9 things you didn’t know you can compost

9 things you didn’t know you can compost

Photo: Pexels.com / @eva-elijas

Composting is much more than providing a natural fertilizer to the soil. It feeds the soil with several microorganisms that will keep your garden and plants alive and healthy. Throwing your food scraps in the compost bin rather than the garbage is a sustainable action, as it reduces waste in landfills and decreases the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

How do you properly compost at home?

The secret to effective composting is creating the perfect environment for microorganisms to thrive. This includes warm temperatures, nutrients, moisture, and a lot of oxygen. There should also be a balance of “browns” and “greens”. Browns are materials rich in carbon or carbohydrates. Their job in the compost bin is to be a food source for the organisms working in tandem with the microbes to break down the contents in the compost pile. Greens are nitrogen-rich or protein-rich materials. These materials add heat to the pile because they help the microorganisms grow and multiply.

Photo: Unsplash.com / @anniespratt

Brown materials to compost include leaves:

  • Pine needles
  • Twigs and branches
  • Straw or hay
  • Paper products
  • Sawdust
  • Dryer lint
  • Cotton
  • Corrugated cardboard

Green materials that can be composted are:

  • Grass clippings
  • Coffee grounds
  • Vegetable and fruit scraps
  • Plant trimmings
  • Weeds
  • Eggshells
  • Animal manures
  • Seaweed

What is the ideal browns to greens ratio?

A ratio of roughly three or four parts browns to one-part greens is ideal but does not have to be exact. It’s important to get a decent mix of browns and greens because, without it, your compost pile may not rise to an appropriate temperature to decompose. Also, the microorganism may take a long time to break down the materials and it may start to smell.

Can I only toss food and garden scraps in the compost bin?

While many of us have developed the great habit of tossing food and garden bits in the compost bin, there are even more compostable items that can be added to your list! Before tossing something away, refer to the following list of soil enhancers to get the most out of your materials.

1. Clothing made from 100% natural fibres

To prevent a fire in your home, it’s recommended to clean out dryer lint after every load. If your clothing is made of 100% natural fibres like organic cotton, silk, linen, or wool, add it to your compost pile! Each time you clean the lint tab, add the lint to a jar or container and empty it in the compost bin or pile when full. Lint is considered to be brown material and will provide food to soil organisms.

2. Natural wine corks

Recycle the glass bottle and toss the natural wine cork in the compost bin! Some zero-waste vino, something you can feel good about. Make sure they’re 100% cork and not plastic that looks like cork, as well as paint-free.

3. Paper and cardboard

While recycling is great and allows materials to be made into another, it’s not an impact-free method. Recycling requires a lot of natural resources, including energy. Let your paper products break down naturally, leaving no waste behind. These are brown composting materials that will add carbon to the compost pile.

4. White glue and masking tape

Elmer’s and other white glues are made with raw materials, meaning they can be composted. This includes white glue on cardboard boxes!

5. Vacuum bags and dust

Because most items picked up by the vacuum are hair, dust, and dead skin, and as long as no pieces of plastic or non-compostable materials are in the bag, it’s safe to add to your compost pile.

Photo: Unsplash.com / @devintavery

6. Fur and hair

If you’re blessed with the skills of being able to cut hair, throw away the clippings into the compost bin. Hair and animal fur take roughly one to two years to fully biodegrade. It’s important to note that if the hair has been washed with unnatural shampoo or conditioner, or has been bleached or dyed, it may be best to dispose of it in the trash instead of composting it to avoid adding chemicals to the soil.

7. Coffee grounds and paper filters

No more throwing away your coffee grounds and coffee filters in the garbage! These can both be composted. Coffee grounds have a neutral pH, provide nitrogen to soil and microorganisms, improving soil tilth and structure.

8. 100% natural cotton rounds and buds

Did you know that cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops? Non-organic cotton products are filled with agricultural chemicals like pesticides and contribute to toxicity in soil, killing organisms and overall soil health. Plastic cotton buds cannot be recycled and spend hundreds of years accumulating in landfills and floating around in waterways. A great zero-waste swap is making the switch to 100% natural and biodegradable cotton rounds and cotton buds. These can biodegrade and become natural fertilizer for soil, causing no harm to the planet.

9. Stale food from your pantry

In Canada, nearly 100,000 tonnes of food are thrown away each year. When food ends up in landfills, it cannot decompose properly. It sits in landfills, often without oxygen, releasing carbon dioxide and contributing to global warming. When food is composted, oxygen is present and no carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Food doesn’t need to be “alive” to be composted. Stale and expired foods including bread, donuts, cookies, crackers, pizza crust, and noodles can be composted.

Get composting

Until you get into the habit of it, knowing what can and can’t be composted can be difficult to remember. Make a list of composting do’s and don’ts and leave it hanging on your fridge door, or in a kitchen drawer. Keep in mind that having a good ratio of browns to greens (3-4:1) is important to keep soil microorganisms living, happy, and working. Nature provides for us each and every day, composting is a great way for us to give back.

expert references

Coffee grounds and composting
Composting at home
Food waste
How to compost food scraps
Which items are “greens” and which are “browns”?
by Colleen Vanderlinden
Coffee Grounds in the Garden – Uses, & When NOT to Use Them – Happy DIY Home by Elizabeth Waddington

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