Can You Compost Diapers: Learn About Composting Diapers At Home

By: Anne Baley

Americans add over 7.5 billion pounds of disposable diapers into landfills each year. In Europe, where more recycling usually happens, almost 15 percent of all garbage discarded is diapers. The percentage of trash made of diapers grows each year and there is no end in sight. What is the answer? One solution might be to compost the parts of a diaper that will break down over time. Composting diapers isn’t a complete answer to the problem, but it can help lower the amount of trash in landfills. Keep reading for more diaper composting info.

Can You Compost Diapers?

The first question most people have is, “Can you compost diapers for use in the garden?” The answer would be yes, and no.

The inside of disposable diapers is made of a combination of fibers which will, in normal conditions, break down into effective, usable compost for a garden. The problem is not with the diapers themselves, but rather with the contents deposited on them.

Human waste (as with dogs and cats) is filled with bacteria and other pathogens that spread disease and the average compost pile doesn’t get hot enough to kill these organisms. Compost made with diapers is safe to use for flowers, trees, and bushes if they’re kept away from other plants, but never in a food garden.

How to Compost a Diaper

If you have a compost pile and landscaping plants, you’ll reduce the amount of trash you produce by composting your disposable diapers. Only compost the wet diapers, those with solid waste should still go in the trash as usual.

Wait until you have two or three days worth of wet diapers to compost. Wear gloves and hold a diaper over your compost pile. Tear down the side from the front toward the back. The side will open up and the fluffy interior will fall onto the pile.

Discard the plastic leftovers and shovel the compost pile to mix it. The fibers should break down within a month or so and be ready to feed your flowering plants, trees, and bushes.

What Are Compostable Diapers?

If you search for diaper composting info online you’ll find a variety of companies that offer composting services. They all offer their own version of a compostable diaper. Each company’s diapers are filled with a different combination of fibers and they are all uniquely set up to compost their own fibers, but any regular or overnight disposable diaper can be composted like we’ve described here. It’s just a matter of whether you want to do it yourself or have someone do it for you.

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Read more about Compost Ingredients

Can Biodegradable Diapers Be Put in the Compost?

Biodegradable diapers are made from environmentally-friendly products that allow them to be more easily broken down than their traditional counterparts, the disposable diaper. But how biodegradable are they?

Can biodegradable diapers be put in the compost? Yes, biodegradable diapers can be put in the compost. They were designed for this purpose, so you don’t need to worry about placing them in your compost pile.

In this article, we’re going to dive into the world of biodegradable diapers to better understand their benefits and see exactly how they should be disposed of given their biodegradable nature.

How to Compost Horse Manure

Last Updated: March 29, 2019 Approved

This article was co-authored by Lauren Kurtz. Lauren Kurtz is a Naturalist and Horticultural Specialist. Lauren has worked for Aurora, Colorado managing the Water-Wise Garden at Aurora Municipal Center for the Water Conservation Department. She earned a BA in Environmental and Sustainability Studies from Western Michigan University in 2014.

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Composting is the process of allowing organic materials to decompose in a more or less controlled setting, so that the resulting material can be used as a beneficial soil additive. For gardeners and farmers, composting is an essential activity it is easy to do, and makes use of large amounts of organic waste. Growing with compost allows you to recycle naturally. This can be a convenient option for your home’s farm. Manure from large animals like horses has the potential to form a great soil additive, but it should be composted first. After you have the materials, you need to find a good spot, and create your compost pile.

Tag Archives: composting diapers

Not that long ago it was International Babywearing Day. I posted on our Facebook Page about how babywearing (which is simply wearing a baby or toddler in a sling, wrap or other carrier) has made it easier for us to cook, garden and compost. My sister laughed at the mention of babywearing and taking out the compost, questioning if she was truly related to someone so crunchy. I had to take it a step further saying that I chuckled myself the first time I wore baby while composting her wet diapers. Composting diapers? Yup. It may sound impossibly crunchy but more and more parents are ready for creative ways to reduce their babies’ impact on their environment. It is their earth to inherent, isn’t it?

