So, you’ve decided to start composting, huh? That’s awesome! It’s not only great for the environment, but it can also help you create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. However, before you start tossing anything and everything into your compost bin, it’s important to know what should stay out. In this article, we’ll answer the question, “What Shouldn’t I Compost?” and take a look at what items you should avoid composting to ensure a successful and odor-free composting experience. From invasive weeds to meat and dairy products, we’ll cover all the bases, so you can compost like a pro. Let’s get started!
Composting meat scraps is not recommended due to the potential for attracting pests and creating unpleasant odors. Meat contains high levels of fats and proteins, which can hinder the composting process and lead to an imbalanced compost pile. Instead of composting meat scraps, it’s best to dispose of them in a secure and sealed container to prevent any issues.
Bones should also be avoided in compost piles. They take a long time to decompose and can attract scavengers and pests. Furthermore, bones can be difficult to break down and may leave behind large and unsightly remnants in your compost. It is better to discard bones in regular trash or find alternative uses for them, such as making bone broth or using them for crafts.
While dairy products have the potential to break down in a compost pile, they can attract unwanted pests like rodents and flies. The high-fat content in dairy products can also lead to unpleasant odors and slow down the composting process. It’s recommended to avoid composting dairy products and instead dispose of them in a separate waste bin or consider other methods of disposal, such as composting them through specialized systems.
Composting fish can result in foul odors and attract animals and pests. The strong smell of fish can linger in your compost pile and may be difficult to eliminate. Additionally, fish bones may take a significant amount of time to decompose. To avoid these issues, it’s best to avoid composting fish and opt for other methods of disposal, such as burying them or using them for fertilizer in specific garden areas.
Grease and Oils
Grease and oils should not be composted as they can disrupt the natural decomposition process by creating a dense, impermeable layer. This layer prevents oxygen from reaching the microorganisms responsible for breaking down organic matter, resulting in a slow and inefficient composting process. Instead, it is recommended to dispose of grease and oils properly, such as by reusing them or collecting them for appropriate recycling facilities.
Although bread is primarily made from organic materials, it is not ideal for composting. Bread can attract pests, especially if it contains added sugars and oils. Additionally, bread takes longer to break down compared to other organic materials, potentially leading to a slower composting process. It is generally better to reduce food waste and consume bread in its entirety or consider donating surplus bread to reduce waste.
Cakes and Pastries
Similar to bread, cakes and pastries may contain ingredients like sugars, oils, and fats that can attract unwanted pests to your compost pile. Such foods can also take a long time to decompose, resulting in a slower composting process. If you have leftover cakes or pastries, it is advisable to consume or share them with others before considering composting.
Chips and Snacks
Most chips and snacks are processed with additives, preservatives, and high levels of salt, making them unsuitable for composting. These ingredients can negatively affect the compost pile by altering its balance and potentially harming the microorganisms responsible for decomposition. Rather than composting chips and snacks, it’s recommended to dispose of them in regular trash or seek opportunities for recycling.
Sauces and Condiments
Sauces and condiments, particularly those with high oil, salt, and sugar content, should not be added to compost piles. These substances can attract pests, disrupt the composting process, and create unfavorable odors. Instead, it’s best to dispose of sauces and condiments in appropriate waste streams or find alternative uses for them, such as incorporating them into other recipes or donating them.
Packaged foods typically contain a variety of preservatives, additives, and synthetic materials that are not suitable for composting. The non-biodegradable packaging itself can also cause issues in the composting process. It is advisable to separate packaging materials for recycling and dispose of the actual food waste in a compostable manner, such as through municipal composting programs or by setting up a home composting system.
Plastics are non-biodegradable and do not break down in compost, making them unsuitable for inclusion in compost piles. Adding plastics to your compost can contaminate the final compost product and harm the environment. It’s crucial to separate and recycle plastic items appropriately to minimize waste and environmental impact.
Glass is an inorganic material that does not decompose and should never be added to compost. Glass fragments can pose a danger to the environment, animals, and humans when mixed with soil or compost. It is important to recycle glass containers properly to prevent any harm and reduce waste.
