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Cutlery crops up in council compost

Rubbish found in green waste

Composted green waste is lovely stuff. Veg peelings, grass clippings and prunings are turned into lovely compost. However, we’ve heard of weird and wonderful things cropping up in people’s compost.

Composted green waste is great to use as a mulch or soil conditioner in gardens, allotments and parks. Some councils even deliver it to allotments for free.

People have one big gripe with composted green waste, though: the debris that it sometimes contains. In the most recent issue of Which? Gardening, we feature Maggie, a reader who has found all sorts of things in the compost delivered to her allotment site:

‘We’ve found cutlery, including a lovely Victorinex veg knife, big lumps of wood and pieces of plastic.’

So how do bulky (and potentially dangerous) items end up in composted green waste? A spokesperson from Maggie’s local composting centre told us:

‘Our machinery screens materials up to 20mm, but if a resident includes garden debris, such as a brick, it could punch a hole in the screening machinery, allowing bulky material through.’

The centre is now more rigorous at screening contaminated loads (which have to go into landfill, incurring a cost to the council) and at checking the screening machinery. But the spokesperson told us that they’ve previously had to reject a green microwave oven and a green tricycle because they were included as ‘green’ waste!

Green waste in your bagged compost

Green waste is also increasingly used in bagged composts, especially peat-free composts, and is one of the few alternatives to peat that is actually in plentiful supply. Metal, stones and plastic should all be eliminated in the production process, but people often complain about bulky bits in their bags – twigs, pieces of plastic bags and even glass. We’ve found that most debris doesn’t affect the quality of the compost (you can just pick big pieces out), but it’s clearly something that bothers people.

Compost companies rely on good green waste, and they’ve got a big challenge on their hands if they don’t get the right stuff in the first place. And let’s just say not everyone is a conscientious recycler! Where I live, the bin collectors reject anything that can’t be recycled in my area, and quite right too. We all need to do our bit.

Have you ever found bulky objects in council green waste or in bagged compost? Are you impressed with the way your council collects or rejects green waste? Do you take care when filling your green-waste bin?


If anyone finds a small vegetable knife, it might be mine. I still miss it – five years after it mysteriously disappeared.

I’m normally very careful about what I put in my brown bin but mistakes can happen.

This highlights another good reason to compost your garden and kitchen waste in your own garden. Any secateurs, trowels or cutlery I accidentally add to the compost heap will turn up eventually in my garden or allotment rather than someone else’s. I am still waiting for an old pair of glasses to reappear.

Mary Teague says:
2 May 2013

What happens if someone puts grass treated with “Feed and Weed”(lawn weedkiller)in their green waste bin?
We have found that some multi pupose composts seem to inhibit seedling growth or even kill young seedlings.

David jones says:
25 May 2013

For years I have used b and q multi purpose compost, top of WHich composts for years. This year i used their verve compost and lost most of my seedlings due to water logging. Everything in small pots and modules dampened off. Fellow allotment holders had the same problem, plus plastic glass and vine weevil. We were told that compost producers now have to include garden waste. It clearly isn’t being processed sufficiently. Ism concerned also that plants treated with pesticides and put in brown bins will find its way into compost. Their is need for tighter controls.

june says:
1 March 2014

I once found a vinyl glove in a bag of compost,Ii only hope it did not contain a hand when it originally went in.!