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Composting FAQs

Composting isn’t rocket science, but it can still be confusing sometimes.

Luckily, we’re here to help. Whether it’s composting food scraps in a backyard bin, or dropping it off at one of our facilities, we have a lot of resources to help you figure out what works. In this post, we answer some FAQs that we take on our hotline (802-872-8111).

Food scraps sitting on the ground next to finished compost.
Photo by Joi Ito

Won’t it attract rats, bears…or Bigfoot?

If properly managed, backyard composting is less attractive to critters than household trash that has food scraps mixed in.

That’s because when they sit around enclosed in a bag with other “garbage”, those food scraps start going anaerobic, which just means they start rotting in a relatively airless environment. This process is actually smellier—and way nastier—than composting.

Proper composting breaks down food scraps very quickly and with lots of air, and should not produce significant odors if done properly.

Remember, you also don’t want to put meat, bones, oils/fats or seafood in your backyard bin! Backyard piles don’t generally get hot enough to break these items down before they start to smell.

So what do I do with meat, oil, milk, or other stuff that I can’t put in a backyard compost pile?

Bring it to your local Drop-Off Center or Green Mountain Compost! Our industrial composting facility has no problem breaking down the tough items that a backyard system can’t handle. (Meat and meat-related items can still go in the trash after 2020, when other food scraps are banned from the landfill.)

What about kitty litter, dog poop, etc?

We get this one a lot. After all, poop is natural, right? Well, yes—but it can also carry bacteria and pathogens that are dangerous to humans and plants. We do not recommend including pet waste of any kind in your compost—backyard or drop-off.

All pet waste should be bagged, and disposed of in the trash. (Learn more about why pet waste and composting don’t mix well.)

There are some “digesting” methods that promise to fully decompose pet waste, but we do not yet have field-tested proof that they perform as promised.

Can I compost diseased plants, or invasive species?

We accept these at Green Mountain Compost, our industrial composting facility where the temperatures get high enough to kill the seeds and render the spores or other disease harmless.

Bag and seal the plants to prevent the spread of disease or seeds in transit, and bring the bags to Green Mountain Compost. Check in at the office when you arrive for directions on where to leave the bags.

More questions?

We’ve got more answers.

Download a brochure

We have brochures about backyard composting and drop-off composting. Visit our Resource Request page to download or request a brochure—we’ll mail one to you.

Call our hotline

We staff the CSWD hotline Monday – Friday from 9am – 4pm: (802) 872-8111. Press 0 to speak directly with a staff member.

Send a message

Drop us a line on our Contact Us page.

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Marketing & Communications Manager at CSWD
Jonny joined CSWD in 2014 after several years abroad where he ran websites, film projects, classrooms, and half marathons. Originally from Virginia, he was drawn to Vermont's strong sense of community, apple cider, and the search for Champ.