Ridiculous
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The Official, "Will It Compost" thread...

I'm wanting to make a thread where that if anyone (like me) has any doubts about whether or not a certain thing should go into a compost can be posted here.

i normally google everything first but i typically get a lot of mixed answers, so i thought having this thread would be good for the site!

I'm hoping for a lot of questions and good people to answer!

i'll get us started with the first two items i have in question:

the first one is vegetable oil. what's your take on it? i've read yes and i've read no from google, soooooo :?:

and the second item is: popcorn. how about it? i don't see why not...

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Kisal
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I have no idea about vegetable oil, although I've always been under the impression that oil of any kind wasn't exactly good for compost. I don't have the answer to that one.

Popcorn should be fine.

The only things I'm positive don't compost well are solid or large-ish pieces of bone, and hair. Bone meal ought to do fine, though, IMO.
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

Ridiculous
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Kisal wrote:I have no idea about vegetable oil, although I've always been under the impression that oil of any kind wasn't exactly good for compost. I don't have the answer to that one.

Popcorn should be fine.

The only things I'm positive don't compost well are solid or large-ish pieces of bone, and hair. Bone meal ought to do fine, though, IMO.
well there were people on google asking about veg oil too and they said it's fine in small amounts...but what's considered 'small'? and ya, I'm not sure about oil breaking down either though.

and you said no to hair...i thought hair was a yes?

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Kisal
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My thought is that there are a lot of organisms that live in compost and help to break it down ... things like black soldier fly larvae, for instance. I'm not sure oil wouldn't be harmful to them. I suppose if one added only tiny amounts of oil at a time, you'd be likely to kill only a very few larvae at any given moment. I don't see the point in that, though. As a rule, I don't find myself with much in the way of oil that needs to be disposed of. Perhaps others do, though.
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

cynthia_h
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I had forgotten whether or not the dog hair composted in my pile, but evidently it did:

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=49468

(Slow-to-Decompose...)

Re. the vegetable oil: I usually take "small amount" at one time to be 1 to 2 Tb. (15 to 30 mL) of oil, the amount that might be used in sautéing a pan of vegetables. "Too much" would be, for me, 1/2 cup or more. It would most likely smother the worms who came into contact with it, as well as any other compost helpers, slowing things down.

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Kisal
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I put dog hair in my compost pile once and it was still there, in clumps and not noticeably changed, a year later. :lol:
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rot
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compost this

..

If you follow the ten percent rule I'm sure you can't go too far wrong with most things.

I would expect vegetable oil to be problematic due to its complex chemical nature and thick liquid structure. It will 'compost' but maybe not in a reasonable 'composting frame of time'. Expect to have to blend it well with other ingredients spreading it thin through out the pile or bin.

The other issue of vegetable oil will be vermin. Something like that, or say meat, is going to attract all kinds of undesirables to your pile or bin. You will want to bury such ingredients deep within the bin.

Almost all organic things will 'compost' including large pieces of bone or clumps of hair. They will just take longer. Maybe longer than we are willing to put up with.

Some things are just harder to 'compost' than others.

Organic things that won't compost: Diamonds, Coal and Oil (petrol).

Composting is a digestive process. Some things are easier to digest than others. Simple sugars are easier to break down and convert into energy than fatty oils. How well do you digest leafy salads compared to heavy pork dishes? What's easier to clean off your dishes? Oily foods or simple vegetables? The other consideration is surface area. The greater the exposed surface area, the faster the digestion or composting. Hence shredding, chipping and, grinding into smaller bits speeds up the process.

What can't you compost? What don't you want to deal with? Maybe the oils will be a bit much. I'll bet there are a lot of manures you'd rather not deal with. Carcasses? Some of those nightshades that you shouldn't handle bare handed might be avoided too. Poison Ivy?

If you want to keep things casual, limit your compost to yard waste and follow all the other steps in your chosen method and I'm sure you won't have many troubles. Once you start getting into the problematic materials that are hard to break down or might attract vermin or are rich in pathogens then you have to manage things a lot more closely and it simply takes more work if you're going to avoid a big mess.

to sense

..

