Should I compost it?

greenwood85(6b)December 21, 2008

Let's play a game I'm going to list some things that I may or my not compost, then you tell if you would compost it, and then we'll compare answers.

1) Cardboard with a glossy finish (pizza boxes, et.)

2) Guinea pig waste (woodchips, manure, urine, leftover food, etc.)

3) Salty foods (salt is bad for plants, right?)

4) Meat and dairy products (cooked meat, old raw eggs)

5) Weeds with seeds

6) Moldy food

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2. Yes
3. Depends on how salty, how much it is and how much trouble you already have with salt. I try to keep salt to a minimum because salt buildup can be a problem in desert areas. In other areas, salt isn't as much of a problem, so adding some salted food is not so bad.
4. If you can keep the compost hot enough long enough and put these in the center with lots of high carbon on top, go for it.
5. If you can get it hot enough, yes. I think there has also been some research that shows that if you compost for a long time, the weed seeds will die.
6. The mold is a sign that the food is already starting to decompose.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 9:18PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I run very large, hot piles so yes to all on your list.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 10:31PM
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greenwood85, I'm game...
If it's organic, I compost it.
That being said, I don't add 'stuff' indiscriminently (sp?) to a 'normal' finish-to-harvest (FH) pile.

I keep a 'slush bucket' going.
My regular SB is a heavy plastic 25-gallon pot with a wood-framed screen cover to keep 'critters' out of it.
That's where kitchen waste goes, along with a list of things too long for a public forum...

I keep whatever is 'in there' fermenting in water (and 'tea' leached from piles) to make sure that there's enough microbes at work to give the 'slush' a proper 'head-start' toward the pile. Once in a while, will use a commercial (organic) 'septic tank' additive and/or molasses if needed, along with pulverized charcoal for carbon and keep smell to a minimum. Something one has to develop a "feel" for...
Stir it up well 'daily' to get oxygen in it, but even if it gets anerobic ocassionally, I don't worry about it. Septic tanks are not aerobic, and I need a couple of days off now and then.

When it gets full, add it to the middle center of a new pile. That's not a problem for me, 'cause I make a new pile every 7-9 days, and harvest an old (3-4 month) pile in that same time.

Toward summer, though - with old spring leafy plants/fruit piling up - have been known to dump the whole mess into a 50-gallon barrel, if a new pile isn't ready yet. I only input such material into a new pile for 1st heat.

1) coated/slick/colored paper usually it goes in the burn barrel - but do use alkaline ashes from the barrel (albeit sparingly). Newspaper, junk mail and boxes go through the shredder and into a normal (FH) pile.
2) yup - any hervivore wastes/litter.
But omnivore/carnivore wastes (cat/dog - along with road kill) go into my special 'critter' pile lined with cinderblock, chain-link covered and heavy plywood front slats.
The continuous-add (CA) 'critter' pile gets 'SPECIAL' (turned/inspected every 3-4 days) treatment and goes on trees/shrubs, not on veggies/flowers. Also use pulverized charcoal in that pile, to eliminate odor and as a high-carbon source.
3) depends on the amount of salt, but generally goes on my 'critter' pile too, destined for larger plants. Lots of saltwater fish carcasses in it, 'cause I just fillet and compost the rest, pretty much whole. Use gypsum in the pile to mediate salts.
4) do 'em all - raw, cooked, but only in the 'critter' pile - that I keep below 105F to maximize decomposition of those items. Lots of 'leavings' after we butcher. Some things I bury with my backhoe.
5) compost all such plant material. Large plants and prunings from shrubs/trees get shredded in the hammermill, then added to center of a new regular pile for full heat.
6) If it molds, it's good - goes into my 'slush bucket'.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 10:50PM
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1. Compost, especially if you live where burning is banned. The inks used on food packaging is not harmful to you or the bacteria that will digest that material.
2. Compost.
3 and 4. Depends on the quantity and the size of you compost pile. A little will not be a problem while a large amount can be in relation to the size of your compost pile.
5. Compost. Provided you bury those deeply in the pile.
6. Compost. That is starting to be digested anyway.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2008 at 7:47AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I would compost everything on list, except maybe the pizza box.

We have curbside recycling pickup and if we fold boxes flat and they fit in the bin, the recyclers will pick them up. So most pizza boxes, cereal boxes, and other boxes go in the recycle bin rather than the compost bin. Unless I'm short on browns or need them for a bottom layer in a lasagna bed.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2008 at 10:17AM
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Thanks for playing the "game"! Before I started this thread I composted 2 and 6, but I think you all may have convinced me that it's okay to compost 3, 4, and 5.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2008 at 7:11AM
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adirondackgardener(Western Maine)

All but the pizza boxes which have more value to the planet, I believe, if they're recycled.


    Bookmark   December 24, 2008 at 6:11PM
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Round 2: Cigarette butts and ashes

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 10:26PM
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I don't compost boxes or cigarette butts.
I would everything else.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2009 at 11:26PM
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val_s(z5 central IL)

Cigarette butts and ashes

This reminds me of a funny story (although it does show off my ignorance rather well).

The very first year I started composting I was reading everything on the internet I could get my hands on. I was also reading everything really fast so that I could move on to the next site and learn more.

I read on two sites that you could use tobacco waste in compost. Now, because I didn't do any follow up, I assumed tobacco waste to mean cigarette butts. I thought my gardening friend was going to have a stroke when I told her to just throw her butt into the pile. She told me quite kindly that she didn't think I should be doing that. I pointed out to her that I found two sites that said you could. She looked so skeptical that I had to do more research. Well, of course then I found out that tobacco waste was not the butts! How embarrassing!! I'm sure it would have been quite entertaining for anyone watching to see me out there going through the compost digging out the butts.

The moral of my story is don't read fast and don't assume!


    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 7:52AM
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Not too sure about any form of tobacco. It can carry TMV (tobacco mosaic virus) and I have no idea what temps will do in the virus but do know that viruses are notoriously difficult to kill relative to the other microorganisms. TMV can wreak havoc on tomatoes.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 3:02PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

No one in our family smokes but after DD's parties my outdoor plant pots are decorated with cigarette butts. The filters do not rot, even if the actual paper and tobacco do.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 4:03PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Nope, I don't compost cigarette butts. They are composed of mainly plastic cellulose acetate fiber that doesn't decompose.

In addition:

each cigarette butt can contain up to 60 known human carcinogens including arsenic, formaldehyde, chromium and lead. Indeed, there are 1,400 potential chemical additives.

Here is a link that might be useful: Toxic Trash

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 4:56PM
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well, it looks like DW has another reason to quit.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 6:18PM
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pssst...greenwood85, if your DW smokes, unless she lives under a rock, she already knows there's bad stuff in cigarettes...

GB, who smoked for 19 years, and hasn't had one in over 5 months.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2009 at 11:41PM
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I know that there are plenty of reasons to quit but I'll just add "you can't compost cigarette butts" to the list. And I know it can be done, I haven't had a cigarette in four years (as of next month). DW on the other hand...

    Bookmark   January 23, 2009 at 12:20PM
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Ah, so you know then...

    Bookmark   January 23, 2009 at 11:44PM
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