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11 Things In The Kitchen You Didn't Know You Can Compost

By: Angelia Daugirda

11 Things In The Kitchen You Didn't Know You Can Compost

There are seemingly a variety of opinions on what you can and cannot compost!  There is no need for it to be so complex.  Yes, there are a few things to avoid like dairy, meat, animal products, pet poop, and chemical laden yard waste, but no need to overthink it all. 

There are a few things in your kitchen that you can avoid tossing in the trash, and we got the know-how to make composting them easier!

Check out our "11 Things In The Kitchen You Didn't Know You Can Compost" video for the lowdown on these surprising additions to the compost bin!

Avocado

 

Yes, you can toss every bit of an avocado into your compost bin!  The avocado skins are considered to be ‘brown matter’, and are perfect to help maintain balance in a compost bin.  The avocado meat is considered to be ‘green matter’ and it is an essential part of any composting system.  A healthy compost bin is a combination of 4 parts brown matter and 1 part green matter.  Brown matter provides carbon to the compost bin and thus provides energy for the hardworking microbes, and green matter is wet, fresh, green and provides nitrogen to your compost pile.


Simply toss avocado meat in with your other kitchen scraps, and consider chopping the avocado shells and pits up into smaller pieces before adding them to your compost bin. The shells and pits are a bit tough to break down, but with a bit of help, you will not have to worry about picking them out of your aged compost months later. Remember, the size of your kitchen scraps is one of the factors that dictates how fast your compost breaks down.  The tinier the scraps, the faster your once kitchen scraps will miraculously transform into beautiful aged compost!

Want to learn more about composting avocados?  We put together our best tips and tricks... more details on composting avocados!

 

Garlic

 

As we inch our way through the layers of garlic, we are met with the papery outer layer, the garlic skin, which is the closest to the garlic cloves, and finally we arrive at the clove, the part we are all waiting for.  What do you do with all of that garlic waste? 


You compost it!  Yes, every bit of garlic from the papery outside to the juicy inside clove is compostable!  Just like onions, garlic has some composting concerns, but in most cases, it will decompose just like your other kitchen scraps. 


Most alliums, like garlic and onions, may not be welcomed additions to a worm bin.  The strong sulfur emission of rotting garlic could potentially deter your worms from enjoying their job, and thus leaving you with rotting kitchen scraps.  The best way to test your worms’ reaction to it is by only adding small amounts of chopped garlic to the worm bin.  If they don’t seem to mind, then go ahead and toss it in there.  If it goes untouched and they seem to keep their distance from it, then remove it and simply toss your garlic scraps into another compost bin!  

Want to read more about composting garlic?  Read all about garlic, worm bins, how to use your compost and more specific advice on composting garlic!

Onions 

 

Every single part of an onion is 100% compostable!  You can even compost rotten, sprouting, and cooked onions!  You may have heard otherwise, and yes, there are a few things to look out for if you want to add them to a worm bin, but no worries, onions can make their way to your compost bin, just like your other kitchen scraps!  


Want to see if your worms are ok with stinky onion scraps?  Follow the same steps above for testing garlic in your worm bin.  It is always best to test strong smelling kitchen scraps like garlic, onion and ginger, before tossing too much of them in your worm bin.  Your worms’ sole job is to eat your unwanted scraps, and if you want them to love their job, it is smart to only feed them what they like!  Wait until you hear about watermelon and worms!


The cool part is that the strong sulfurous smell of an onion, common for all Allium plants, including garlic, can be a bonus for some compost systems, keeping unwanted pests and compost bin visitors at bay with their offensive smell.

We have the lowdown on composting onions.  Read more advice on composting onions!

 

Ginger

 

Yes, ginger can be composted!  While it is somewhat fibrous and aromatic, it can be safely composted in a home composting system.  What does being fibrous have to do with composting?  Well, the more fibrous or ‘woodier’ the organic matter is, the longer it will take to decompose. Remember, the goal of composting is to end up with well decomposed organic matter, without any signs of the kitchen scraps that went into making it.  By chopping up tough plant matter, you will give it a head start on breaking down.  The smaller the pieces, the faster it breaks down.


What about the smell of ginger? Worms and other beneficial soil visitors do not always enjoy fragrant additions like ginger, garlic and onions, thus being a deterrent to our friends beneath the surface.  If you plan on adding ginger to your worm bin, it would be wise to do a test run and see what they think.  Simply chop up some ginger and place it on the soil surface in the corner of your bin.  If it remains untouched, or you notice the worms totally avoiding that area of the bin, go ahead and remove it.  No need to deter them from doing their job, and not enjoying the kitchen scraps. 