Metal objects should never be included in compost piles as they do not decompose and can cause contamination. Metals can be harmful to soil health and organisms involved in the composting process. Recycling metals is the best way to dispose of them responsibly and prevent unnecessary waste accumulation.
Ceramic items, such as broken dishes or pottery, should not be composted. Ceramics do not break down like organic matter and can pose a safety risk if added to compost piles. Instead of composting ceramics, consider donating or repurposing them, or dispose of them in appropriate waste streams.
Rubber materials, including rubber bands and tires, should not be composted. Rubber does not decompose and can cause contamination and harm to the composting process. It is best to reuse rubber items or recycle them appropriately to minimize waste and protect the environment.
Pesticides should not be added to compost piles as they can harm beneficial microorganisms involved in decomposition. Pesticides can persist in the compost and potentially contaminate the soil and plants when the compost is used. It is crucial to follow proper pesticide disposal guidelines provided by local waste management authorities to ensure safe and responsible usage.
Similar to pesticides, herbicides can negatively impact the composting process and the subsequent use of compost. Herbicide residues can persist in the compost and cause harm to plants or disrupt their growth. To avoid these issues, it’s essential to use herbicides responsibly and dispose of any remaining herbicide products as directed by local waste management facilities.
While compostable materials are often rich in nutrients and can serve as natural fertilizers, it’s important not to add commercial fertilizers directly to a compost pile. These fertilizers are often concentrated and can disturb the balance of nutrients in the compost, leading to potential harm for plants and microorganisms. It is recommended to follow the instructions provided by the fertilizer manufacturer for proper disposal.
Paints should never be composted as they contain numerous chemical additives and toxins that can harm the environment and the composting process. Proper disposal of paint includes recycling or bringing it to waste management facilities for safe handling. Avoid pouring paint down drains or disposing of it in regular trash.
Cleaning products, such as bleach, disinfectants, and household chemicals, should never be added to compost piles. These products contain a range of synthetic chemicals that can disrupt the decomposition process and negatively impact soil and plant health. It is essential to follow the instructions provided on cleaning product labels for proper disposal and consider using environmentally friendly alternatives whenever possible.
Weeds and Diseased Plants
Weeds with Seeds
Composting weeds with seeds is generally not advised as the seeds can survive the composting process and potentially spread when the compost is used. To prevent weed infestations, it’s best to dispose of these weeds in a way that ensures the seeds cannot germinate, such as through hot composting or bagging and sending to a landfill.
Invasive plants should not be composted due to their ability to regenerate from small fragments. Composting invasive plants can lead to the spread of invasive species and cause problems in the surrounding environment. It is vital to properly identify invasive plants and follow local guidelines for their disposal, which often includes placing them in sealed bags for landfill disposal.
Plants with Fungal Diseases
Composting plants infected with fungal diseases is not recommended as the composting process may not destroy the fungal spores. These spores can survive in the compost and potentially infect plants upon application. To prevent the spread of fungal diseases, it’s best to discard infected plant materials in regular trash or through other methods advised by local agricultural or gardening authorities.
Plants with Bacterial Infections
Similar to plants with fungal diseases, composting plants with bacterial infections may not effectively eliminate the bacterial pathogens. Bacterial infections can persist in the compost and potentially pose a risk to future plants. Proper disposal of plants with bacterial infections includes bagging and sending them to a landfill or following specific guidelines provided by local agricultural or gardening authorities.
Plants with Viral Infections
Composting plants with viral infections is discouraged as the composting process may not entirely eliminate viral pathogens. Viruses can survive in the compost and potentially infect susceptible plants when the compost is used. To avoid spreading viral infections, it’s best to dispose of affected plant materials in regular trash or seek guidance from local agricultural or gardening authorities.
Termites should never be composted as they can survive the composting process and potentially infest other areas when the compost is used. Composting termites can inadvertently spread the infestation to your garden or surrounding areas. It’s crucial to exterminate termites using appropriate methods and dispose of them in a controlled manner, such as sealing them in a bag for landfill disposal.
