A composting bin

Can I put polystyrene in my compost bin?

NO ✋🏼

You can't put polystyrene into your composting bin!

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Get the right balance of brown and green composting materials in your bin with our expert guide.

FAQs: Is it Okay to Compost Polystyrene? The Answer Might Surprise You

Many of us continue to explore eco-friendly practices to contribute to a greener world. Composting has certainly become a popular method to manage organic waste effectively. Not only does it recycle essential nutrients back to the ground, but it also curbs the amount of waste reaching our landfills. However, confusion often arises in the face of specific materials—particularly regarding polystyrene. So, is it possible to put polystyrene in the compost bin?

Polystyrene and Composting: Why It's A 'NO'

To answer the burning question - no, it is inadvisable to place polystyrene in compost bins. The reason is straightforward, polystyrene is a type of plastic that's famously known for its properties of durability and resistance to decomposition. This longevity is a boon when polystyrene is utilized for specific purposes, such as packing material. However, when it comes to composting, this resistance to breaking down poses a substantial problem.

Understanding Decomposition Time: The Case of Polystyrene

There's a critical metric in composting called the 'C:N Ratio' or Carbon:Nitrogen ratio. The idea is to balance green materials (high in nitrogen) and brown materials (high in carbon) in your composting bin to create nutrient-rich compost. The perfect garden compost must have a specific ratio of these materials to promote optimum decomposition and heat generation.

Unfortunately, the decomposition time of polystyrene throws a wrench in this balance. As opposed to regular compostable materials that degrade within a matter of weeks or months, polystyrene takes considerably longer to break down. We're talking about an estimated duration of hundreds of years. This indefinite decomposition time makes for a detrimental C:N ratio of 0 in the case of polystyrene.

Not Just Non-biodegradable But Non-recyclable too

Most types of polystyrene, including the widespread Styrofoam, are not just non-biodegradable, they are also non-recyclable in most locations. The few places that do accept polystyrene for recycling have specialized mechanisms that can process it safely without causing further environmental damage. However, such facilities are quite rare, making the overall recycling endeavor challenging.

Eco-friendlier Alternatives to Polystyrene

Adopting sustainable alternatives is a better approach to mitigating the environmental impact of materials like polystyrene. For example, consider using paper or cardboard as packaging options that are both recyclable and compostable. Utilize reusable containers for storing food and other products instead of Styrofoam or other polystyrene containers. Such alternatives decompose over a reasonable timescale and play a more productive role in our composting efforts and the global strive towards sustainability.

Creating the Ideal Compost Pile

Building the perfect compost pile demands careful consideration of what goes inside it. Organic materials like vegetable scraps, grass clippings, leaves, and wood chips are excellent composting materials. These components decompose at an optimal rate, enriching your compost pile with essential nutrients.

Thus, when it comes to composting, remember to stick to biodegradable materials that can break down over a reasonable timeframe. As for polystyrene, it's best left out of your compost bin.


Edging towards a greener planet requires a balance of innovative and traditional techniques. Composting provides a fantastic example of this balance. However, it also necessitates an understanding of which materials contribute positively to the compost pile and those that can disrupt this natural process. Despite its prevalence, polystyrene belongs to the latter category and should be left out of composting practices. It's crucial to remain informed about such specificities to make environmentally friendly choices that align with our goals of sustainability.

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