This is just the beginning!  We put together everything you need to know about composting ginger!

 

Watermelon

 

Watermelon is a summertime favorite and for all of the right reasons.  The pink juicy flesh is loaded with minerals, and it is an amazing way to rehydrate, but what do you do with those leftover rinds?  You compost them!  Yes, watermelon should definitely not be thrown in the trash.  The crunchy, juicy watermelon rinds are green matter, an essential part of your compost bin.  In fact, your bin should have about 1 part green matter, the wet, nitrogen rich component, to 4 parts brown matter, the dry, carbon rich component.  


As with everything that you toss into your compost bin, watermelon rinds can benefit from a bit of help.  Whole watermelon rinds will not break down as fast as your other kitchen scraps and you may find them lingering in your finished compost.  Go ahead and chop the rinds up into smaller pieces before adding them to your compost bin.  Remember, the smaller the pieces, the faster they break down. 


Do you have a worm bin?  If so, watermelon is one of their favorite foods.  Unlike most of the other items on this list, watermelon is the easiest to add to your worm bin.  Want to try something fun?  Take a whole slice of watermelon and lay it on the surface of your worm bin soil.  Wait until you see what the worms do next!  No need to avoid adding watermelon to any of your composting systems, it is the perfect addition on so many levels!

 

Lemons

 

You have probably heard that you should never add lemons to your compost bin!  Well, the general rule of thumb is that all plant matter is compostable.  Yes, the lemon rind contains d-limonene, and the peels may be slower to break down, and of course lemons are acidic, but that is no reason to not compost them. 


Two things to consider when composting lemons is that the lemon peel may not fully decompose at the rate of your other kitchen scraps, and if you are adding lemons to your worm bin, they may not be very happy.  Both are totally valid.  So, before tossing whole lemons, or big pieces of lemon rind into our composting system, simply chop them up, or be prepared to pick them out of your finished compost in a few months. Remember, the smaller your scraps are, the faster they decompose!  


If you are the proud owner of worms, you probably know that they don’t always love everything that you toss in there.  Lemons may not be a worm’s favorite, so do a test run with a small amount of lemon waste and see how they react.  If they avoid it, just remove it, and skip adding lemons to the worm bin. If they don’t seem to mind it, go ahead and toss lemon scraps in there.  


TIP:  Red worms, the worms that are used in worm bins, are top feeders, if you notice that they aren’t hanging around the soil surface, you may want to think about what you are feeding them that may be offensive to them.  They will go deeper into the bin to rest and mate, but they do come to the surface to eat and work their magic!


Oranges

 

Just like lemons, oranges have gotten a bad rap when it comes to composting for all of the same reasons!  We are happy to say that oranges, even rotten ones, can be tossed into your compost bin, just like lemons.  While the rind takes longer to break down and worms may not enjoy them in their bin, you can safely compost oranges with ease. 


As we mentioned before, the tinier your scraps, bits and pieces are, the quicker you will end up with well aged compost.  If you toss in a whole orange or big pieces of orange rind, there is a good chance that they will not break down at the same rate as your other kitchen scraps. Simply chop them up before tossing them in your compost bin, or you may be picking out pieces of rind well after your other kitchen scraps have broken down. 


As for your worm bin, yes, citrus fruits, like oranges, may not be your worms’ favorite food due to the acidity.  We cannot stress the importance of doing food tests with your red worms.   Place orange scraps on the soil surface in the corner of your bin.  If it remains untouched, or you notice the worms totally avoiding that area of the bin, go ahead and remove it.  No need to deter them from doing their job, and not enjoying a good meal!  Not for nothing, you want them to eat up those unwanted scraps and make those amazing worm castings.  So why not feed them what they love!

 

Eggshells

 

Let’s start by saying that whoever denied eggshells their place in compost, didn’t realize that they are a great organic source of calcium and other minerals. You can compost eggshells, and they are an amazing nutrient dense addition to your compost bin! And no, you will not be introducing disease to your compost bin.  Thanks to heat and microbes, most things will be denatured over time. 


Eggshells do take a bit longer to break down than other kitchen scraps, but with a bit of preparation, you can help speed up that process. I rinse my eggshells, let them dry and then toss them in a small container under the sink.  Once the container is full, I take a big wooden spoon and smash them up.  Here comes the fun part…you can toss your crushed eggshells into your compost bin, or use them in the garden!


If you want homemade plant food rich in calcium, you can add a few tablespoons to each planting hole, especially with tomatoes, or work into the soil surface of your established plants. Combining the crushed eggshells with a handful of compost, and other organic additions, is an amazing way to up the nutrient density in your soil and really give plants what they need.