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Ah, but if you watch the Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World/Earth, you can use a bed of Oyster mushrooms to "digest" oil. He was talking about petroleum oil but no doubt the Oysters will happily dine on vegetable oil as well.

rot
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That is the question

..
Ah, but if you watch the Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World/Earth, you can use a bed of Oyster mushrooms to "digest" oil. He was talking about petroleum oil but no doubt the Oysters will happily dine on vegetable oil as well.
Ah. But is that composting? That is the question isn't it? Remediating compounds in the soil, or dirt if you will, is one thing. Remediating compounds in an aerobic composting process is another. Mushrooms may grow in compost but do mushrooms compost?

So, you make your compost bin a happy environment for bacteria and their fun happy friends to digest things but then you have to wait until the oyster mushrooms kick in to finish off the nasty stuff. If everything is already unrecognizable from what you put in and all you're waiting for is the oyster mushrooms that may or may not kick in, are you composting?

All composting is bio-remediation of some sort but not all bio-remediation is composting.

I'm thinking vegetable oil will compost while things like petrol will take far more careful management, care and, control with mushrooms or maybe exotic bacteria that just don't simply arrive by a ubiquitous presence but must be seeded or cultivated in order to remediate the target substance.

Yes, you can compost vegetable oil but it will be harder than just mixing leaves and grass clippings, adding water and turning a few times. If the vegetable oil is a substantial fraction of the bulk of the pile it will take longer. A little bit of vegetable oil compared to the overall bulk of the bin will probably not have a noticeable effect. I would expect vegetable oil to be a rodent magnet so it should be buried deep with in the bin to avoid the odors.

Compost popcorn? (I forgot about that one) That's a gimmie.

to sense

..

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ok, just thought of another one.

candy. I'm talkin hard and gummy candy like nerds and twizzlers. will they work? and will they harm the compost pile?

rot
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Yeah I'd do that

..

Candy is dandy but it takes a while.

If you throw in big, huge candy canes into the pile, you might expect to see remnants next Christmas.

Break it up and blend it through out the pile and it will 'disappear' faster. A brick of candy will stick around for a while. If you ate a brick of candy all at once you might not feel so hot. If you ate that same amount of candy over the course of a day less so. If you took a week to consume that brick it would impact you even less. I would expect the same in a compost pile.

Create the right environment with air, moisture and, food. Maximize the surface area of the items to be digested and their exposure to air, moisture and, food and you should get the maximum results.

to sense

..

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Re: Yeah I'd do that

rot wrote:..

Candy is dandy but it takes a while.

If you throw in big, huge candy canes into the pile, you might expect to see remnants next Christmas.

Break it up and blend it through out the pile and it will 'disappear' faster. A brick of candy will stick around for a while. If you ate a brick of candy all at once you might not feel so hot. If you ate that same amount of candy over the course of a day less so. If you took a week to consume that brick it would impact you even less. I would expect the same in a compost pile.

Create the right environment with air, moisture and, food. Maximize the surface area of the items to be digested and their exposure to air, moisture and, food and you should get the maximum results.

to sense

..
awesome 'rot'

thanks for all your helpful insight! i really appreciate it!

i wanted to mention that i like the way you compare a compost pile to a human's digestive system :lol: . quite clever and it does help put things into perspective!

and another question, why does it say "to sense" at the end of all your posts? i don't quite get that. is it that you're making a toast to sense??? i guess i don't have the sense to understand "to sense" :?

rot
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Now that's ridiculous

..

Thanks even it does seem ridiculous.

To sense or two cents. Considered and what it's worth.

..

Ridiculous
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Re: Now that's ridiculous

rot wrote:..

Thanks even it does seem ridiculous.

To sense or two cents. Considered and what it's worth.

..
ahhhh, thanks, i can sleep now :lol:

2 cents....like you're saying..."that's my 2 cents"

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What about spent matchsticks? I snap off the ignition material and put the wood in the bin just to be safe, but something tells me it wouldn't be bad to put the whole match in.

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Great thread, thanks for starting it, ridiculous.

I don't have much to add to all rot's wisdom, but I second the notion of breaking things down to make them compost accessible. I have a little chipper/shredder that I run tough vines and woody plants through, before composting. Stuff that would probably stay in the compost pile a year if thrown in whole, breaks down rapidly that way. Same principle would apply to your candy, though you might need a food processor rather than a chipper/ shredder to do it.

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rainbowgardener wrote:Great thread, thanks for starting it, ridiculous.

