A compost tumbler makes composting mess-free and convenient. However, you must be careful what you put in a compost tumbler or any other composting pile.
The blanket term for compostable materials is organic waste. However, not all organic waste is the same. Some may take years to decompose. You don’t want this to happen to your composting pile.
This article explains all the materials you should avoid putting in a compost tumbler or any other compost pile.
Things Not to Put in a Compost Tumbler
1. Meat and Fish Scrape
It is advised not to put meat and fish in your compost tumblers. First, it takes a lot of time to rot. Second, the rotting smell attracts animals, flies, and pests. Moreover, rotting meat has an extremely foul smell. Even a properly sealed tumbler will release odors that will become a nuisance for humans and an attraction for animals.
You can only put meat in a tumbler in small quantities if you have a very hot and active tumbler. The composting activity will quickly break down the meat and makes it a part of the compost.
2. Disease or Insect-Infested Plants
Don’t forget to check the plant leaves, twigs, and branches you add to the tumbler. The disease-ridden or infected plants require higher temperatures of 141°F to 145°F up to several days. Maintaining such high temperatures for longer stretches during household composting is almost impossible, no matter how active your tumbler is. The insects or pests on these leaves will thrive and multiply due to food availability, disrupting the composting process. As a result, the composting will be quick, but there will be a lot of pests in the end.
Also Read: Can I Put Rhubarb Leaves On My Compost Heap?
3. Charcoal Ash
Coal ash is rich in sulfur, making your pile highly acidic. Moreover, coal ash or powder has harmful compounds that aren’t good for plants in the pile.
Feel free to add firewood ash or powder to the compositing bin. It is high in carbon and serves as a brown composting material.
4. Dairy, Fats, and Oils
Dairy products such as butter, cream, milk, cheese, and yogurt attract unwanted pests and visitors. Fats and oils also fall under this category, so you must avoid adding them to your compost tumbler if you do not want unwanted insects and pests to attack your compost. Processed foods with many fats and dairy items must also be left behind.
5. Citrus Fruit Peels
Citrus fruit peels take a longer time to decompose and have higher acidic content. They decrease the pH of your compost and slow down the decomposition process.
However, they are a great way to control maggots in the compost bins and tumblers.
6. Cat and Dog Waste
Both cat and dog wastes have harmful bacteria and parasites that can cause various diseases in humans. So, your cats’ and dogs’ waste must not go to your compost tumbler. In a dog’s waste, roundworms are a serious threat. Cat’s waste contains an organism that can cause toxoplasmosis disease in pregnant females.
7. Coated Cardboard Packaging
Any food packaging that is coated with foil or plastic is not suitable to add to a compost tumbler. Takeaway cups, juice boxes, waxy-lined paper cups, and milk cartons are not compostable, so do not add them to your compost.
8. Naturally Toxic Plants
Some plants are naturally toxic that you must not add to your compost tumbler. Please avoid adding oleander leaves and anything related to the black walnut tree (including walnuts) because they contain juglone, a naturally toxic chemical for plants.
9. Lawn Trimmings Recently Treated with Herbicides and Pesticides
If your lawn grass is treated with a high concentration of herbicides and pesticides, then using its trim causes harm to your compost. You have to wait for a few weeks before adding any treated grass or lawn trim to your compost to decrease the treatment effects.
10. Cigarette Butts
Some cigarette butts are made of plastic, so they will not decompose. Besides this, cigarette has harmful chemicals that are not suitable for many plants. Although tobacco is compostable, cigarette butt has many other components that are not compostable at all.
11. Synthetic Soaps
Non-biodegradable soaps are not recommended to add to your compost tumbler. Check your soap’s label; if it is biodegradable, you can add it to your compost; otherwise, avoid it.
12. Used Feminine Hygiene Products
Used tampons, pads, and cardboard applicators are not allowed to add to your compost tumbler. Anything that has blood contains hard-to-kill pathogens, and these pathogens will transfer to your compost as well. Reusable cotton liners can be added to your compost if they have been properly washed.
13. Synthetic Fabric of Any Kind
Synthetic fabric contains all kinds of harmful dyes and chemicals. Even if your fabric is 99% cotton and 1% polyester, it will not decompose. A small fabric can ruin your entire compost, so it’s better not to add them.
14. Onion and Garlic Scrapes
Onion and garlic scrapes can kill beneficial bacteria and microbes, which are essential for decomposing waste materials.
15. Leather goods
Leather goods, including wallets, belts, purses, gloves, etc., can take many years for proper decompose. Try not to add any leather good to your composting tumbler at all.
16. Glossy Paper
Any paper with a glossy plastic finish is dangerous for your compost pile. The glossy paper includes magazines, product catalogs, photographs, and wrapping papers. Please do not put any of them in your compost tumbler.
17. Weeds That Have Gone to Seed
Do not add weeds that have developed seeds to your compost because they can survive up to 145°F compost temperature. So, that means it’s hard to decompose such weeds, and they will grow faster in your compost tumbler.
18. Baked Goods
Baked goods fall in a gray area. The main reason for not composting is that baked goods rot and make a foul smell. People who compost baked items say it is okay to compost baked goods, but you must break them into smaller pieces.
19. Animal Bones
Though they can be composed but must be avoided due to an extremely slower rate. Moreover, meat items smell awful and attract pests, flies, and animals.
20. Treated Wood/Sawdust
Treated wood or sawdust will not break down quickly and inhibit the good stuff in your compost. It also takes a lot of surface area in the soil and increases the risk of latching in your plants.
Cellophane is semi-synthetic and must not be composted. However, true cellophane is biodegradable and can be composted. It will take around 30-35 days to break down completely.
22. Feminine Hygiene Products, Diapers & Human Waste
These items have bacteria and will smell bad when put in a tumbler. Moreover, handling and carrying such things to a compost tumbler is nothing short of a hassle.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I put in a compost tumbler?
- Vegetable scraps
- Grass clippings
- Coffee grounds
- Tea bags and tea leaves
- Stale bread & corn husks
- Livestock manure
- Brown paper products like cardboard rolls, cereal boxes, and brown paper bags
- Cotton & wool
- Vacuum cleaner lint from natural fabrics
- Hair & fur
- Hay & straw
- Houseplants, leaves, nutshells
- Wine corks
How much green and brown should I put in my compost tumbler?
The general ratio is 3-4 parts brown and 1 part green. The ratio may vary depending on various factors. You can read more about it here.
Why are black walnut leaves not suitable for compost tumblers?
Black walnut tree leaves, twigs, and even walnuts are not recommended to add to a composting tumbler. They excrete a toxin called juglone that is harmful to many plant species.
Can I add water to my compost tumbler?
Yes. You can add water to your compost tumbler. Moreover, it is critical to maintaining the right moisture content for successful and quick composting. Depending on pile size and temperature, the water content should be 50-60%. You can check water content by pinching a handful of compost. The moisture content is okay if it gives 2-3 drops of water.
Why doesn’t plastic compostable?
Carbon-carbon bond in polypropylene is much stronger, and it requires a lot of energy to break this bond. It’s impossible to produce such a high amount of energy naturally. According to a research, almost 100 years are required to degrade plastic naturally.