Twenty-four weird things you can compost

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There's more room for composting in your life than you probably realised.
There's more room for composting in your life than you probably realised.

Up to 50 per cent of the 2.5 million tonnes of waste Kiwis send to landfills each year is organic, says Recycle NZ. If we are trying to dramatically cut back on our dumping habits, composting at home becomes a no-brainer.

Composting is a process that harnesses the powers of nature and works by means of micro-organisms breaking down organic material.

Anything that was once living can be composted, but some items break down more quickly and easily.

Here are 23 compost-worthy items you may not have thought of.

READ MORE
* How to start a compost heap
* Make your house more sustainable
* Green habits to adopt now

WOODEN CHOPSTICKS

Send takeaway chopsticks to the compost.
Send takeaway chopsticks to the compost.

Untreated balsa wood chopsticks, like those you get with takeaways, or wooden skewers and coffee stirrers are right for the compost bin, said Steve Rickerby, managing director of We Compost.

TEABAGS

Teabags belong in the compost bin.
Teabags belong in the compost bin.

Used teabags are another item better suited to the compost heap than the waste disposal.

PAPER BAGS

Paper uses a lot of water in its manufacture, but is easy to break down.
Paper uses a lot of water in its manufacture, but is easy to break down.

"Paper bags, like those from bakeries, can be composted," said Amanda Chapman, operations manager at We Compost.

HAIR AND FINGERNAILS

Empty your pet's hair brush into the compost.
Empty your pet's hair brush into the compost.

Be it pet or human derived hair, or even fingernail clippings, pop it on the pile.

"Pet fur is fine as long as the animal has not recently been de-fleaed," said Chapman.

SOME PRODUCT PACKAGING

10042018 Business Photo: SUPPLIED. My Food Bag.
10042018 Business Photo: SUPPLIED. My Food Bag.

Forever trying out "compost experiments" at home, Chapman recommended that the wrappers on Trade Aid chocolate are compostable, as is the packaging of Green Cane toilet paper because it's made of cellulose.

Some coffee bags, like those from Kokako, are also compostable, and Rickerby recommended that Ceres do a range of organic quinoa that comes packaged in a compost-friendly box.

"The cooling packs from My Food Bag can also be composted," said Rickerby, "as can their fruit boxes."

PENCILS AND THEIR SHAVINGS

Shavings from these babies are a-okay.
Shavings from these babies are a-okay.

Empty pencil sharpeners straight into the compost. Though we often think of pencils as lead, they're actually made of wood and graphite, which is a carbon, meaning they're just what the compost bin needs.

BAMBOO TOOTHBRUSHES

Bamboo based products like toothbrushes can be composted, but you'll need to remove the plastic bristles.
Bamboo based products like toothbrushes can be composted, but you'll need to remove the plastic bristles.

A little fussy, but bamboo toothbrushes can be composted if the bristles are removed with pliers or the heads are chopped off.

HOMEWORK

Used exercise books (without dura-seal covers) and marked homework can be composted.
Used exercise books (without dura-seal covers) and marked homework can be composted.

'Miss, the compost bin ate my homework...'

Paper based projects that have returned home from school can be composted instead of thrown out.

ALPACA FLEECE

Lovely llama or alpaca fluff can be composted too.
Lovely llama or alpaca fluff can be composted too.

If you're lucky enough to have enough room for an alpaca, chances are you have room for a compost bin too.

When you're done grooming them, chuck the excess fluff on the compost.

WEEDS

Piles of weeds are good for composting, provided there aren't seeds in there too.
Piles of weeds are good for composting, provided there aren't seeds in there too.

Add the results of a good day of weeding onto the pile, except for seed heads, and noxious weeds that regenerate from parts of stems or roots

VACUUM CLEANER DUST

If you have wool carpet, add your vacuum cleaner dust in the mix.
If you have wool carpet, add your vacuum cleaner dust in the mix.

"You can compost vacuum cleaner dust," recommended Chapman, "but it depends on the type of carpet you have."

Dust from non-biodegradable, synthetic carpet, is not suitable, however it is if derived from wool carpet.

AQUARIUM GUNK

No, not your goldfish - the poop and slime from their tank.
No, not your goldfish - the poop and slime from their tank.

Much like how the old water from your fish tank is "fantastic" for your garden, chuck the gunk from cleaning out Goldie's bowl on the compost heap.

Where better to dispose of that awful smelling stuff anyway?

DRYER LINT

Your compost - the final home for dust bunnies.
Your compost - the final home for dust bunnies.

Silly old you if you've been putting synthetic clothes in your dryer, so the lint accrued is likely cotton based.

However, don't worry if it isn't, add it on.

"Anything that's not compostable just won't break down," said Rickerby. "Any plastic bits will be left at the end."

PET BEDDING

Used hay or paper shreddings from pet beds can be composted too.
Used hay or paper shreddings from pet beds can be composted too.

