants with them ever, if possible, but definitely don’t compost them. Otherwise, you may end up with a negatively affected compost pile.
Ash, coal, and similar items.
These items won’t break down easily. They may also raise the temperature of the composting pile and negatively affect the aerobic bacteria present there. And you should never throw any of these materials on the pile if they’re still hot! This could cause a fire in some rare instances and may be quite dangerous.
Lard is a fat that comes from animals. This choice shouldn’t be composted, as it may draw pests to the pile and may create too many anaerobic bacteria in the compost as well.
Grease and oil.
Any type of grease or oil also causes issues with anaerobic bacteria in the compost. Food grease and oil as well as mechanical grease and oil can both be issues here.
Dairy products smell strongly as they break down, and they are also very popular among pests. Keep them out of your compost pile until you have some experience or a place to safely keep your compost without allowing pests to reach it. Even then, bury your dairy!
Bones are like meat and dairy in that they should be avoided until you have some experience. Once again, you should bury them in the middle of the compost pile and turn it often to help them break down. Remember that large bones will take a while and may need to be broken into smaller pieces.
Full pieces of meat and some meat scraps.
You can compost most meat. However, you should break it into smaller pieces and cook it lightly before composting. Some types of meat, like raw chicken, shouldn’t be composted in order to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.
Do you still have some questions that are troubling you? Are you concerned about the issues that may arise from composting something wrong? What are some troubleshooting steps you can take if you find yourself faced with issues related to composting the items above? Here are some to keep in mind:
- Sometimes, compost may be too wet because it contains too many liquid contents and not enough absorbing ones. This may happen when vegetables and fruit break down, or when you add anything too liquid to the compost pile. Solve this issue by sprinkling in some grass clippings or adding other green or brown matter to assist.
- Compost may be too acidic if you are adding a lot of citrus fruit without anything to counterbalance it. Throw in some wood shavings or wood chips, or even just more leaves, to help out in this situation.
- If your compost pile smells bad, you may have composted something you shouldn’t have. If so, you’ll need to turn it often to aerate it help fight off the smell of this decomposing matter, and you may need to add more grass or leaves to assist too. Brown materials may help if the compost is both moist and stinky.
Is it possible to salvage compost that has gone wrong, or should you start over? Generally speaking, you should be able to tweak the compost and fix it with some time and effort. However, in some instances, the problem is so severe you’ll need to start over from the beginning. It’s a good idea to at least try to salvage the compost before giving up on it, because you may be surprised at how well it bounces back with a little extra care and attention.