4 common household items you should not compost

Although everyone knows composting is good for the environment, what may not be clear is that not all household waste qualifies for the compost bin. Before you toss your next load of household waste onto your compost pile, here are four common household items that should never be composted. [Image credit: iStock.com/fotomem]

4 common household items you should not compost

1. Certain animal products

Except for animal fur and hair, which are readily compostable, it's important not to add certain animal products to your compost bin or pile.

  • Leave out any meat, fat and other similar animal products. Why? Simply put you don't want to smell rancid, rotting meat for months on end and deal with the accompanying flies and their larvae. What's more, food scraps attract scavengers such as racoons and skunks.

However, you can add a moderate amount of egg shells.

  • They help earthworms to process the compost because, like chickens, earthworms have a gizzard-like structure instead of teeth.
  • The abrasives in eggshells help earthworms grind down the material you toss into the compost pile.
  • Other animal products take much longer to break down and clog up the worms' bodies.

2. Glossy paper

Although crumpled up newspaper is a great way to keep oxygen flowing throughout the compost, there are certain types of paper you just don't want to compost.

  • The glossy paper found on the cover of magazines and in certain ads can contain harmful chemicals or may be waxed – and you can never know for sure.
  • What's more, even though it "looks" like paper, glossy paper may also harbour synthetic fibres mixed in during the paper making process for additional strength or tear resistance. These man-made fibres usually can't be broken down via natural processes.

It's better not to risk tossing glossy paper into your compost pile since you'll be eating food grown in the soil you're creating.

3. Produce stickers

Some, but not all, stickers on produce are biodegradable. There's no real way to check.

  • This means you shouldn't assume they'll compost, so avoid throwing them in the compost pile just in case.
  • It's better in the long run to toss them into your recycling bin now rather than to dig them up later.

While you might be thinking that produce stickers are small and won't add up to much, think about days gone by when people tossed away used cigarette butts on the sidewalk. They're also fairly small but given enough time they'd be stuck everywhere: jammed in the cracks, stuck in the gutters, littering the grass, mashed to the concrete surfaces. In short a gross, unsightly mess.

4. Seeds

When composting weeds or the parts of plants you don't want to eat, leave out the seeds.

  • You don't want unfavourable weeds to germinate and take over your garden bed. If you're unsure you can remove all seeds from any plant material you toss onto your compost pile, it's best to ensure conditions are favourable for the composting process – and not for the seeds to sprout.

A proper balance of oxygen, moisture and greens will encourage the growth of microorganisms. Their activity, in turn, generates temperatures of between 50 to 65 °C (120-150 °F) in your compost pile.

  • Although these higher temperatures won't kill the beneficial microorganisms that you want in your compost that help break down material, they will kill seeds and pathogens. That's why ensuring this proper balance will also result in faster composting.
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