Deposit the used straw or paper from your rabbit or guinea pig hutch into the compost bin. But beware...

"That should come with a warning," said Ben Elms, the Wanaka-based composting and edible landscape specialist also known as Doctor Compost. "Unless you are actually hot composting, you may introduce weeds with that hay."

Hot composting, for the layman, is not setting your compost heap on fire (no, rookies) but creating a large compost heap full of multiple, nutrient-dense elements all at once. "For example, a one metre high by one metre wide by one metre deep, framed compost heap, flush with grass clippings, horse manure and lupins," said Elms.

"A pile you make in one hit."

OLD CLOTHES AND TOWELS

Tear or shred textiles up before adding to your compost heap.
Tear or shred textiles up before adding to your compost heap.

"Cotton t-shirts, woollen socks, just be aware that you may come across some nylon threads later," said Elms.

Though any organic textiles will break down over time, make the process easier by cutting the items into strips first.

FABRIC, THREAD OR YARN

Unwanted yarn and thread is best given to the op-shop, but if they don't want it, the compost is a good last bet.
Unwanted yarn and thread is best given to the op-shop, but if they don't want it, the compost is a good last bet.

Any haberdashery, thread or cotton is right for the compost if it's made of cotton, wool, bamboo or silk fibres.

LEATHER

Leather items will break down until any plastic elements remain, which you can then retrieve from the compost bin.
Leather items will break down until any plastic elements remain, which you can then retrieve from the compost bin.

Dog chewed up a pair of your shoes? Had a belt in the wardrobe go mouldy? If it's leather, you can add it to the compost pile. Though unless it's very worn out, you might be dead yourself before it fully breaks down.

"With a leather belt, try to break it into smaller pieces," said Elms.

Though even if you do that, be aware that if you have a composting service rather than a personal pile, leather still may not be suitable to dispose this way, as large-scale services are processed through a shredder.

"Be mindful of adding anything that could be wrapped around or get caught in the shredding machinery," advised Rickerby.

COTTON PADS AND Q-TIPS

Cotton wool or q-tips with bamboo handles can be thrown straight in.
Cotton wool or q-tips with bamboo handles can be thrown straight in.

For Q-tips with plastic wands, snip the cotton end with a pair of scissors before adding to the pile. Otherwise, buy bamboo Q-tips and then once used, you can throw them straight in.

Similarly, cotton wool, balls and pads can be composted.

TISSUES, PAPER TOWELS AND NAPKINS

Paper products like tissues can be put in the compost.
Paper products like tissues can be put in the compost.

Like all things paper, tissues, napkins and used paper towels will all break down easily.

DEAD BUGS

Consider it something of a burial to put dead bugs on the compost heap.
Consider it something of a burial to put dead bugs on the compost heap.

Had an influx of flies that have all bitten the dust? Bury the little bodies in the compost.

"It depends how dead they are," said Elms, "If they're fresh, they're nitrogen rich. If it's old, they'd be perhaps more of a carbon addition."

CARDBOARD

Uncoated cardboard can be ripped up and popped in the compost.
Uncoated cardboard can be ripped up and popped in the compost.

Currently, much of the world's cardboard is sent offshore to countries like China for destruction.

To lesson the carbon footprint, add cardboad to the compost in your own backyard.

SAWDUST

Sawdust from untreated wood is great too.
Sawdust from untreated wood is great too.

Similar to pencil shavings, sawdust can be added to your compost.

"Provided that the wood is untreated," said Rickerby.

The biggest thing that everything should be adding is dead elements," said Elms. "Like wood shavings or deadhead flowers."

ROADKILL AND OFFAL

Put roadkill to rest in your compost heap recommends Elms.
Put roadkill to rest in your compost heap recommends Elms.

Adding roadkill to compost is a popular practice in the United States and according to this study by the Cornell Waste Management Institute, it's actually a helpful process for keeping carcasses from coming into contact with groundwater.

"Roadkill is fresh and bloody and ready to chuck in your compost heap," said Elms. "Remember to put some dead [plant-based] compost in there too."

"Anything that's lived before can live again as compost."

Much of what can be put down an offal pit can be used in a compost heap.

"An offal pit is a place to forget about stuff and humans like to do that, to forget about the messy realities of life. But that material produced on farms or in processes like home-kill is an amazing resource that you could be processing, composting and using."

Similarly, if you live in an urban environment, Elms suggested that when you do a clear out of your freezer, empty the dregs of your freezer into the compost rather than the landfill.

However, again composter beware, adding carcasses to your compost can attract vermin. Elms suggested setting a rat trap near your compost if you're going to do this - and then adding the proceeds of the trap to the compost too.

PINE CONES

Fossicked pine cones provide texture and natural beauty and cost nothing.
Fossicked pine cones provide texture and natural beauty and cost nothing.

Last, if you have a surplus of pinecones to your heating and craft-related needs, you know where to put 'em. Just bash them up first or feed through a wood chipper.

- Homed


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