Posted by Janet Harriett on Jan.12, 2009
Grass clippings, leaves, coffee grounds and kitchen scraps are the old standbys of the compost bin, but they are only the tip of the pile. Almost any organic (as in carbon-based, not necessarily Certified Organic) material that is not contaminated with hazardous chemicals, fats, bacteria, pathogens or proteins that would attract wildlife can be added to the compost bin. Here are 11 things you might not have thought to compost.
- Hair. Whether from trimming your bangs or cleaning out your hair brush, human hair is fine for the compost bin, and may temporarily deter critters from the bin while it breaks down. Some gardeners even seek out hair clippings from barbers and stylists to augment their compost piles. Avoid composting dyed hair that may introduce toxic chemicals into your compost.
- Cotton Swabs. Q-Tips made of 100% cotton with a paper or cardboard stick will compost just fine, as will cotton balls made from real cotton. Avoid composting cotton swabs or balls that were used with nail polish remover or other potentially hazardous substances.
- Vacuum Cleaner Leavings. When you vacuum, what you pull up is mostly dust, bits of soil, crumbs, hair and bits of pet fur, all of which are compostable. Try emptying the canister of your bagless vacuum cleaner into the compost bin rather than the trash. Vacuum bags themselves may not compost readily, and do not compost your vacuumings if you have used sprinkle-on carpet freshener (try plain baking soda, instead!).
- Used Paper Towels. As long as the paper towels were not used on greasy, oily or potentially bacteria-laden messes, they are fine for the compost heap.
- TP and Paper Towel Rolls. Once you get to the end of the roll, you can compost the cardboard tube to the paper towel or toilet paper roll, too.
- Paper Egg Cartons. There are hundreds of green reuses for egg cartons, but if you don’t have an alternate use, toss them in the compost pile as a brown. Of course, don’t forget the rinsed-out eggshells.
- Fireplace Ashes. In small quantities, wood fire ashes reduce the acidity in the compost pile and provide a touch of potassium, the K in NPK fertilizers. Too much will make the compost too alkaline to break down, though.
- Nail Clippings. Like hair, nail clippings–without polish–are made of keratin and will break down in the compost pile. With all the potential compost materials in the bathroom, consider keeping a smaller receptacle for bathroom compost like hair, cotton swabs, nail clippings and paper products that have not been exposed to chemicals or body fluids.
- Corks. After you pop the wine bottle open, toss the cork in with the composting. Cork is made of tree bark and will decompose as any other brown material. Avoid composting cork board or cork tiles that may still have glue residue on them.
- Dryer Lint. Dryer lint consists of tiny fibers from the clothes, and the natural fibers will compost as brown materials in the heap. Unless your entire wardrobe is polyester, the amount of synthetic fiber that gets into dryer lint is unlikely to harm the compost pile.
- Clean Rags. Once a natural-fiber rag gets worn out, even for a rag, give it a last wash without fabric softener and toss it in the bin.
Article By: Janet Harriett
Profile: Janet Harriett, Green Diva Mom's fomer editor, has been a writer and editor for print and online media, specializing in education and environmental issues since 1999. She lives on 2 acres in central Ohio with her husband, a 275-square-foot backyard garden and a home orchard growing 25 varieties of fruit. Janet holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing.
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