Carpenter ants are another type of insect that should not be composted. Like termites, they can survive the composting process and pose a risk of spreading when the compost is applied to garden areas. It is recommended to address carpenter ant infestations using suitable pest control measures and dispose of them safely, such as through landfill disposal.
Composting bedbugs is not recommended due to their ability to survive in various conditions and potentially infest new areas. Bedbugs are resilient pests and can quickly spread when compost is used. To eliminate and control bedbug infestations, it is advisable to seek professional pest management assistance and dispose of affected materials securely to prevent further spread.
Cockroaches should not be composted due to their resilience and potential to rapidly reproduce. Composting cockroaches can result in the spread of these pests, causing difficulties in controlling infestations. It’s essential to address cockroach problems through appropriate pest management techniques and dispose of them safely, such as sealing them in a bag for landfill disposal.
Composting ticks is not advisable as they can carry various diseases and continue to pose a risk even after undergoing the composting process. Ticks are often found in areas with wildlife and can reintroduce themselves to humans or animals when the compost is applied. Safe tick disposal involves sealing them in a bag and sending them to a landfill or following specific guidelines provided by local health or agricultural authorities.
Non-Organic Yard Waste
Grass Clippings Treated with Chemicals
Grass clippings that have been treated with chemicals, such as herbicides or pesticides, should not be composted. These chemicals can persist in the compost and potentially harm plants or disrupt the composting process. Instead, it is recommended to separate chemically treated grass clippings and dispose of them in regular trash or follow local regulations for disposal of hazardous waste.
Leaves with Pesticide Residue
Leaves that have pesticide residue on them should not be composted. Pesticides can persist on leaves and may contaminate the compost, potentially harming beneficial organisms and causing issues when the compost is used. It’s best to dispose of pesticide-laden leaves in regular trash or consult local guidelines for proper disposal methods.
Sawdust from Treated Wood
Sawdust from treated wood should not be added to compost piles. Treated wood often contains chemicals such as copper, chromium, and arsenic, which can be harmful when released into the environment during decomposition. To ensure safe disposal, it is important to handle sawdust from treated wood as hazardous waste and follow local guidelines for appropriate disposal methods.
Fallen Branches from Diseased Trees
Branches that have fallen from diseased trees are not suitable for composting. These branches can contain pathogens that may not be destroyed during the composting process, potentially spreading diseases to other plants. It’s recommended to dispose of fallen branches from diseased trees through regular trash or seek guidance from local agricultural or arboricultural authorities for proper disposal methods.
Weeds Treated with Herbicides
Weeds that have been treated with herbicides should not be composted. Herbicides can persist in the compost and potentially harm beneficial plants or disrupt the composting process. It is advisable to dispose of herbicide-treated weeds in regular trash or follow local guidelines for hazardous waste disposal to prevent any negative consequences.
Dog and Cat Feces
Pet waste should not be composted as it can contain harmful pathogens and parasites, such as E. coli and roundworms, that can persist in the compost. Composting pet waste also poses health risks to humans and animals when the compost is used. It is recommended to dispose of dog and cat feces in sealed bags and send them to a landfill or seek guidance from local waste management authorities for appropriate disposal methods.
Composting bird droppings is generally not advised due to potential disease risks. Bird droppings can contain harmful bacteria, fungi, and parasites that may survive the composting process and pose health hazards. It is best to dispose of bird droppings in regular trash or follow specific guidelines provided by local health or wildlife authorities.
Bedding from Sick Animals
Bedding materials from sick animals, such as those with contagious diseases, should not be composted. These materials can harbor pathogens that might not be eliminated during the composting process, potentially posing health risks to plants, animals, and humans when the compost is used. It’s important to handle bedding from sick animals as hazardous waste and follow appropriate disposal procedures to prevent the spread of diseases.
Used Kitty Litter
Used kitty litter should not be composted as it may contain harmful bacteria, parasites, and pathogens, including toxoplasma gondii, that can survive the composting process and pose health risks. To properly dispose of used kitty litter, it is recommended to seal it in a bag and send it to a landfill or follow local guidelines for responsible waste management.
