Composting is a great way to recycle food scraps and other biodegradable materials, but some items aren’t necessarily suited to your compost pile. Some items can infect the compost with harmful pathogens or chemicals, while other items will attract wildlife and flies to your compost pile.
Pressure-treated, Painted, or Stained Wood
Sawdust and wood chips are great additives to a compost pile, but only if they are not pressure-treated, painted, or stained. Some treated woods can contain arsenic and stains and paints can contain synthetic chemicals. For best results, only use wood byproducts where you are certain about the origin.
Diary, Meat, and Oils
Technically all of these foods will break down in your compost pile over time. However, they are also guaranteed to generate enough smell while they rot to attract wildlife and other pests. For most home composters, it’s a better solution to try to minimize as much of this type of waste as possible, but throw it away with the rest of your garbage. Otherwise, you run the risk of creating an infestation of rats and other scavengers in your compost. If you do find you have a lot of this type of waste, you may want to try an in-ground composter, or a more sophisticated composting method that will deter pests.
Weeds and Diseased Plants
Composting weeds and plants that have died seems like a reasonable thing to do, but it can backfire on you when you use the compost. Weeds have seeds that will later sprout when your compost is added to your gardening area. Diseased plants may also transfer the disease-causing pathogen into the compost and infect other plants once it is used.
If you’re a smoker and have cigarette butts lying around, you may be tempted to compost them. However, toxins in the cigarettes make these a poor composting choice.
Degradable plastic may change forms when it encounters environmental exposure over time, but it still doesn’t have nutrients that will nourish plants. It will also take far longer to break down than your other composting items. Skip adding these products to your compost pile, but ask your local waste disposal company if they especially sort this type of plastic from other trash.