I recently shared more about why we like cloth and hybrid diapers in this last post, which also talks about how to set up and organize your system. Please do not try to compost a conventional disposable diaper. It would take eons and the plastic and chemicals in it would not be something you want in your garden, let alone your food. We only use gDiapers biodegradable inserts, which, as far as I know, are the only ones that are “cradle to cradle” certified and completely biodegradable.

Although we love the fit, feel and ease of use of using the whole gDiaper system, we initially had only so-so results flushing the biodegradable inserts. My husband was afraid they were negatively affecting the plumbing in our older home. Then I learned that not all in my household had read the directions and were trying to flush the inserts whole. Check out this link for tips on how to flush gDiaper inserts. I recommend getting everyone who will care for baby on the same page, something that in those fuzzy first few weeks of parenthood I must not have done as well as I thought. I also recently learned that flushing the inserts is not recommended when you have pipes infested with tree roots. We have a couple dozen malaluca trees in front of and around our house and just last week the city was working on the sewers and pulled out this massive root ball. (See the picture in the gallery below.)

But composting the biodegradable inserts is a win-win in my book. Urine is an excellent source of nitrogen, and a good source of phosphorus and potassium, making the practice of composting diapers a boon for the garden. Healthy urine is non-toxic. In fact, diluted urine has actually been used directly as a fertilizer.¹ All plants require micronutrients and nitrogen is often in short supply. Vegetables, in particular, are prone to nitrogen deficiency.² (By the way, legumes, such as beans, are an exception, as they actually produce nitrogen. This is why co-planting nitrogen-fixing beans with corn and squash is so helpful. Check out more on this in my post on the Three Sisters.)

To be clear, we do not compost diapers with poop. In our home all poop is flushed down the toilet, baby’s included (and chickens’ excluded). The sewer system is much better equipped to handle human waste than the trash system. Did you know that technically you are supposed to remove and flush the poop from disposable diapers before throwing them away? How many people do you think do that??

…any way, the veggies on the Bird Family Farm looove Baby Bird! (And she loves them.) We put every wet insert, about two/day, along with a lot of kitchen scraps and some yard clippings into a continuous composter. To get the inserts to break down faster, you could rip them open, but we never bother. And, voila! Black Gold…

Click on any photo below to enlarge.

Just throw inserts in with kitchen scraps and yard waste. One man’s trash… Tree Roots can block the sewer pipes from flushing gDiapers effectively.
Baby Bird’s diapers help feed our vegetables. From Baby to Veggies to Baby… our own little biodynamic cycle. Farmer Girl
Black Gold

The Hot Compost Pile

The fastest way to get your hands on gorgeous compost is to build a hot or active pile. Just to be clear, a “hot” pile has nothing to do with the temperature outside. The heat comes from the decomposers breaking down the organic matter on the inside.

The ideal temperature for a hot pile is between 113 degrees and 160 degrees Fahrenheit at the pile’s core. When the decomposers are working this fast, it’s possible to have usable compost in two to three months, depending on the size of your pile.

If you want to know just how hot it gets in there, you can purchase a compost thermometer. I suppose it can be interesting to know the details, but it’s not necessary. If you see steam rising from inside the pile when you turn it, you know the decomposers are doing what they do best.

Here’s how to build a hot compost pile:

  1. Situate it in a bin or inside a wire hoop, or surround it with cinder blocks. Do it any way that you’d like, just leave the bottom open. The fastest way to get your pile going is to let the materials pile up on the bare ground. Microorganisms and other composting critters that are naturally present in the soil are quickly drawn to the pile when organic materials are allowed to contact the earth.
  2. The size of the pile should be at least 3 feet wide by 3 feet tall and 3 feet deep. Ideally, 4-by-4-by-4 all the way to 6-by-6-by-6 is even better. But don’t go for anything larger than that so you don’t create an issue with a pile struggling for oxygen.
  3. For a pile of organic matter to break down quickly, it’s best to add all of the brown and green materials at once and stop adding so that everything breaks down simultaneously. This isn’t necessary by any means it’s just the fastest route to uniformly finished compost.
  4. Now you need moisture. You need enough moisture in a hot pile to get the microbes to move in and begin the decomposition process. A dry pile is a pile that slows to a crawl.Again, there’s no way for exact measurement. Keep it as damp as a wrung-out sponge, and add water as necessary. On the other hand, don’t make it sopping wet. This depletes it of oxygen and causes it to become anaerobic. This is like the opposite of hot composting (only it smells bad).
  5. Oxygen is the last thing you need to add to your hot compost pile. Oxygen all the way to the center of the pile lets it heat up and the organic materials break down. Air can get into a pile on its own from all sides about 1 to 2 feet deep. You need to help it the rest of the way by aerating or turning the pile once or twice a week.As with watering, don’t get too carried away with turning twice a week is more than enough. Not doing it often enough slows the pile down. But turning too often doesn’t allow the bacteria to begin decomposition.

