What You Should & Shouldn't Put in the Compost Bin
Last updated on Thursday 16th June, 2022 at 12:30 by Trina Gill
Our easy guide to the things that you can and can't compost at home
Food waste is a large issue in the UK with 3.6 million tonnes of food wasted each year. One way to help reduce your footprint is to store food in the right way through food storage solutions. If the food is no longer edible, it's time to compost.
Recently we have been thinking more about composting at home. After doing some research, we realised that not everything we thought was compostable actually is. We've put together this guide to help you understand what can be composted and what needs to go elsewhere.
Things you can compost:
1. Fruit & Veg Scraps
If you're anything like the zero waste chef Max La Manna then you try and use every element of your fruit and veg when cooking. In reality, not many of us think to turn our potato peel into homemade crisps or our carrot skin into vegan bacon.
You can pop all fruit and veg scraps into your compost. Mouldy, offcuts or leftovers, the compost heap loves it all.
2. Vegetable Starch Bags
More and more mailing bags, card wraps and food waste bags seem to be made from vegetable starch. These are actually a great solution as they're suitable for home composting. They usually take 3-6 months to completely disappear.
Eggshells can be ground down to a really fine powder for super quick decomposition, otherwise they can take about a year to compost. No matter the colour, size or type, they are a natural product and therefore have no trouble disappearing back into nature.
4. Coffee Grounds
One of our favourite skincare companies, UpCircle collects used coffee grounds from London-based coffee houses and reuses them to make their incredible face scrubs.
Used coffee grounds can also be used as a natural fertiliser for certain plants, and work really well in a home compost to be used on your garden later. It's not just coffee either, you can add loose tea leaves to the compost too.
5. Compostable Sponges
As a replacement for disposable wipes, plastic sponges or paper towels, you can now use compostable sponges made from cellulose. Once at the end of their lives, these can be popped in the washing machine and then reused, they can be added to a home compost to break down completely.
Cardboard is one of the most common materials to end up in landfill. While we reuse all kinds of cardboard boxes when sending parcels, sometimes scraps end up in the compost. To compost cardboard, make sure you tear it up into smaller pieces to allow it to mix with the other materials and compost more quickly.
7. Shredded Paper
Newspaper and other shredded paper is a great option for the 'brown' material for your compost. The paper helps add carbon to the compost. Mix the paper in well and it'll turn into perfectly composted mulch!
8. Paper Towel
We ideally recommend switching to unpaper towels that can be washed and reused, but certain paper towels you do use, can be added to the pile, in a similar way to cardboard and paper, by tearing up into smaller pieces.
You do need to be careful not to add paper towels if they've been used to wipe away oil, butter or cleaning products. These substances can damage the compost.
9. Grass Cuttings
Unsurprisingly, one of the best materials to compost is grass. This is one of the green materials in a compost, and helps with the balance of the wood-based brown materials. Great in Spring and Summer when your lawn is growing!
When adding to your compost, mix the grass cuttings fully through the compost to distribute it evenly.
It's not just the warm season that provides compost material, autumn leaves are also a must-add to a compost. These are carbon-rich just like cardboard.
Add to your compost after you've used made a pile and then jumped it in... or is that just us?!
Things you cannot compost:
1. Animal Products (Meat & Dairy)
While you can compost other food scraps, be careful not to add any meat or dairy products. This includes butter and bones. These foods can attract pests but more importantly they can carry bacteria that could make you ill or be transferred to your plants when you distribute it in your garden.
2. Diseased Plants
It's best not to compost any diseased or insect infected plants. This is because the disease could spread onto other plants when you go on to use the compost. These plants should be burnt instead.
It's worth remembering that you can compost any cut plants or flowers that do not have a disease.
3. Glossy Paper
Yep, you guessed it. Most glossy papers are glossy because they have a fine plastic coating. Unless the packaging clearly says it is compostable, the plastic coating will not break down completely and you'll end up with microplastic all over your garden!
4. Oil & Grease
Oil in a compost heap will do one thing: slow it down. As oil dispels water, the grease forms a layer around other materials and stops them from breaking down. Oh and oil in a compost is one of the main reasons for attracting rodents and other pests.
5. Animal Waste (Meat Eating)
You are able to compost animal waste as long as your pet doesn't eat any meat. As most pets are omnivores it's likely that you won't be able to. The meat products in the waste can contain harmful bacteria and we don't want that anywhere need the vegetables we're growing in our garden!
6. Harsh Chemicals
Both organic and inorganic chemicals can remain in your compost for a long time. It's easiest to think about the effect of the chemicals if you consider what you'll be using your compost for. The chemicals can be transferred around the garden and can kill off plants.
All this information has got us raring to get started! Even if you don't have your own compost at home, you can and should still follow these guidelines when using a council food waste / garden waste bin.
Remember, the most important thing to do is to prevent food from being wasted in the first place. There are so many different food storage solutions to stop your food going off before you've had the chance to use it. And then your last resort is the compost bin!
Have you got a compost at home? Share your experiences in the comments.