Smelly Soupy Poopy Compost Tumbler

July 30th, 2009

Composting is not an exact science, and even someone who has used a compost tumbler for a long time like me can mess up.

I use my compost tumbler in the following way: I take brown paper bags and while cooking put scraps of veggies, peels, watermelon rinds, etc, in the bags. Then I toss the whole bag into the tumbler. The bag provides the brown, the contents the green, and it should compost, and it does compost. I know though that the bag doesn’t provide enough brown, but I also add clippings from the garden, including chipped branches and other woody stuff, and of course in Fall I add leaves.

So, in this batch, not enough brown, too much green. It got wet, it get smelly, it got poopy. This is not good compost. You need enough brown to absorb that moisture and make sure it doesn’t smell. Compost shouldn’t smell, if it does, you need to add more brown, more carbon.

If this was Fall I would add leaves, I could also add straw, or more shredded woody prunings. But instead I’ve set upon a cheap, easy, and fast solution. Shredded newspaper.

To make this all you need is newspaper, and a paper shredder. Run Sunday’s paper through, leaving out any glossy or otherwise fancy pages. Newspaper print is completely organic and biodegradable, the ink is soy based. It’ll absorb the water, and because it is paper, will decompose fast, quickly rectifying my compost problem in less than a week.

14 Responses to “Smelly Soupy Poopy Compost Tumbler”

  1. Heidi  Says:

    I entirely gave up on trying to achieve carbon/nitrogen balance because my stores don’t give out brown paper bags, I don’t get the paper, and it’s not autumn. I figure I’ll start adding autumn when I have lots of dry brown things to toss in. It was my understanding that the balance simply accelerates the breakdown, and that if you’re willing to wait a bit longer, there’s no harm in just piling it all in a garbage can and letting it rot anaerobically. Ergo, my compost pile reeks to high heaven of nitrogen, but I figure I can wait ’til it’s done rotting to use it.

    However, you used the phrase “this is not good compost.” Does this mean that compost rotted without the proper balance will not only take longer, but actually be of inferior fertilizing value, or do you just mean that it will take a lot longer to compost?

  2. Administrator  Says:

    Oh I’m sure the nutrient value will be similar, but anaerobic bacteria aren’t the good microorganisms that provide the other various benefits that compost provides beyond mere fertilizer. Aerobic bacteria are the ones that create a healthy soil and help protect against disease and fungal problems.

    For instance with compost tea, if it smells like anaerobic bacteria, you are not supposed to spray it on your plants.

  3. Carolina John  Says:

    Great idea! i never would have thought to add newspaper.

  4. LandscapeConnect  Says:

    Very good tip, I usually just use newspaper as my brown. I have never had it really smell putrid before. All in all good info.


  5. Vegetable Gardening Blog  Says:

    I almost exclusively get paper bags from the supermarket now. I use a paper shredder and shred the bags when I get home. I end up with a lot more brown than green so I tend to put more grass clippings into the compost than normal.

  6. Bill in Detroit  Says:

    @ Heidi: anaerobic composting never reaches the temperatures that sterilize compost. The temperatures of 150 F and up are what kill off pathogens and weed seeds. Look up “Humanure Handbook” by Joe Jenkins for a thorough, masterful, discussion of composting.

    A “poopy” batch of compost loses its nitrogen to the air as ammonia instead of using it as fuel … AND, in the city, can get you cited for an “unlicensed landfill”. DAMHIKT

  7. Jessica Harwood  Says:

    Wow, I just had the opposite problem and had too much carbon/brown stuff. I need to eat more fruits and veggies I guess!

  8. Love My Compost Bin  Says:

    Yeah it looks like it’s poopy. Just a bit to wet.

    We didn’t start composting until this year but what an experience to create great soil from things we already have in the yard and kitchen.

    I can’t be accussed of over watering the composter because I keep forgetting to check it. Next year I may have to move it out from behind the garage.

    Just like things in the fridge that are behind something else. Out of sight out of mind.

    Our composter looks like a lttle fat belly stove but the image you have reminds me of a cement mixer we used in construction. 🙂

  9. eddy  Says:

    Wow. very cool idea. It’s very interesting. Thanks.

  10. LandscapeConnect  Says:

    Poopy 🙁 That sure looks smelly, lol. Using newspaper is a great idea, and it seems so obvious after thinking about it. I didn’t know that newspaper ink was soy based either.

  11. Todd  Says:

    Yes, getting the compost balance right is the eternal struggle. Plus, my garbage stream has been reduced to practically nil, between composting and recycling. Anything that rots, with the exception of meat and bones, goes in. You can also use cardboard for browns, just make sure that any glossy paper that’s glued to the cardboard is removed, and cut the cardboard into small pieces.

  12. deFarmer  Says:

    Does the newsprint contain heavy metals in the ink ?

  13. Administrator  Says:

    No, newspaper uses soy ink.

  14. Steve  Says:

    Great idea adding the material in brown paper bags! I usually store up kitchen scraps in an old plastic coffee container and empty into the tumbler when it’s full. You could always toss an extra handful of shredded newspaper in with each bag if there’s too much ‘green’.


Leave a Response

(Email field must be filled in)

Top of page...