Want your next compost pile to work even faster than the last? After you’ve harvested the first compost pile for your garden, leave a little compost on the ground. Start your new pile in the same exact spot.

The leftover compost acts an activator to jumpstart the new one. Evan Lorne/Shutterstock

Pros and Cons of the Deep Litter Method

Here are a few benefits and drawbacks of a deep litter system:


There are plenty of advantages to using a deep litter system. Not only is it maintenance -free (well, mostly maintenance free) but it also works year-round.

It works well in wet climates as long as you monitor moisture levels. It also works well in more arid conditions. It is ideal in the winter, when it releases heat into the coop and helps make it a more welcoming environment for your chickens. As the litter breaks down, it naturally releases heat and keeps the birds warm.

Because deep litter introduces beneficial microbes to the coop, it helps keep harmful microbes at bay. There are also studies that suggest that chickens raised on deep litter have more access to vitamin B-12, helping them grow larger and healthier than those raised on other types of bedding. It also has anticoccidial properties.

Deep litter can reduce odor and nutrient loading, too. After all, depositing too much nitrogen (found, of course, in chicken droppings) in one area can be bad for the land. This reduces manure run-off and is a safer way to manage chicken manure, especially if you have lots of chickens.

You’ll only need to clean the coop once or twice per year. It can be used in any size coop with any size flock. It gives them something to do when they are locked up inside the coop. No more cabin fever, and a happy flock of chickens – sounds like a win-win.

The deep litter method for chickens can also be more economical for you. Since you aren’t removing and replacing all of the bedding each week, you can add smaller amounts of new litter to the coop – this means less expense when it comes to buying shavings or straw.

Oh – and let’s not forget all the free compost you’ll get for your garden!


Although a deep litter bedding system is advantageous in many ways, there are a few disadvantages to this method that you need to be aware of, too.

For starters, deep litter does not work as well for a small flock of mixed-age birds. Some of your younger birds might have a harder time scratching around in the litter and can easily become stuck in all the bedding.

A small flock may also not be able to handle the workload of turning a deep litter bedding on a regular basis, meaning the bedding will pile up and become stinky before it ever starts to break down to a useful point.

Also, deep litter systems should only be built on dirt floors. Wood floors can absorb moisture and ammonia, hastening the time it takes for them to rot. Similarly, concrete does not allow for proper drainage, nor does it encourage the growth of microbes.

And if you do have a dirt floor, you’ll have several other concerns to worry about despite the fact that deep litter works well. It will be easier for predators to get inside and it may be more difficult for you to shut your doors once bedding begins to pack together.

Deep litter should only be used with chickens and not with other types of poultry, in particular, ducks. Ducks like to splash around a lot in the water, which can cause the litter to become too wet and harbor mold and fungus.

Finally, a deep litter system needs to stay damp beneath the top layer. As a result, there can be lots of moisture in the air. This means you’ll need a well-ventilated coop to prevent issues like frostbite and respiratory disease.

Tore apart my compost pile

posted 1 year ago
  • 2

  • Had some nice wet black stuff at bottom, tore it apart since we had to get to the door leading into the crawl space.

    So my brand new composting method is two metal trash cans, drilled three small holes in bottom and loaded both to top, was told sitting in the sun with lid on it cooks real quick and kills the weed seeds too.

    Nice and passive, let sun beat on the metal cans!

