Things Not to Compost

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 28,869
    Master gardener Ed Bruske discusses what not to compost.

    Ed Bruske

    An award-winning journalist for The Wasington Post in a previous life, Ed Bruske is a Master Gardener and president of D.C. Urban Gardeners, a group dedicated to the greening of the District of Columbia through public education and hands-on volunteer efforts. An accomplished public speaker, Ed focuses his lecture activities on composting and soil ecology. He practices daily organic recycling through composting and vermicomposting at his home about a mile from the White House, where he and his wife are transforming their corner lot into an edible landscape. Ed is a personal chef, caterer and chef-in-residence at The Washington Youth Garden, located at the U.S. National Arboretum in the District of Columbia. He also writes about composting and cooking from the garden on his blog, The Slow Cook,

    Hi, I am Ed Bruske with DC Urban Gardeners, we're here in my garden in the District of Columbia talking about composting. I have shown you a number of things that you can compost. I have talked to you about how you can collect your grass clippings, your leaves in the fall, your kitchen scraps, your weeds, and turn that into rich compost. Gardeners gold that you can use in your garden. But there are a few things that you shouldn't compost, and I want to talk to you about those for just a second, because they can cause problems. Those would be, well, first of all, things that are not organic. Things that were not alive at one point, like all the plastic wrapping that comes on all the products from the grocery store. That's not going to break down in your compost pile. Bacteria, fungi, doesn't matter how long you leave it in your compost pile, nothing like that is going to break down. So, you want to keep any kind of plastic products out of your compost pile. They may end up there anyway, you just pick them up, but they won't compost. Another thing you might want to try and avoid are really woody materials, say from pruning a tree, or even things like magnolia leaves, things that are really heavy, dense; twigs, branches, create a second pile for them, because although they will break down eventually they take a long time, much longer than your normal compost, so you want to keep those separate from your compost.

    Another class of things not to compost are things that are really fatty and oily or meaty. For instance, meat scraps, you may have had a steak last night and cut all kinds of pieces off the bone that you didn't want to eat, you couldn't feed it to the dog, you're thinking about putting it in your compost pile, don't. Meat, dairy products, cheeses, yogurt, things with a lot of oil on them, salad oil, even salad greens that have got a lot of salad dressing on them, keep them out of your compost pile, because what those things tend to do is attract pests and create odors. They can be composted, and they are composted in big commercial or municipal composting situation, but for the homeowner, I would keep those kind of products out of your compost bin. Next, we're going to talk about how you actually construct your compost pile for your garden.