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.
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.
Used teabags are another item better suited to the compost heap than the waste disposal.
"Paper bags, like those from bakeries, can be composted," said Amanda Chapman, operations manager at We Compost.
HAIR AND FINGERNAILS
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
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
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.
A little fussy, but bamboo toothbrushes can be composted if the bristles are removed with pliers or the heads are chopped off.
'Miss, the compost bin ate my homework...'
Paper based projects that have returned home from school can be composted instead of thrown out.
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.
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
"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.
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?
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."
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
"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
Any haberdashery, thread or cotton is right for the compost if it's made of cotton, wool, bamboo or silk fibres.
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
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
Like all things paper, tissues, napkins and used paper towels will all break down easily.
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."
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.
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
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.
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.