Can You Compost Cheese?


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I’ve been asked this question a few times now, and I thought it was time to write about the answer. It seems like every month there is some new article or blog post that says you can compost cheese.

The problem with these articles is they don’t really tell you how to do it properly. They just say “put your old cheese in the compost bin” without any details or inaccurate information on how composting works.

This article covers in more detail why and why not composting cheese is a good idea. I will also cover different types of cheese and how to properly compost cheese.

Can You Compost Cheese?

While this question should have a simple yes or no response, the answer will depend on who you ask and how you compost.

While many traditional gardeners will maintain that you should not compost cheese, there are some ways that you can successfully compost it.

Cheese and other dairy products are usually avoided for two reasons.

  1. They attract pests.
  2. They smell awful when decomposing.

However, you can avoid both of these issues with specific composting systems. But that being said, I would steer clear of all dairy products if you are using an open-air composter.

The conflicting views on this come from the fact that the methods used to compost cheese are relatively new. The conventional open compost systems commonly used by gardeners are more likely to produce problems when composting dairy products.

I’ll discuss more on how to compost cheese further below. 

Can You Compost Cheese Wax?

While beeswax is 100% compostable, cheese is usually made of by-products from crude oil – paraffin and microcrystalline wax.

Cheese wax is considered to be synthetic and therefore not suitable for composting. As a side note, no petroleum products are considered safe to use in compost.

Cheese wax also does not biodegrade quickly enough to be useful in compost and may take hundreds of years to break down completely. Even in optimal conditions, cheese wax will take several years to break down.

If you have a lot of cheese wax that you don’t want to throw into landfill, there are other ways of re-using it. You can melt it down to make crafts, make wax seals for bottles or envelopes, or even make candles.

Cheese wax is only compostable if it is made from beeswax. Most commercially available waxed cheese isn’t made with beeswax, but you may be able to source it from specialist online retailers.

Can You Compost Cottage Cheese?

Cottage cheese is fresh cheese curd, also referred to as curds and whey. It is made by draining the cheese, which keeps the curds loose, rather than pressing it to make regular cheese.

As with other dairy products, cottage cheese is not usually recommended to compost. This recommendation is due to the same reasons as to why you can’t compost regular cheese.

If you have a compost system designed to compost items like this, you can put cottage cheese into the compost pile the same way as other cheese products.

How to Compost Cheese

If you are going to compost cheese, make sure you limit the amount you add to avoid any adverse effects to the composting process. 

Cheese won’t add a lot of nutrients to your compost, and many think that the potential problems outweigh the benefit of adding it.

Be sure to add plenty of carbon-rich, brown materials if you add cheese to your compost pile. Mixing them in with compost already decomposing and other dry materials like leaves, is best.

I advise that if you are open-air composting, don’t add cheese to your compost bin or heap as it will create bad compost smells and attract scavengers.

If you are vermicomposting, cheese should also not be added to worm farms. Worms don’t digest dairy products and other items with lactose well. 

Organic material in high fat content, over one-third, delays the decomposition process, so it can also lead to the cheese not fully decomposing.

There are four composting systems available that enable you to compost cheese, the downside being they are all quite costly relative to other open-air composters.

1. The Bokashi System 

The Bokashi composting system involves letting food waste rot down anaerobically and fermenting the waste to kill any bacteria and make it suitable for composting.

As it is sealed, then any issues with smell or vermin are avoided. This system requires you to bury the fermented waste, so it is often used in conjunction with a system like the second system on this list.

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2. The Compot

This combination composting system also involves burying your food waste. It can be used on its own or in conjunction with the Bokashi System.

As with the Bokashi System, this method keeps the food scraps away from scavengers because they’re buried. Another benefit is because the materials are underground, you won’t have to worry about smells.

3. Hotbin Composter

The Hotbin is another anaerobic composting method. Any composting system that is sealed can be used to compost cheese as it locks in the smells and keeps out pests.

The closed system creates the anaerobic conditions for composting. Anaerobic composting describes anaerobic decomposition without using oxygen. The compost pile is sealed, so no oxygen is allowed in. 

4. Electric Composter

Electric composters can break down any waste that is not usually composted, including cheese. They can take anywhere from two hours to two weeks to break down materials.

These are probably the most costly of the four systems, but the best if you are just composting small amounts of food and other household waste.

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Composting Cheese Final Thoughts

I would say that cheese isn’t worth composting. There are better ways to recycle your cheese than adding it to your compost.

If you do decide to compost cheese, choose a system that has a lid, such as the hotbin composter. This way, there’s less chance of attracting unwanted visitors.

For more in-depth articles on compost ingredients, check these out: 

Composting Cheese FAQs

Can you compost vegan cheese?

You can compost vegan cheese, but it isn’t recommended. Most cheeses are made from animal byproducts such as milk, cream, eggs, and whey. Composting these products is not recommended because they will attract pests and rodents. Vegetable oils are also not recommended because they will turn rancid over time, and they will decompose very slowly. 

Can you compost cheesecloth?

You can compost cheesecloth as long as it’s made from natural fibers such as cotton, linen, hemp, jute, and sisal. Non-compostable cheesecloth are ones made from synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon. It’s best to shred or cut the cheesecloth into smaller pieces for easier and quicker composting. 

Can you put sour milk in compost?

Do not use sour milk for vermicomposting. As most worms function within a relatively small range of pH values, these organisms tend to be rather sensitive to environmental changes. If you’re using a conventional composting system without worms, you can add sour milk. The traditional decomposition process will be done by microorganism and bacteria. 

 Can you compost blue cheese?

Yes, you can compost blue cheese, but it’s not highly recommended, like other dairy products. The smell of blue cheese is strong and unpleasant too. To make sure your compost doesn’t smell too bad, try mixing in brown material layers to help absorb the foul smell.