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Good vs. Bad

Good vs. Bad. Not in the Super Friends vs. the Legion of Doom kind of way, but how my view of composting has evolved over time. As I learned more and more about what can be composted, I realized that just because something can be composted doesn’t mean I want those items in my vegetable garden. For example, dryer lint is compostable, but who knows what chemicals and dyes the lint contains? Do I want to put that with my heirloom tomatoes? Thus, I developed a “good” compost pile and a “bad” compost pile.


If you never plan to use your compost pile to enrich something like a vegetable garden, you probably could just put all of the “ingredients” into one composter. Otherwise, you may want to consider creating two separate piles.


The good compost contains food scraps, shredded paper, and leaves.


My “bad” compost contains:

  • Dryer lint

  • “Dirty” paper products – paper towels used for cleaning, tissues, etc.

  • Weeds

  • Wax from candles

  • Credit card receipts

  • Matchsticks without the sulfur top and popsicle sticks (broken up)

  • Cat litter (but only certain kinds—more on this in another post)

About six months ago, I decided to shred all of my cardboard and use it in my compost. While there is some market value for recycled cardboard, there is much effort and energy involved in recycling it: someone has to stop at my house, pick it up, drive it to the recycling center, sort it, bale it, send it somewhere, and then process it into something new. Shredding cardboard for compost instead of recycling it is one of the main reasons I have only taken out my recycling can once this year.


I started separating all of my cardboard to be shredded into two piles:

  • Good: cereal boxes, snack boxes, parts of shipping boxes without tape/labels

  • Bad: parts of shipping boxes that have tape/labels

Another consideration is aseptic containers. Once I learned that my town was no longer going to recycle aseptic containers at the beginning of the year, I had to think of what to do with them, as I did not want to throw them into the trash. I decided to see how shredding the containers to put into my bad compost would work.


First, I remove any hard plastic from the container, which usually is where liquid is poured from, and then I unfold the container. I give it a quick rinse, let it dry, and then shred it. I am on my first few compost batches with the aseptic containers, and while it is taking longer to decompose than cardboard, it seems to be working pretty well. Some examples of aseptic containers and other packaging I shred for bad compost are:

  • Juice boxes

  • Paper milk cartons

  • Paper juice cartons

  • Paper box packaging (for items like medicines, snacks, toothpaste, cosmetics, etc.)

The mixture of “greens” to “browns” for the bad compost is the same as for the good compost pile. The greens are primarily weeds. The browns are all of the other stuff (boxes, cartons, etc.).


I have been using the bad compost to fill in holes around the yard, raise the level of the flower beds against the house, and other related things.


While having a second compost pile may seem onerous, it really has helped keep the compost for our garden as clean as possible while allowing us to reduce the amount of both trash and recycling at the curb.

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