Environment Magazine

20+ Things You Should Never Compost

Posted on the 09 April 2016 by Rinkesh @ThinkDevGrow

20+ Things You Should Never Put in Your Compost Heap

Whenever folks begin new ventures, new adventures even, the first steps always appear to be the most difficult.

But when the journey has begun in all earnest, it’s amazing how much can be achieved in such a short space of time. Earth’s journey, on the other hand, has lasted for thousands of years. But in its present state, in just a short space of time, mankind has managed to turn it into, quite literally, a rubbish heap. But, against the tide of over-pollution, global warming and climate change, there are acres of hope.

Men and women across the globe in their own small ways are each doing a little bit towards drastically reducing their carbon footprints. The big question is always asked; is this enough. But the positive affirmation still remains that every little bit helps.

Today, whether it is done in the home’s backyard or on much larger industrial scales, two key functions are being stepped up to clean up the environment. But, unfortunately, well-meaning intentions without fully understanding the consequences of what is being done, often lead to more damage.


Composting in itself is a great way to put nutrients back in the soil even if you don’t have a garden. Composting is a process via which decomposed organic materials is converted into a rich soil known as compost that help plants grow.

According to Wikipedia,

“Compost is a key ingredient in organic farming. At the simplest level, the process of composting simply requires making a heap of wetted organic matter known as green waste (leaves, food waste) and waiting for the materials to break down into humus after a period of weeks or months.”

The rest of this article deals with those functions; the matter of recycling and manufacturing compost. The damage that needs to be reversed relates to the lack of education on how to manage these tasks properly. It also entails a more responsible, thoughtful and proactive response towards cleaning up the environment and growing things organically.

This journey here lists over twenty items, namely what should not be going into a compost heap and what should never be recycled. The first half of this article deals with a list of items that should not be added to the mix during compost manufacturing. The article closes with the list of items that should not be recycled.

Here are 20+ things that you should not throw in the compost heap.

1. Bread – In this category, cakes and pastas have been included. All forms of residue left behind are a magnetized attraction for unwanted pests.

2. Cooking oil – It is perceived as food by pests. Also its chemical content can upset the balance of nutrients in the compost.

3. Dairy products – Like bread or grain products, these products are also a favored food source for pests and can also attract wildlife or flies..

4. Diseased plants – These carry fungus and harmful bacteria which can be transferred to the organic nutrients of the compost heap.

5. Plants that challenge and invade – Otherwise known as weeds, these plants won’t decompose but grow instead.

6. Feces – The bacterial content from both human and carnivorous animals, mainly to do with consumed meat, is hazardous which might contain pathogens.

7. Meat scraps – Apart from the bacterial hazard, contents such as blood, bones and fleshy residues are also attractive to pests.

8. Heavily coated paper – These are broadly categorized to include things such as greeting cards, magazines and writing pads. Apart from its chemical content, its high foil content is non-compostable.

9. Coated or Printed paper – One simple trick to use as a sticky reminder is to simply never print. There is no longer a need to do this and its impact on the environment remains negative.

10. Rice – In two parts, rice is unsuitable for the compost heap. Raw rice is attractive to pests, while cooked rice is fertile ground for bacteria, potentially harmful to the compost’s nutrients.

11. Sawdust – It is not feasible to identify whether wood has been treated with chemicals and other harmful ingredients or not. It is better not to toss sawdust into the compost heap at all.

12. Used personal items – All used personal items such as tampons and diapers are soiled with human fluids and are health hazards.

13. Tea and Coffee bags Tea and coffee should only be added in compose pile if they are bag less. Some bags contain synthetic fibers that do not break down in a compost pile.

14. Citrus Peels, onions and garlic scraps They should be avoided as they might scare of useful bacteria and insects or kill worms and other organisms..

15. Coal ash – It may contain so much sulfur that it may make soil excessively acidic.

16. Large branches They take long time to break down. It is better to cut them down into smaller pieces. The smaller the pieces, the faster they will break down.

17. Synthetic Fertilizer Synthetic fertilizer may upset the balance of nutrients in the soil and may increase the saltiness in the soil.

18. Dead animals They should better be buried underground.

19. Inorganic materials, such as polyester, plastic, acrylic, rubber etc Plastic products take much longer to compost. So, its better to keep them off your compost bins.

20. Manure from sick animals Manure is a great product to be used in compost pile. But this should be used only is you are sure that it hasn’t come from sick animals or from animals taking antibiotics.

21. Walnuts – They contain juglone, a natural aromatic compound considered toxic to plant life.

22. Pretty much anything that is poisonous – This should be a case of stating the obvious. Proactive measures entail checking product labels.

23. Not even torn or shredded bits of clothing – Even the tiniest bits of fiber can contain harmful substances and invariably do contain chemicals. Also, there is the question of dye from the clothing material’s colorants.

By now you may have come to realize that even the best intentions have their consequences.

In the case of creating your own compost to feed your own organic ecosystem at home, this is pertinent. With just a portion of knowledge on some of the basics, many people who don’t give much thought to how they do things at home, have yet another opportunity to pull things right. As a reader, you can help them by informing them on what needs to be done and, as is the case here, on what should never enter the compost heap.


Items That You Should Never Recycle

1. Aerosol cans – Spray cans contain far too many chemicals and are regarded as hazardous waste by authorities.

2. Boxes in general – Most boxes, amazingly at this stage, are still not adequately prepared for recycling purposes.

3. Brightly dyed paper – Apart from the potential to stain other surfaces, the colorants are still filled with toxins.

4. Batteries – They can be recycled but need to be handed in to specialized depots that process these materials.

5. Ceramics – In general, none of these should be tossed out and more uses should be found for them around the home.

6. Dangerous waste – All household chemicals and motor oil are included in this category. Find out where recyclable oil is handled.

7. Medical waste This needs to be handled carefully. Ideally, find NGO-oriented services who will dispose of waste responsibly.

8. Diapers – It already contains human feces which are hazardous to the environment. The switch must be made towards using old-fashioned, washable diapers.

9. Fruit juice containers – As with boxes in general, far too many juice containers remain unsuitable for recycling bins.

10. Glass – Tossing these into general bins is dangerous because glass breaks and sharp edges will injure people.

11. Napkins – Interestingly, these have been recommended as ideal for composting instead of recycling.

12. Wet paper – Because of water, paper fibers are damaged and considered to be a contagious risk.

13. Plastic bags – It is recommended that these be washed and re-used in the home rather than tossing them away.

14. Plastic, plastic and still more plastic – Prevention is better than cure. Far better not to buy and use plastic at all.

15. Soft or hard plastic take-out containers – When it comes to lifestyle paradigms, this is another hard sell which entails radically adjusting eating habits to promote good health as well as using far less unwarranted plastics.

16. Pizza boxes – In the same vein as boxes in general, most of these haven’t been prepared for proper recycling. Also, it’s too greasy to be cleaned.

The same goes for recycling. Most people won’t be thinking of a compost heap right now, mainly because of their living circumstances. Urban lifestyles don’t always allow for enough space to create your own organic garden.

But you would be amazed at what you can do with just a small space. If you’re living on an apartment complex, you could encourage the building’s owners to start a garden as well as a recycling depot on the building’s roof. And before he tells you that this is well-nigh impossible, a little bit of research will show both you and him that it’s being done in different parts of the country and the world.

Finally, the next time you do go shopping, think carefully what you buy so that you can avoid accumulating most of the non-recyclable waste items mentioned in the above list.

Knowledge can be empowering. And knowing what to do and when to do it is even more so. Doing the right thing makes a world of difference.

Image credit: Antranias , Ben

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