I don't have much to add to all rot's wisdom, but I second the notion of breaking things down to make them compost accessible. I have a little chipper/shredder that I run tough vines and woody plants through, before composting. Stuff that would probably stay in the compost pile a year if thrown in whole, breaks down rapidly that way. Same principle would apply to your candy, though you might need a food processor rather than a chipper/ shredder to do it.
hey you got it RG! I'm glad you like it. i was just wanting one location where that if you're in doubt, it can be posted here! 8)

what kind of shredder/chipper do you have? i've been thinking about trying to find one but don't know what to look for...

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katylaide wrote:What about spent matchsticks? I snap off the ignition material and put the wood in the bin just to be safe, but something tells me it wouldn't be bad to put the whole match in.
good question. the stick itself I'm sure is just a-ok...but like you said, what about the ignition part??

i'd be curious too, hopefully someone with more knowledge will chime in!

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Neat thread, Rid...

Oils are a no-go. I'm not saying they won't break down; eventually it would. It's just SO damaging to fugal structures that it makes your compost lose almost all fungal values, and that's a HUGE part of why compost is so valuable. Save the oil and find someone running a vehicle on it. Or convert your own car. But not in the compost... AS, the Paul Stamets experiment was with an already soaked pile and surface innoculums; had he poured the oil all over the shrooms it is pretty mortal...

Matchsticks. The wood is fine, the sulfur is fine (but would drop pH some). Don't know about those strike anywhere types (although I think white phosphorus is part of the mix which should be great). I'd say okay, but I need more info on components...

Candy is dandy, but rots usual wisdom is noted...

HG
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That's true... I was thinking more along the lines of disposing the oil in a pit or a trench in an established bed, then covering with substrate mixed with spawn; or starting a new bed on top of an oil spread ground, though. If such a practice would work, then you could have your own used oil disposal site. Once the shrooms have digested the oil and depleted the nutrients in the location, you can move the bed elsewhere and use the remediated site for planting.

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applestar wrote:That's true... I was thinking more along the lines of disposing the oil in a pit or a trench in an established bed, then covering with substrate mixed with spawn; or starting a new bed on top of an oil spread ground, though. If such a practice would work, then you could have your own used oil disposal site. Once the shrooms have digested the oil and depleted the nutrients in the location, you can move the bed elsewhere and use the remediated site for planting.
interesting theory....

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ok everyone,

got another doozy for ya :lol:

i've got two items in question...

first one is dryer sheets. again, i google search and get answers saying yes and no. i hat that it just confuses the crap outta me. so tell me once and for all. dryer sheets...yes or no???

and the second item is...old socks with holes in em?? i found nothing on this one. just wondering. you can't tell that today is laundry day can you?? 8)

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rainbowgardener
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No idea about the dryer sheets. Re the socks, depends on what they are made of. If it is natural fibers, cotton, wool, silk, etc, sure. As before, they will break down faster if you take a scissors to them first. If they are synthetics, nylon, rayon, then no, they are indestructible.

I once decided it would be good to dump the contents of my vacuum cleaner bag into the compost pile, all that dust and dirt, you know. Very bad idea. :( Our red wall to wall carpet is some kind of indestructible synthetic fiber. Had those red fibers floating around the yard for years!

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Kisal
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Dryer sheets are usually made of non-woven polyester, which is a man-made fiber. I don't think they would compost well.
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well as far as i know, my socks are 100% cotton so i'll probably try em out 8)


and I'm :( about the dryer sheets. i've been throwing em in the bucket. i guess i'll have to pull em out when i dump it...oh well.


thanks guys!

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I believe you're thinking of dryer LINT. Same applies -- if the lint is from drying mostly 100% natural fiber clothes, then the lint CAN go in the compost pile. Some people put them out for the nesting birds, but there's some evidence that the lint causes respiratory distress for the chicks (perhaps esp. when it's mixed synthetic fiber)

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applestar wrote:I believe you're thinking of dryer LINT. Same applies -- if the lint is from drying mostly 100% natural fiber clothes, then the lint CAN go in the compost pile. Some people put them out for the nesting birds, but there's some evidence that the lint causes respiratory distress for the chicks (perhaps esp. when it's mixed synthetic fiber)
that's interesting...

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On hair (either pet or human);

I don't compost it, but let it fly in the breeze.

Our German Sheperd produces incredible amounts of hair during shedding and that is prior to the birdies building nests. We let the big clumps fly in the breeze.

Of the 50 plus bird nests we found the first year of doing this, EVERY ONE was a bout 30 percent or better dog hair!!!!!

No reason to stop so we have fun each year watching the dog hair results in the nests.

