15 Things You Didn’t Know Could Be Composted | There are so many weird things you didn’t know you could compost. I’ll get to those here in a second because I first have to profess my love for composting in general.
Living sustainable has gotten more challenging than ever with stores prohibiting reusables and the constant need for single-use disposables for health concerns.
It may even seem that having any positive impact, environmentally speaking, is basically impossible. And of course, I’m here to say that just isn’t true. In fact, some of the most impactful things we can all do are still feasible for most despite a pandemic.
Composting is one of those pretty impactful zero waste habits that I’ve mentioned dozens of times and even have perfected how to do it in a storage tote while living in an apartment.
But why is composting important?
Composting diverts food waste and other organics from sitting in closed landfills left to create methane gas. Nearly 25% – 40% percent of our food going to waste every single year. That’s equivalent to $160 billion worth of food in 2010 according to the FDA.
Food waste makes up the largest single component of municipal landfills in the US.
A question I most often get is, “If it’s organic, then it will break down in the landfill so why does it matter?”
Though it might be true that organics break down outside where there’s oxygen present, most landfills are closed to prevent leachate. When forced to break down anaerobically, without oxygen, organics produce methane. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas 28 to 36 times more effective than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
Composting has so many more benefits aside from diverting organic waste from a landfill.
- It creates nutrient rich soil for your garden or potted plants.
- When used, it reduces the need for harmful fertilizers.
- It can be a fun family activity to teach about how organic waste breaks down naturally.
And if you’re wondering, any and all organic waste can break down naturally back into rich earth. There are so many things you didn’t know could be composted.
I would like to point out that many items others’ say cannot be composted, actually can if done properly. If there’s a will right?
15 Things You Didn’t Know Could Be Composted
Am I the only one with the problem that when I clip my nails they fly across the house? If you can contain them, instead of clip and toss, clip and compost! Fingernails contain many nutrients that are beneficial to any composting set up. Just avoid clippings that contain toxic nail polish.
Yea, we all get it. Junk mail will forever be the bane of my existence. Especially now that I live in a new place where I get the junk mail from the previous 20 tenants. Make sure to remove any plastic windows and shred the junk mail before adding it to your compost. That increases its surface area allowing it to break down quicker.
Related: How to Get Rid of Junk Mail For Good
The other day I was sitting on my patio when I noticed this weird looking, tumbleweed object floating down the green space. It was a giant husky fur ball. It was hilarious.
Related: 4 Zero Waste Ways to Remove Pet Hair
Hair is incredibly rich in nitrogen and can be composted. You could even set it out for the birds to use as nesting material.
Any natural cork can be composted – like the cork from wine bottles. I also have a few cork heat pads in my kitchen that I’ll compost when they begin to wear out and fall apart.
Cleaning out that hair brush? Throw it into the compost. It’s not gross, it’s green living! Like I mentioned earlier, hair is an incredible source of nitrogen and your compost will rejoice when it’s added. I would avoid dyed or bleached hair though as that could introduce bacteria killing chemicals that would ultimately destroy your compost flora.
Natural fibers only – like cotton, wool, etc. Shred it up and mix it in so that the fibers can break down naturally. For non-natural fibers, seek out textile recycling or look for ways to upcycle.
Are your ear swabs made of natural cotton and cardboard? If so, toss those puppies into your compost rather than the bathroom trash.
I know many households can’t stand to part with their rolls of paper towels, so at the very least compost them instead of stuffing them all into your bin. Yes, even the ones you’ve used to clean up pet mess.
Here’s one of those things that most people will tell you to NOT compost. Well, it can be done. Of course I’m not telling you to add it into the same compost you use for your garden. If you are interested in composting pet poop, then it will have to be separated and compartmentalized into its own composting system.
There are many in-ground pet poo composters available online – even DIYs – and many websites that explain how to do it safely.
Remember though, the purpose of composting pet poop is to simply keep it out of the landfill, not to use it after it’s successfully composted unless you’re an expert.
And if you don’t want to do it yourself, there are companies like Enviro Wagg in Colorado that will handle the dirty business for you.
Related: Zero Waste Ways to Clean Up Dog Poop
Pet poop can contain harmful bacteria that could make us very sick so please don’t use that compost unless you 1000% know what you are doing.
As long as you aren’t sweeping up a bunch of plastic bits, that canister of yuck can be added right into your compost. I’m guessing it will mostly consist of dirt and hair anyway.
Dead House Plants
Many will tell you not to compost dead house plants especially if they have some sort of disease/parasite. It’s just a highly debated topic but to be honest, I do it without even thinking twice.
I’m confident that the composting process will take care of it and it always does – for me. There’s even research suggesting that the compost biome can create immunities to the diseases in which are being composted and later help prevent those same diseases in your garden; like antibodies for the garden.
Keep in mind though, I’d suggest doing this is a proper, large composting pile that gets adequately hot to do its job. My storage tote system may not be sufficient.
How many times have you been told not to compost meat and that it can’t be done? Well, it’s bull****. You can.
Animal products can harbor a lot of harmful bacteria and if exposed, can attract critters which is the main reason you’re told not to compost the stuff. However, with a little care, meat can be a great addition to your compost system.
My main tip when composting meat or even dairy, is to bury it deep in your compost – make a meat trench. Don’t let it be exposed. And don’t think that this is some recently discovered practice because it’s not. North American Natives have been utilizing meat compost trenches in their gardens for thousands of years.
Rather than use the fancy bins we have today, they simply composted directly in their gardens for immediate nutrient impact.
I bring so many used napkins home from restaurants, I swear they are harder to avoid then plastic straws. I rip them up into smaller pieces and mix them into my storage tote compost system.
If you use natural loofahs in the shower or to scrub dishes, these can be composted when they are no longer useful. They are plants! Again though, cut them into smaller pieces before adding to your compost.
Leather is skin – skin is organic. If you have any old watch bands or belts that are past any sort of saving, make them into smaller pieces and add them straight to your compost. Though it may take a long time, leather will eventually return to the earth.
So you HAVE to tell me….