Can I compost that? A dozen weird composting questions answered! (Spoiler alert: the answer is yes to all of these!)
“What can I compost?” may be the most common question when embarking on backyard composting. Here’s a list of things you can throw in that composter, with a couple of caveats.
Can I Compost Flour?
Yes! Flour (and the bags it comes in) act as brown compost material, adding carbon to the mix. Moreover, flour itself is also compostable so there’s no need to clean out the bag before throwing it in.
Because backyard critters may be attracted to the flour, it’s best to sprinkle it over the compost, rip up the bag, and then turn the bin or flip your pile.
This works for all types of flour, in all conditions. Have a bag where those nasty little buggy things have made a home? Toss it the compost bin. Same goes for rancid flour.
What About My Sourdough Starter?
Have you been bit by the sourdough bug? This hands-on hobby has experienced a resurgence recently as more people have been staying home. And carb loading.
If you’re not familiar with the labor of love that is sourdough baking, at the most basic level here’s the deal: The key component to any loaf is the addition of sourdough starter (basically a yeast replacement). The starter is made when flour and water are mixed together and left to ferment. In order to keep the starter “alive”, the baker must regularly discard half the starter and add flour and water.
So can you compost sourdough starter? That discard is made of flour, and as mentioned above, that’s a welcome member at the compost party! Sourdough starter discard is considered a brown compost material.
Can I Compost Brown Lunch Bags?
Yes! Like that flour bag, the brown paper bags will add carbon to your compost pile. Similarly, most recyclable brown paper bags from grocery stores can go in the compost bin.
To make sure they don’t take forever to break down, it’s a good idea to shred them or just tear them into a bunch of pieces before mixing them in.
How About Newspaper?
Yep – you can compost newspapers! Additionally, it seems like once upon a time there was an understanding that the color newsprint acted differently than its black and white counterparts. These days, however, there is no need to fear.
All the color used in printing today’s newspapers is 100% non-toxic, and therefore the entire paper can be composted. In order to make it work for you, though, make sure you shred it or rip into strips to enable airflow. Just throwing a large pile of the week’s editions won’t encourage decomposition.
Newspaper will add carbon to your compost (it’s a brown material), as will those cute biodegradable paper straws.
Can I Compost Pet Hair?
Yup! If you have tumbleweeds of pet fur so large, you’re concerned you actually have animals in your home you don’t know about (oh, just me?), fear not.
Give your pet a good brush, then throw all that fur into your compost bin or pile. Because hair is full of nitrogen, it’s considered a green ingredient.
Well then, Can I Compost Human Hair?
Many people can. (Many, present company included, cannot).
The thing that makes pet fur compostable, is that it isn’t likely to be chemically treated. That’s a little harder to come by in humans. So if you have natural hair that hasn’t been chemically or color treated, clean out that brush right into the bin. If you darken your salon’s doorstep regularly, skip composting your own hair.
Did you know you can compost indoors, too? Read about my experience and learn how you can do it here!
Okay, so how about Nail Clippings?
Yep, you can compost nail clippings. As long as there is not nail polish or other synthetic materials on them, they’re fine to be added to the bin.
Are you cutting down a beautiful mani or pedi? Not to worry. Just remove the polish, wash with soap and water, and clip away!
Can I Compost Camp Fire Ash?
Yes! As long as you weren’t roasting your marshmellows over hot coals, that is. That is to say, ashes from wood can be a great compost additive. You’ll want to skip anything left over from charcoal.
Once it’s cooled, ash from wood and sticks is fair game for the compost bin, and will even neutralize your pile (because the ash itself is an alkaline material). If you’re not super specific about measuring your browns and greens, this does a great job of making sure you don’t have so much acid in your finished compost that it kills your plants.
(It should be noted that if you’re composting to supplement your own soil for a garden, there are places that naturally have very alkaline soil. Do a soil test, and if this is you, skip the ash.)
Many people wonder if you can add ash straight to your garden dirt. It’ll add often needed lime and potassium, but it’s best to add this through the compost pile, rather than just sprinkling it directly on the dirt.
Can I Compost Dryer Lint?
Ideally, yes. Similar to the human hair question, though, you’ll only want to throw your dryer lint into the pile if your wash load contained natural fabrics and no additives.
For example, dryer sheets contain chemicals that could seep from your lint, to your compost, to your plants. If you use these or fabric softeners, don’t compost your lint.
In the same vein, organic cottons and other natural fibers will break down, but synthetic materials (polyester, for example) will not. Because they’re so small, you likely won’t be able to see them once you’ve worked your compost into your soil, but it will be an additive you may not want in there.
If your wardrobe and laundry situation is already sustainable, good for you! That lint is considered a brown material.
Can I Compost Beer and Wine?
The nitrogen found in beer and wine makes these libations a green component in your bin. Additionally, they’ll keep your compost moist, which is important in order to keep that compost-friendly bacteria thriving.
Neither temperature nor quality matter on this, so feel free to empty out old beer straight from the fridge, or leftover wine and beer from a wild night before.
Homebrewers, get in on this! Any materials leftover from home brewing will help out your compost pile as well.
Sorry to be gross, but can pee be composted?
The rabbit hole must be deep to stumble this far down, but I promised answers to weird composting questions, and damnit I’ll deliver!
The answer on this one seems to be yes! The high nitrogen content of human urine means that the ol’ number one has something to contribute to the garden. It’s considered a green compost material, although I’m pretty sure there’s a joke in there somewhere.
This one seems to be a bit controversial, though, so I would say if someone happens to pop a squat or unzip near your compost pile, you can thank them. But there are plenty of other things that’ll help your garden. There’s really no great reason to go out of your way to wiz on the compost.
Okay. What About Dead Houseplants?
Yes! If your green thumb is not quite…ripe? Then you’ll leave a long trail of mourned houseplants in your wake. (Our friends at Grow Plant Yourself can help with that.) Fear not! They can live on in perpetuity as part of your compost.
Even after their death, plants in the bin are considered green materials, and will absolutely help round out your compost bin.
So that’s it! Composting may seem overwhelming at first, but once you have the hang of it, you’ll find that this may be an easy solution for you and your family to implement more sustainable practices at home.
And while these are 12 weird compostable things, this is certainly not an exhaustive list. Is there a peculiar item you throw into your backyard compost pile? Share your knowledge below!