July 28, 2019
Often times I am struggling to find enough brown to use for my compost pile and then am surprised to find out that I had something compostable right in front of me that I didn't realize could be used in my compost pile.
If you are fairly new to composting, I thought I would compile a list of items for reference for anyone trying to reduce their waste and create great compost.
I find that green is easier for me to come by because my grass grows so quickly, but I do try to add different types of green as some materials have a very high nitrogen level.
Coal Ash – Most ashes are safe to mix into your compost pile, but coal ashes are not. They contain sulfur and iron in amounts high enough to damage plants.
Colored Paper – Some paper with colored inks (including newsprint) contain heavy metals or other toxic materials and should not be added to the compost pile.
Diseased Plants – It takes an efficient composting system and ideal conditions (extreme heat) to destroy many plant diseases. If the disease organisms are not destroyed they can be spread later when the compost is applied. Avoid questionable plant materials.
Inorganic Materials – This stuff won’t break down and includes aluminum foil, glass, plastics and metals. Pressure-treated lumber should also be avoided because it’s been processed with chemicals that could prove toxic in compost.
Meat, Bones, Fish, Fats, Dairy – These products can “overheat” your compost pile (not to mention make it stinky and attract animals). They are best left to large-scale anaerobic digesters and avoided entirely (with certain exceptions) at home.
Pet Droppings – Dog or cat droppings contain several disease organisms and can make compost toxic to handle. (Can you believe the state of Alaska actually spent $25,000 on a study to determine the effects of composting dog poop? – PDF)
Synthetic Chemicals – Certain lawn and garden chemicals (herbicides – pesticides) can withstand the composting process and will remain in the finished compost. Don’t put anything recently sprayed in your compost heap.
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