After a two-day appearance at Campus Center, the chalkboard filled with many responses to the open-ended question, “Can I Compost…?”. This was intended to provide a low-pressure space for people to ask what they were unsure about composting, although it turned into much more! So here are my responses to what people can and cannot compost, in alphabetical order:
-Aluminum foil: No, but it is recyclable if it is not covered in grease, oils, or other residues!
-Avocado pits: This depends on the time of the year. If you are going to compost avocado pits, I would recommend doing it in the summer when your compost pile is really hot and able to break down denser waste. Alternatively, you can grow an avocado tree from an avocado pit.
-Coffee: Coffee grounds are a great addition to any compost pile because they contain high levels of nitrogen, which provides nutrients to the plants the compost will be used for. Most coffee filters are compostable as well!
-The Declaration of Independence: This depends on what copy of the declaration we’re talking about. The first two drafts were written on hemp paper, which is biodegradable. The final copy that we are all familiar with, however, was written on animal skin parchment, which is not recommended for compost but is a contributing factor to why the document is still in good condition today. Well that, and the bullet-proof glass case filled with humidified helium which replaces oxygen in order to prevent erosion of the document. All in all, I would advise against attempting to compost the Declaration of Independence.
-Grapes, apples, banana peels- Yes! All of these fruits are compostable. Make sure their stickers are taken off and any pesticide residue is washed off before added to the compost pile. Their seeds and stems are also compostable.
-Great Room rice/pasta: If the rice or pasta has butter or oil on it (which it probably does) then no, you cannot. Dry pasta or pasta with tomato sauce that doesn’t have oil in it is just fine, though. Pasta with cheese, such as tortellinis, raviolis, or pasta with parmesan on top cannot be composted because cheese contains dairy, which is not compostable.
-Meat: No, animal meat is not recommended for compost because it can attract rodents and unwanted insects. It also can inhibit the composting process by breaking down slower than other organic scraps like fruits and veggies. It’s possible, but more difficult, and for the best quality compost I would recommend staying away from meat in your compost.
-Napkins: Yes, if they are not used to wipe up anything greasy!
-Tea bags: It depends on the brand. As a consumer you may have to look into which companies use tea bags that contain traces of plastic. In addition, any tea bags sealed with a staple cannot be composted unless the staple is removed. One way to avoid this issue altogether is to use loose leaf teas! Here’s a list of biodegradable teabags that you can purchase instead of your usual Twinings (although they’re in the process of phasing out their non-biodegradable bags).
-Up dog: What’s up, dog?
-Wood: Wood is a great source of carbon, which is necessary for the composting process. Just make sure the wood is in pieces comparable to the food scraps which are also being composted. You don’t want huge logs, smaller sticks are a-okay, but sawdust is ideal.
-Yogurt: No. Dairy products will eventually break down, but in the meantime they will emit odors which attract unwanted insects and animals. You’re better off throwing old yogurt in the garbage or using it in baked goods if you can’t consume it before the expiration date. Check out these 14 different recipes incorporating yogurt for inspiration!
If you’re interested in how you can start your own compost pile, visit this link.
Thanks for reading, and if you had written something on the board then thank you for participating!
Did you like having a chalkboard wall out on campus? Did you write something on the board that wasn’t answered? Did this list make you think of something you’re unsure you can compost? Do you have an idea for future questions to be written on the board? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!