    Now have 5 cans to the top with more sitting in the side, I'm a ha ha mad hatter at pulling up 'weeds' in yard, racking up cut grass, etc.

    posted 1 year ago
    • 9

  • List of Bryant RedHawk's Epic Soil Series Threads We love visitors, that's why we live in a secluded cabin deep in the woods. "Buzzard's Roost (Asnikiye Heca) Farm." Promoting permaculture to save our planet.

    posted 1 year ago
    • 1

  • Bryant RedHawk wrote: Cooking organic materials is not composting them, the heat will not reduce and that will only allow soil pathogenic ciliates and anaerobic bacteria to thrive, not exactly what one desires in their compost.
    If you want to cook your materials to kill the seed bank within those materials, you have found a great way to do that, but to turn those materials into compost you will need to place the containers in a shaded area and moisten them as well as get air into them so bacteria and fungi will be able to populate the "heap" and decompose it.

    Composts is working, black soldier fly larva are helping since compost is on wet side.

    posted 1 year ago

  • Perhaps you're getting something of a draw up through the small vent holes at the bottom and through gaps in the top of the can. If the air entering the system is cooler and warms in the can, it may be aerating itself through the pile.

    Although I like the idea that I could sit a can of almost compost in the sun to kill seeds I don't want in my compost, I prefer to do my hot composting in a scenario where I can use a temperature probe to track thermophilic bacterial activity, which I have found is interfered with if you introduce external heat sources.

    Though I might reconsider that approach if a solar can kills weed seeds and pathogens as effectively as a hot compost without consuming minerals and nutrients that could go to feeding the soil.

    Dr. Redhawk, could this stand in for hot composting in terms of the killing of pathogens, and would it return more resources to the soil that are otherwise consumed by the thermophilic bacteria? Could you go from this solar cooking to a cold compost/BSFL/vermiculture staged process and burn through fewer soil resources in the composting?

    A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
    -Robert A. Heinlein

    posted 1 year ago
    • 4

  • Dr. Redhawk, could this stand in for hot composting in terms of the killing of pathogens, and would it return more resources to the soil that are otherwise consumed by the thermophilic bacteria? Could you go from this solar cooking to a cold compost/BSFL/vermiculture staged process and burn through fewer soil resources in the composting?

    The prime temperature for killing pathogenic bacteria is 180 f, That is the temperature that labs use for sterilizing in an autoclave (pressure cooker).
    When we are hot composting we are doing several things in the heap, we are killing bacteria, we are killing fungi, but there will be spores released by the mycelium that die in this process, and those will come to life once the heat dissipates.
    Since the air contains at least 100,000 bacteria per liter we don't need to be concerned that our compost heap is killing bacteria, both good and bad, the heap will repopulate when the heat dissipates.
    The heating process also creates things like CO2, and it helps many of the mineral compounds in the plant matter become free by breaking the bonds that made them part of the plant material, mitochondria will dissolve, releasing many of the proteins that were part of the intercellular structure.
    And there are plenty more reactions that occur within the working compost heap, moisture is released by the plant materials which filters down through the materials below and into the soil underneath the heap, this is where humus material will be found.
    Some of the organic compounds will break down and form new compounds (this is part of the heating up phase too, in which the heat is the energy released by the processes of decomposition.
    Most of the now released proteins will relax, the freed up DNA and RNA from the burst cell walls will uncoil and some will break down into component parts and then reform as other compounds or they will remain free floating, waiting for the right agent mineral or partial protein chain to come in contact so new bonds can form.

    Most of the different processes we find in an actively working compost heap are not replicated in an oven like environment, that is more closely related to cooking.
    Now, to bypass all these action/reaction processes that are caused by the thermophilic bacteria and other decomposing bacteria that are present in a heating compost heap, would perhaps be detrimental to the actual processes we call composting.
    Even if an oven type heating did do some good other than killing unwanted bacteria, it would not be able to create as many new compounds or free protein chains as an actual compost heap would.

    I think the idea is worthy of a trial or two just to find out the limitations of the oven process.

    List of Bryant RedHawk's Epic Soil Series Threads We love visitors, that's why we live in a secluded cabin deep in the woods. "Buzzard's Roost (Asnikiye Heca) Farm." Promoting permaculture to save our planet.


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