Waste from Farm Animals
Waste from farm animals, such as manure, should not be composted without proper treatment and management. Animal waste can contain harmful pathogens that may persist in the compost and pose health risks when used in agriculture or horticulture. It is essential to follow composting guidelines specific to farm animal waste or consult with local agricultural authorities for appropriate management and disposal options.
Large Woody Materials
Untreated logs should not be composted due to their slow decomposition rate. Logs take a considerably longer time to break down compared to other organic matter, potentially leading to an imbalanced compost pile. Instead of composting large untreated logs, consider repurposing them for firewood or other projects, or arrange for proper disposal at designated facilities.
Branches Thicker than 1 inch
Branches thicker than 1 inch are generally not suitable for composting as they are slower to decompose. Thick branches take longer to break down, potentially causing an uneven composting process. To effectively compost woody materials, it is recommended to either break them down into smaller pieces or explore other options for their disposal, such as chipping or mulching.
Composting stumps is not advisable due to their size and slow decomposition. Stumps can take years to fully break down, potentially impeding the composting process and occupying valuable space in the pile. It’s best to seek alternative methods for stump disposal, such as professional removal services or grinding, to minimize waste and facilitate more efficient composting.
Wooden furniture should not be composted due to the presence of varnishes, paints, and other treatments that can release harmful chemicals during decomposition. The non-organic components of furniture can also contaminate the compost and hinder the composting process. Proper disposal of wooden furniture involves considering recycling options or arranging for safe disposal through waste management authorities.
Wooden pallets should not be composted unless they are explicitly labeled as compostable and made from untreated, natural wood. Many pallets are treated with chemicals to prevent rot, pests, and other damage, making them unsuitable for composting. It is advisable to reuse pallets when possible or follow appropriate recycling procedures for their disposal.
Chemically Treated Materials
Pressure-treated wood should not be composted as it contains chemical preservatives, such as copper, chromium, and arsenic, which can be harmful during decomposition. These chemicals may leach out of the wood and contaminate the compost, posing risks to plants, microorganisms, and surrounding ecosystems. It is essential to handle pressure-treated wood as hazardous waste and follow appropriate disposal methods provided by waste management authorities.
Composite materials, such as plastic-wood compounds or engineered woods, should not be composted as they do not break down into organic matter. Composite materials often contain a mix of natural and synthetic components that can introduce non-biodegradable elements into the compost. To properly dispose of composite materials, it’s best to follow recycling or waste management guidelines specific to these materials.
Laminated paper, such as glossy magazines or laminated packaging, should not be composted. Laminated paper contains non-biodegradable materials, such as plastics and metals, that can contaminate the compost pile and hinder decomposition. It is recommended to separate laminated paper for proper recycling or dispose of it in regular trash.
Synthetic fabrics, including polyester, nylon, and acrylic, should not be composted as they do not break down naturally. These fabrics are made from petroleum-based materials and can persist in the compost, potentially causing contamination and hindering the composting process. To responsibly dispose of synthetic fabrics, consider donating them for reuse or follow appropriate recycling guidelines.
Fire-retardant materials, such as those treated with flame retardant chemicals, should not be composted due to the potential release of harmful substances during decomposition. Fire-retardant chemicals can persist in the compost and introduce toxins into the environment. It is crucial to handle fire-retardant materials as hazardous waste and follow proper disposal procedures outlined by waste management authorities.
In summary, composting organic materials is an excellent way to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich soil amendments for your garden. However, it’s important to know what should not be composted to maintain a healthy and effective composting process. Avoiding animal products, processed foods, inorganic materials, chemicals, weeds and diseased plants, invasive insects, non-organic yard waste, pet waste, large woody materials, and chemically treated materials will help ensure that your compost remains balanced, safe, and beneficial for plants and the environment. Remember to always follow local guidelines and regulations for waste disposal to minimize environmental impact and promote sustainable practices. Happy composting!