While you can compost dairy products, it should be done with caution. Dairy products take time to decompose. They attract pests and night critters to your composting bin. And, above all, they decompose with an awful smell.
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What You Should Know About Composting Dairy
So, why do gardeners discourage dairy products? Why do I discourage it?
1. Dairy products have high moisture content
The moisture from the fats and oil makes compost soggy, which consequently slows down the decomposing process. That means waiting an extra month for your compost to be ready.
Also, the fat acts as an insulator that prevents water and air from mixing the composting materials. This, in turn, affects the microbes’ activity.
Make sure to also check our video on how to compost cheese.
2. Dairy products attract pests and critters
If you don’t want rats and other pests messing up your compost pile, you have 2 options:
- Avoid dairy products
- Be careful how you compost them (I’ll tell you the most productive way)
3. You can’t vermicompost dairy products
Dairy products contain lactose and protein, which composting worms can’t digest.
Plus, dairy products are primarily acidic and can lower the pH of the worms’ bedding, making the environment unpleasant for the worms to function.
4. Bad odor
Composting meat or other dairy encourages spoilage bacteria such as Pseudomonas fragi to multiply.
These spoilage microorganisms are responsible for the awful smell.
5. Dairy products have low material structure
That means you need more brown materials (dry materials like leaves, sawdust, grass clippings) to compost.
You can’t compost dairy products alone.
How to Compost Dairy Products?
There are two ways to compost dairy:
- hot composting
- electric composting (expensive but fast)
I prefer the hot composting method. It’s less smelly, and you can compost more dairy products than with an electric composter; plus, it’s cheap.
1. Hot Composting (Traditional composting)
Hot composting involves heat, which helps to break down the organic materials.
It’s beneficial since the heat also helps to destroy any pathogens that might be present in the organic waste. That means the compost is disease and pest free.
What you need
- Dry materials, including dry leaves, sawdust, and grass clippings
- Composting bin
- Green materials, mostly food scraps (kitchen veggies)
- Prepare the composting materials.
- Chop the materials (the dairy, kitchen waste, and dry materials) into smaller chunks. This speeds up the decomposing.
- Place some dry material into the composting bin to form the base layer, about 10 inches deep.
- Place the green materials mixed with the dairy products on top of the dry materials. The layer should be about 5 inches cm deep.
- Repeat the process until the compost is full.
- The top layer should have dry materials; mix it with soil as this helps to seal the unpleasant smell.
Pro tips: Adding a thin layer of garden soil, or compost accelerator, to each layer speeds up the decomposing. The soil or the accelerator introduces microbes into the composting system.
- Seal the bin and place it in a dry place with adequate sunlight.
- If there’s low moisture, add some water.
- Once the compost stops heating even after turning and has a dark brown appearance with an earthy smell, the compost is ready.
- The compost might take 3-4 months to mature.
Pro tips: Frequently turning aerates the compost, reducing the chances of anaerobic bacteria multiplying; this also reduces the unpleasant smell of dairy products.
2. Electric Composting
- You’ll need an electric composter (I recommend the Lomi).
- Mix the dairy with your kitchen food waste.
- Place the organic matter into the composter and switch the power on.
- After 5-10 hours, your compost is ready.
Are there other methods of composting dairy?
There is the Bokashi method. The composting process of this method involves anaerobic bacteria as the primary decomposers.
The composting doesn’t require oxygen, so you don’t need to worry about the smell of composting meat or dairy. You can even make your compost indoors.
- You need a bokashi bucket (I recommend the All Seasons Indoor Composter).
- Place the dairy products in it, and add a layer of bokashi bran (it comes with the bucket).
- Store the bucket outside of direct sunlight.
- Every other day, use the spigot and drain off excess liquid. This liquid can be diluted and used as compost tea.
- After about two weeks, bury the fermented food waste in a bare spot of your garden, or add it to your compost bin or worm bin.
- Your fermented bokashi compost should be ready within the next two weeks.
Can You Compost Cheese?
Yes, you can compost cheese.
However, make sure to remove the cheese wax before placing the cheese into the composting bin. The cheese wax takes years to degrade.
Can You Compost Milk and Yogurt?
Yes. You can compost milk and yogurt through the bokashi method (scroll up).
But I don’t recommend adding much milk or yogurt if you’re doing hot composting. Too much milk or yogurt can make the compost soggy, which slows down the decomposition process.
Can You Add Dairy Waste to Vermicompost?
No. Dairy products are acidic when they decompose.
Worms prefer alkaline bedding, so adding dairy to a vermin bin will affect their productivity. Also, dairy contains high-fat content, which worms can’t digest.