Are you a worm bin parent? You can add crushed eggshells to your worm bin along with your other kitchen scraps.  Just sprinkle it on the soil surface and let them go to work.  Composting worms will eat almost anything except meats, dairy products, animal products, and spicy foods.


Paper Towels and Other Paper Products 

 

Brown matter is essential for a healthy compost bin.  In fact, your compost bin should be about 4 parts brown matter to 1 part green matter. Used paper towels, undyed paper napkins, cardboard toilet paper rolls. uncoated cardboard, and pretty much any natural paper waste, can be composted.


What to avoid…

  • Paper towels that you used with cleaning agents.
  • Dyed paper products, like colored paper napkins. 
  • Printed paper waste like newspapers and magazines.  The ink may contain metal laden ingredients that are super harmful to your compost, the microorganisms, humans and the soil. 
  • Coated paper boxes.  The waxy, water resistant coating may contain plastic or other petroleum products. 
  • Taped boxes.  Remove tape from cardboard boxes before composting. 

How to compost paper waste…

  • Shred paper first to speed up the process
  • Remove tape and labels
  • Make sure that there is not a plastic glossy coating on boxes and cartons
  • Cut larger items up into smaller pieces

Are you building a new garden bed?  You can use corrugated cardboard as a weed barrier instead of tossing it in the recycling bin or taking the time to cut it up in tiny pieces to add to your compost bin.  Make sure that you remove labels and tape before using it.  Corrugated cardboard makes the perfect weed deterrent, and once it begins to break down, it adds carbon into your soil.  One of the many reasons why brown matter is key to healthy well balanced soil!

 

Tea Bags

 

If there is a way to avoid adding more waste into our landfills, then it is worth doing!  Every bit counts, even composting tea bags. Yes, tea bags made it onto our list of common kitchen items that should make their way into our compost bins.  


Tea bags are a great addition to the medley of kitchen scraps that are key to making amazing compost.  Not only are tea bags compostable, the steeped contents will transform into carbon rich food for your plants.  


One thing to note is that some tea bags are not made of paper.  Have you found whole bags in your finished compost?  That is a good sign that they are probably not paper tea bags. Simply remove them, and avoid this common pitfall in the future by ripping open your tea bags, dumping the tea into your kitchen scraps and discard the tea bag in the trash.  If your tea bags are made of paper, you can toss the whole thing in your compost bin. 


Are you a loose leaf tea drinker?  Composting your used tea leaf is super easy.  Just mix it in with your compost and let nature work her magic.  


Got worms?  Yes, tea leaves, including paper tea bags, are safe to add to worm bins! Worms love organic brown matter like undyed paper, paper towels, leaves, lawn clippings, and your used tea bags and tea leaves! 


Coffee Grounds

 

Of all of the items on our list of ‘things you didn’t know you could compost’, coffee grounds are by far the easiest to add to your compost bin!  Plus, the natural nitrogen content, about 2%, in coffee is a great addition to any compost bin, even a worm bin.  


Contrary to popular belief, coffee grounds are not acidic.  The pH of most coffee grounds ranges between 6.5 - 6.8, meaning that it is more neutral than acidic.  Once brewed, the water soluble compounds that make coffee acidic are left behind in the coffee that we drink, leaving the grounds as a neutral nitrogen rich waste that should be reused.  So, what is so special about used coffee grounds?  


Coffee grounds are great for improving soil tilth structure, they are an excellent source of nitrogen, they encourage the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the soil, they never go bad or expire, and you can even toss your used coffee filters into your compost bin.  Coffee is the most underestimated kitchen waste that finds its way into most household waste bins!  


You can even add coffee grounds directly to your plants soil surface, attracting microbes and encouraging them to grow where they are needed most.  Beneficial microorganisms also consume large amounts of nitrogen in order to reproduce.  By adding an additional source of organic plant food, rich in nitrogen, you will ensure that your plants and your friendly visitors have plenty of food for all.  One of the many reasons why we love our Organic Plant Magic plant food.  Not only is it an amazing source of organic nitrogen, it also contains GroBiotics, beneficial microorganisms to help the soil and your plants grow their best. 


I guess that we aren’t the only ones that love coffee!


Conclusion 

In a world of nearly 8 billion people, humans create more waste than fathomable!  If there is a way to live in harmony with nature and ensure that we will have a home for generations to come, then composting is one of the simplest ways to do your part.  


Remember…


 “There is no such thing as ‘away.’ So, when we throw anything away, it must go somewhere.” -Annie Leonard


 

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