Remember the good ol' days — back when we only had one bin for trash? In retrospect, those days were actually more wasteful than good. We sent things to the landfill that might have nourished our yards, and buried them side-by-side with materials that should have been reclaimed and put back in the production chain.
Today, most of us have a compost bin. They're great for reducing curbside trash, but not everything is suitable for those bins.
We've rounded up a list of things people mistakenly try to compost. We chose items generally avoided by experienced compost gurus. Ready? To the bins!
Bread products: This includes cakes, pasta and most baked goods. Put any of these items in your compost pile, and you've rolled out the welcome mat for unwanted pests.
Cooking oil: Smells like food to animal and insect visitors. It can also upset the compost's moisture balance.
Diseased plants: Trash them, instead. You don't want to transfer fungal or bacterial problems to whatever ends up growing in your finished compost.
Heavily coated or printed paper: This is a long list, including magazines, catalogs, printed cards and most printed or metallic wrapping paper. Foils don't break down, and you don't need a bunch of exotic printing chemicals in your compost.
Human or animal feces: Too much of a health risk. This includes kitty litter. Waste and bedding from non-carnivorous pets should be fine.
Meat products: This includes bones, blood, fish and animal fats. Another pest magnet.
Milk products: Refrain from composting milk, cheese, yogurt and cream. While they'll certainly degrade, they are attractive to pests.
Rice: Cooked rice is unusually fertile breeding ground for the kinds of bacteria that you don't want in your pile. Raw rice attracts varmints.
Sawdust: So tempting. But unless you know the wood it came from was untreated, stay away.
Just like kudzu can overtake plants and trees, it can also grow in your compost. (Photo: Bubba73/Wikimedia Commons
Stubborn garden plants: Dandelions, ivy and kudzu are examples of plants or weeds which will probably regard your compost heap as a great place to grow, rather than decompose.
Used personal products: Tampons, diapers and items soiled in human blood or fluids are a health risk.
Walnuts: These contain juglone, a natural aromatic compound toxic to some plants.
It should be pointed out that there are a minority of people who compost practically everything, including items on this list. We've stuck to composting best practices, omitting things that obviously don't belong in the garden (paint, motor oil, etc.). We've also skipped disputed or iffy items, such as dryer lint and highly acidic citrus fruit.
Editor’s note: This story was original written for Lighter Footstep (copyright 2009)and is now owned by Mother Nature Network. This story has been updated since it originally appeared on MNN in 2010.