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Poop or no poop? Which poop can you compost?

Compost, the key ingredient to our Soil Building plan, is rich in organic matter that breaks down over time. Scraps of vegetative foods, shredded paper, grass clippings, weeds, expired garden plants,  eggshells, and poop, make their way into our own homemade blend of liquid compost. Wait, back up; did you say poop? That’s right, certain types of animal waste, or manure, are key components of nutritious compost. Manure adds nutrients, increases microbial activity, and speeds up the composting process.

Not All Poop is Created Equal

When it comes to adding manures to your home compost, not all are created equal; and not every type of poop safe to compost. Some animals, including people, harbour harmful organisms in their waste. While commercial composting operations are able to bring compost to hot enough temperatures for long enough to kill off harmful bacteria, most home compost piles and bins do not. So it’s best to leave some poop to the professionals.

What’s safe?

Chickens and bat manures are safe to compost. They are high in urea nitrogen making them “hot”. That means this fresh manure could could burn your plants if it’s not at least partially composted before you add it to the garden. But it’s great for adding fresh into the compost pile. Fresh chicken manure and bat guano, when mixed into your compost pile, will help speed up the composting process and enrich the resulting compost. If you do add these manures to the garden when fresh, be sure they are dry first and don’t use too much.

Cow, Horse, Sheep and Goat manures are all also safe for the home compost bin. They are all less “hot” than chicken manure or bat guano, but it’s still best to compost them for about 6 months before they go into the garden beds. They are a good source of nitrogen and potassium. But be aware weed seeds may survive your composting cycle.

What’s not safe?

Dog feces are not considered safe for the home composter. Now, that’s not to say that in the future dog feces won’t be compostable: many dog parks around the country are looking into efficient and effective ways to compost the piles left behind. To compost  your own pet’s poop, can be a long and labor intensive process that homeowners typically have a hard time sticking with. So the current recommendation is to skip the dog poop in the home compost bin.

Cat feces, is really a big no. While it can be professionally composted, it is a very long and complicated process that is not necessarily worth the risk for the homeowner. Cats excrete toxoplasma eggs in their poop, which causes toxoplasmosis in humans; and the reason why pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems are told not to clean the litter box.

Pig waste is generally not considered safe to use in compost because their waste contains harmful bacteria that can make you sick.

Human waste is normally a “no” for the general home compost bin. However, if properly managed, human waste can be properly composted. A composting toilet can turn your poop and other organic material into compost that is just about ready to use.

Killing harmful bacteria in compost basically comes down to maintaining the compost at hot enough temperatures for long enough to complete the process. Again, home compost bins generally don’t get hot enough. So definitely make use of poop that’s easy and safe to recycle, but always use common sense when composting wastes.


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