Small plastic and glass pieces in compost

uscjustoSeptember 9, 2013

I bought a couple yards of "planter's mix" from a local landscaper supply shop. The worker said it was an organic compost with added nitrogen. $46/yard.

I chose this company because they are within a mile of my house and very convenient. Other options are not closely located.

I got home and ran my fingers through the compost mix and noticed numerous 1-2cm sized plastic and glass pieces and some small wire and fishing line chunks.

My questions are:

1. Is this common or expected in what companies sell these days?
2. Is this debris harmful when I add the planters mix into my raised beds?
3. Is it worth hand sifting to get the debris out?

Thanks in advance.

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nc_crn

We've had a few threads about this in the past that de-evolved into what it should be vs what it is in many real-life/real-world practices.

There are a lot of soil places selling scraped top soil. A lot of this scraped soil comes from building lots where the soil is removed so builders have a solid/stable foundation to build upon that won't shift/sink. Soil places (and some municipal composting/soil programs) get this top soil.

You're likely to find small pieces of "trash" in this soil.

That said...it's usually not worth the trouble to try to remove it and unless the chunks are extremely excessive in amount or excessively large. The plants/roots will grow around them without trouble and there's not any danger to the health of the plants.

This post was edited by nc-crn on Mon, Sep 9, 13 at 21:47

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 9:42PM
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TXEB(9a)

I don't buy compost. But there have been a number of reports in these forums from folks who have who reported finding debris similar to what you describe. One even reported an old shoe, along with bits of glass, plastic and wire (see link below). My SWAG is that where you get compost like that, it probably came from municipal waste disposal where the contributors are rather indiscriminate about what they toss into their collection bin. If it were me I'd go back with whatever I still had and raise .. well .. I'd make a big fuss. You got something far less than what you paid for. In my world that's called a rip-off. If they balk, tell them the internet is a great way to let the world know what they (by name) are selling, and that they will soon be famous for the crap they sell. That will often get their attention.

Here is a link that might be useful: Contaminated Compost Thread

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 10:06PM
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toxcrusadr

I think for that price you should be getting a better quality product. As nc-cm said it could be coming in with the soil they used, but also from the organic matter. Just looking at my local city-operated yard waste dropoff/mulch sites, there is plenty of debris mixed into the limbs and leaves and grass clippings, from hardware to plastic bottles and bags. They try to separate it out before shredding but when you're scooping with a front loader, it's too much trouble to pull out the odd piece of trash. So crap gets into the mulch.

I think your main complaint is price related. Shoot, I can get trash contaminated compost for free!

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 10:37AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I have gotten some leaf compost at $10 yd. It is high quality, but contains 10% small rocks..1/3 to 1/2 inch diameter. I think that a one time application of those rocks would be ok for heavier soils, not for repeat applications.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 2:23PM
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Lloyd

Having dealt with yard trimmings from a small town for more than six years now, I can state unequivocally that some people are incredibly inconsiderate when it comes to ensuring there is no trash in the yard waste bags. I get everything from garden tools to construction debris to every kind of candy wrapper imaginable. A lot of this 'stuff' screens out but smaller bits get through and there isn't a lot that can be done about it. I know it sucks and very frustrating but unfortunately it's reality.

Lloyd

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 2:57PM
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uscjusto

Price might be high but this place is very convenient. I could buy the bagged stuff at Lowes or HD but that's pricey too.

Guess I'm SOL. I can't return this stuff bc the alternatives are not convenient and gas costs alone would be high.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 11:54PM
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toxcrusadr

You might consider at least giving them some feedback about their product, and tell them that you'll be very careful how you choose products next time. If they're smart they might make some changes.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 4:25PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

1. As more and more gardeners want "compost" many people are getting into the manufacture of it, often people will no scruples. Junk in compost, therefore, is becoming more common. The only way to control that is to find out which companies are doing that and do not buy the junk they sell.
2. It may be. The presence of this type of junk might also indicate the manufacturer was not very picky of the inputs and there are other, less visible and more toxic, bits of junk in that "compost".
3. It may be or the bits and pieces might be too small for you to screen out. The place to screen this garbage out is before the material is prepared for composting.
Always remember, "Caveat Emptor", let the buyer beware.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 7:46AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Some municipalities process household trash into compost and give it away free to the residences and local landscapers. And they dont make no secrecy about this. One is COBB COUNTY in GA. It is possible that there is such a municipality in your area and the landscape supply guys get the stuff free and mix them with other material and sell them.

Then there are other municipalities that strictly process yard wastes that the residences bring to the dump site. They sell composted material at a minimal cost to the residence.
Case in point: Westport, CT. I have lived and gardened in both places and I know the information first hand.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 1:08AM
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toxcrusadr

What exactly do you mean by 'household trash'? I assume you mean residential yard waste, but when I hear household trash, I think of everything in the residential waste stream, which would be a complete mess if you tried to compost it.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 10:41AM
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