What’s in your compost?

by brenda on April 11, 2013

We purchased soil/compost mixtures from two different local companies last month. One of the products looks great. It’s got ground coconut shells, and ground up bark, and  an organic fertilizer. It is fine and free of clumps, and appears ready to plant in.

We needed more soil on a Saturday, and the original place was closed. We should’ve had patience…

Instead, we purchased from another local place. The price of their soil/compost mixture was about half the price. It didn’t contain the coconut shells, bark or fertilizer, but it was supposed to be clean soil with compost mixed in.

The soil is chunky, with large clumps of dirt stuck together.

There are thin tree branches that have been cut into 3” sections.

It is really dark, and it doesn’t smell like fresh gardening soil.

And worst of all? It has garbage in it. Yup, that’s right. Garbage. 

To date, we have found:

  • broken credit cards
  • chewed gum
  • a small Motrin package
  • various food wrappers
  • what looks like plastic grocery bag strips that have been burned
  • a pop can tab
  • plastic wire covering
  • several pieces of broken glass
  • twist ties
  • rubberbands
  • etc.

I called the company who we purchased the soil/compost mixture from. They were very nice and apologetic, but they said that it is common to find things like plastic wires in their compost. This is how they get their compost:

Whatever people put in their yard debris containers gets mixed together.

Then it’s burned. He said that there shouldn’t be much plastic left in it because it should have been burned.

Then they sift it to make sure that big chunks of garbage don’t end up in the final compost mixture.

I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t want plastic in my garden, whether it is burned or not.

Fact: plastic emits toxins

I do not want to grow my heirloom vegetables in a burnt plastic mixture. Do you?

Burnt yard debris (and plastic) is technically not the same thing as “compost.” Compost is supposed to be decayed organic materials. Burning organic materials changes the chemical composition and may make it unhealthy for plants. Even burnt wood ashes, which are known for their benefits in the garden, need to be applied sparingly. A 50% compost, 50% soil mixture, where the “compost” is burnt materials is not an appropriate media for plant growth. Burnt plastics and other trash are downright dangerous for the garden.

I have learned a lot from this experience. From now on, when I order compost, I will be asking:

  • Where do you get your composted materials?
  • Is there a chance that there will be any plastic in your compost?
  • Is your compost truly composted, over time, or is it burnt?

For more reading on this subject, check out:

Where do you get your compost? Have you had any issues like this?

This post was shared at Thank Goodness it’s Monday

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Eileen @ Phoenix Helix April 14, 2013 at 11:31 am

Wow, I would have been shocked, too! Who would knowingly support the burning of plastic, never mind “planting” it in your garden? Thanks for the heads-up.

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Calendula Grower April 28, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Makes me glad we make our own compost!

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Mary Hall August 27, 2013 at 5:04 am

Wow, that is absolutely appaling. Horrible, really. I hope you left a review on Yelp and Google about the compost (and the company). Consumers need to know not only the questions to ask, but the company needs more consumers who will boycott the compost they are selling.

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