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8 things you should never put in your compost bin

Never put it in your compost bin

Composting is an easy way to turn your kitchen and yard waste into something useful for your garden. But all these materials are not equally good for composting for one reason or another. For example, some food waste can produce odors that attract insects. And some byproducts can slow or stop the decomposition process, which can be frustrating. Plus, you don't want to add anything that could harm you or your plants when using finished compost in your garden. Here's what you should definitely leave out of your compost bin, along with some household waste you didn't know you could compost.

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Some items such as onion slices, citrus peels, eggshells, and stale bread should only be added in small amounts, so the following items should not be placed in your compost bin.

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1. Meat and fish scraps

The fishy stench of old seafood or the stench of rotting meat stinks, of course. But that same repulsive smell is a magnet for skunks, raccoons, rats, flies, and many other wild animals and even a few nearby pets. So if you don't want to make a trip to your local fauna, don't put meat, fish, or bones in your compost pile. Even if you keep a covered compost bin, the smell can attract unwanted insects to the area.

2. Dairy products, fats, and oils

Dairy products, fats, and oils, such as cheese, butter, milk, sour cream, and yogurt, should be avoided for the same reason; They attract unwanted visitors. Avoid processed foods high in milk or fat.

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3. Plants or wood treated with pesticides or preservatives

Do not add any plants that have been treated with pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides to the compost pile. Residues from garden chemicals used to kill insects and control plant diseases can inadvertently kill beneficial composting organisms. Residues of herbicides after composting can affect plants in the garden. This also applies to wood that has been pressure treated, painted, stained, or varnished.

4. Black walnut wood scraps

Most untreated garden and yard wastes add well to your compost pile, but there are exceptions. Black walnut leaves, twigs, and especially roots contain a natural substance called juglone, which inhibits the growth of many plants and can kill them. Certain plants appear to be more sensitive, including edible crops such as tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes, and ornamentals such as azaleas, viburnums, and hydrangea. Research has found that with enough time and heat, juglone breaks down enough to lose its toxicity, but it's better to leave the black walnut litter than deal with potential problems later.

5. Diseased or pest-infested plants

A heated compost pile (one that reaches and maintains a temperature of 141°F to 145°F for at least several days) is required to kill insects and disease pathogens such as fungi and bacteria. However, most household compost bins and piles do not reach such high temperatures, so pests and diseases can survive in them.

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6. Weeds that have gone to seed

The same goes for weeds that have set seeds, which usually survive until the compost temperature reaches 145°F. There is no point in seeding next year's weed crop while spreading your finished compost.

7. Charcoal ash

Although you can add ash from your wood-burning fireplace or outdoor fire pit (in limited amounts) to your compost bin, you should avoid coal and charcoal ash. First, these materials contain a lot of sulfur, which makes your finished compost too acidic for most plants. Second, charcoal briquettes are often infused with chemicals that can harm plants when composted in your garden.

8. Dog or cat waste

Dog and cat feces should not go in your compost pile. They can turn the end product into hazardous waste because both cats and dogs can carry bacteria and parasites that can cause human disease. Roundworms are a very common problem in dog feces. Cat feces and cat litter are an even bigger concern because they can carry an organism called toxoplasmosis, a disease of particular concern to pregnant women because it can cause serious injury to the unborn child.

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Surprising things you can compost

Now you know what to avoid, but there's also a lot of waste material that you might end up adding to the trash that you don't even think about. However, include the following items only if the above no-nos are absent.

Hair and fur

Dryer lint

Aquarium plants

Home brewing wastes (spent hops and malt)

Used paper napkins and paper towels

Old herbs and spices

Unpopped or burned popcorn

Cardboard and paper plates (small pieces, uncoated)

Wooden chopsticks and toothpicks

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