:)
Zone 4a.

rot
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for the birds

..

I'll have to leave more dog fur for the birds. That stuff just clumps up and takes forever to break down. Of course I've thrown in a lot of dog fur at once so I shouldn't be surprised.

I wouldn't compost dryer sheets because of the smell. I can't walk down the laundry isle in the super market anymore. The artificial scents just me itch.

I threw a pair of jeans in my slow pile last year. I'm still feeding that bin so it'll be a while before I find out how it's doing. I wouldn't blink over cotton socks. I'd just expect it to take a while.

to sense

..

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I will strongly concur with the statement on hair and fur. Not worth it! I shaved off my beard like 6 months ago and it looks as fresh as when I had it on.

and thanks for the birds tip. I will make sure to give it to them.
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If they are synthetics, nylon, rayon, then no, they are indestructible.
Up until very recently I thought so too. But it turns out they found a [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nylon-eating_bacteria]nylon eating bacteria in Japan[/url]. You heard right. Stopped me cold for a sec too. Get your hands on this and you can compost nylon.

Gamechanger!

Ain't nature amazing? :mrgreen:

HG
Last edited by The Helpful Gardener on Mon Feb 01, 2010 1:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Scott Reil

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I have a fairly large compost pile (4 x 8 x 5) and just about everything goes in it except synthetics (veggie oil, hair, lint, bones, etc.) I put bones, leaves, brush, etc through the chipper.

I don't put veggie oils in the compost pile during the winter but, during the growing season when the pile is really cooking, I've not experienced any problem with it readily breaking down along with everything else.

It's really pretty amazing at how well nature's microbes take advantage of whatever carbon sources are available.
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rot
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list of stuff

..

A reliable [good, stable link] list of ingredients with values

https://compost.css.cornell.edu/OnFarmHandbook/apa.taba1.html

..

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I'm sure popcorn would eventually de-grade but for Christmas 2009 my son & I (okay he was like 8 months old, I did, he watched...) made garland from popcorn to hang on the tree outside our home hoping the birdies would come by... it hung there for 8 months until I finally gave up & took it out of the tree :S.

I don't know why but it didn't degrade AT ALL.
(and this was real popcorn, with just kernels, popped on the stove :?)

Totally OT: but on the dryer sheets, I found out recently you can substitute aluminum foil balls (regular al. foil balled up) in your dryer to get ride of static!!! :D I've been telling everyone I know. Our house is quite dry & 2-3 aluminum balls (reused a hundred times by now!) will remove static except if I have 2-3 fleecy things in at once, in which case dryer sheets don't do it then either. And they don't smell!!!! :D
(Sorry - I'm very exuberant by about my balls ;))
Vanessa raising organic vegetables, livestock, wildflowers, and family in zone 5A.

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applestar
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I AM TOO! Definitely trying the aluminum ball trick (2~3 balls as you said) next time I need to anti-static the dryer. :-() :-() :-()

(I wish I knew this back when I was washing the Mother-Ease all-in-one diapers. The nylon layer caused static, and I refused to use dryer sheets.)

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So party at my house last night (yes on Thursday! letter writing party for the Sierra Club Clean Energy campaign). Cleaning up this AM, there's 1/4 c of white wine in the bottom of the bottle. Didn't feel like drinking it, not enough to save, so it went in the compost bucket... it is made from grapes! :)

Did I just do something really bad and sterilize all the good bacteria cultures I want or are they just all having fun in there now? :)

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how about potroast gravy

A thick sludgy misture of oil and spices will that cause any harm to the Bokashi bacteria?

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RBG, the wine will likely set back some of the biology...

but I hesitate to say no. Alcohols naturally occur, and there must be some coping mechanisms out there. Diluted with water, and allowed to sit a wee bit (gassing much of it off, methinks) makes that a fine (if somewhat sad) addition to the pile... And invite me and Rog to the parties and you won't have this issue EVER again... :lol:

NC, yours is a much trickier case and I need more info; what oils? What spices?

HG
Scott Reil

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just wanted to say that I'm glad to see people are posting questions!

is this thread 'sticky worthy' yet?? 8)

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I know these will break down but should they?

I haven't started a pile yet, still trying to figure out if I'd have enough material to warrant the space. Veggie peels would be a big part of the greens for this house but I'm wondering if peels from store bought potatoes and waxy cucumbers would be ill advised. Any opinions?

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